Let us be clear: learning coding is not easy. You’re basically learning a whole new language.
However, similarly to improving your language skills, learning to code is fun, it’s rewarding, and you can start to see results quite early on.
For beginners, there are some things you should avoid to make the experience easier…
DON’T expect to be given the right answer
One of the beautiful things about coding is that there can be many different ways to approach an end goal. If your focus is on finding the “right” answer, you may miss out valuable opportunities to practice how to think and solve problems computationally. As we struggle with complex problems our brain actually starts to rewire and adapt, which will in turn make us more capable of solving problems in the future. This ability to solve complex problems is what differentiates the good programmers from the average ones.
Too often, people think of coding like it’s mathematics: “Oh, there must be a formula for this!” In actual fact, to use an earlier metaphor, coding is more like learning a language, in that there can be many ways to communicate a single idea or concept. We recommend students to focus first on their problem solving skills, as this is the foundation from which good coding ability grows.
DON’T be too concerned with “Am I Good Enough?”
If you are learning coding to make a career switch, it’s easy for you to fall into the “am I good enough?” trap when you compare your coding abilities with your prior achievements in other domains.
There is no end to learning new stuff. Focus on tracking your own progress rather than comparing it with other people’s accomplishments. While you’re learning, it’s good to keep a diary of your progress; this gives you a concrete record of how far you’ve come, and you can use that record to bolster your confidence.
“…as soon as you start to become complacent about your own abilities, you’re going to get left behind”
DON’T learn in isolation
Do you consider yourself a bit of a lonewolf? Like to do everything yourself? That may work in some other fields, but it’s gonna be hard to learn coding alone. In fact, loneliness accounts for the single most quoted reason for students dropping out from online coding classes.
Coding is a broad field that’s always changing, and because of this, the perspectives of others are invaluable to your learning – it’s that whole “you don’t know what you don’t know” thing. You should never be afraid of asking your teachers or classmates questions; chances are, they’ve come up against similar problems in the past and will be able to help guide your thinking. Additionally, the act of verbalising your challenges can help you to clarify your thoughts.
Another avenue you can take is to speak with your peers, as they may be struggling with the same issues themselves, and can offer you some ideas that you perhaps hadn’t thought of; perhaps you can even offer some help in return, because teaching is the best way to learn.
DON’T get cocky
In much the same way as you shouldn’t lack confidence, you also need to avoid becoming overly confident. Like many things in life, it’s all about striking the right balance. Coding is a very broad discipline, and it’s one that’s always evolving with new techniques, new languages – as soon as you start to become complacent about your own abilities, you’re going to get left behind by other people that are hungrier than you are.
No matter how capable you are, you need to continue to challenge yourself; there will always better ways in doing things, new problems to tackle, and different and emerging techniques that you can learn.
Embrace your mistakes
Yes, we know: we’ve just given you a list of mistakes to avoid, so it seems weird that we would conclude by telling you that mistakes are important, right?
Well, when learning coding, there are certain ways to approach the learning process that are counterproductive, such as those we’ve outlined above.
What’s important is to realise that you’re going to make mistakes in your work (no matter how good a student you are) and that these mistakes will ultimately help to make you a better programmer in the future. So don’t be afraid of errors – have fun and build some things that interest or inspire you. Because the alternative is to never take any risks or step outside your comfort zone, and that’s a surefire way to hinder your growth as a coder.