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Want to start coding? Tips on getting started

By Winnie Makena | Sep 11th 2019 | 3 min read
By Winnie Makena | September 11th 2019

With software developers ranking among the highest-paid and fastest-growing jobs in the world, you would be forgiven if you consider switching your career path or learning how to code. But getting into the industry can feel intimidating if you don’t have a background in computer science or a related field.

Michael Ellison, founder and CEO of computer science education non-profit CodePath.org, says setting a goal is a critical first step. “If you’re building a career based on what you’re interested in, it’s going to be a lot more sustainable,”

So how do you learn how to code?

It’s not about the money. If your goal is to have a job or make a lot of money, then it’s not going to be as motivating and potentially as rewarding and exciting and interesting for you to go down this learning path. Don’t do it for the money, but for the love of it. Cliché as it may sound, setting a goal around building an app that solves a particular problem that you’re passionate about or interested in is a possible better start.

How can you apply your attributes toward a new career path? Maybe you don’t have an immediate goal but what are you already good at and what do you enjoy most in your current role? Asking yourself this will help you find your focus. Perhaps you are interested in solving human problems, thinking about systems and optimization, or managing complexity. The technology and the tools are the means to get to your interests.

Start with mobile development as an introduction. Why mobile app development? It is lucrative, it’s a familiar platform that most people use every day, and it involves developing for a single form factor and operating system.

It sounds complicated but unlike full-stack or front-end development, focusing on developing something like an iPhone app can be simpler. That’s because it involves developing for a single platform, meaning you won’t have to worry about accommodating as many different screen sizes or operating systems at first.

Try out some online courses. An online coding course might be a better option than an in-person coding boot camp. There are many different online classes that teach the same programming languages, and it can be hard to figure out which one is truly worth your time and money. If you don’t mind practicing solo, The Odin Project is a free option that pulls together some of the best open-source content for turning a coding newbie into a programmer.

You may still find it hard to apply the relatively basic knowledge. To that end, it’s recommended that you try the free Practical JavaScript course from Watch and Code, which revolves around a single project that you continually iterate. You can also sign up for the subscription-model certification courses from Udacity or Treehouse or even Udemy.

Start building. Think big, start small, start now. Immediately you’ve learned the basics, one of the best ways to move forward is to start working on projects, especially with other people. Your project should involve skills you currently have in your toolbox, but you should also have a plan for future features and skills you’d need to turn that vision into reality. Without applying your coding skills in a few projects, you wouldn’t even be considered for professional coding gigs.   

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