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How to Learn Coding for Beginners

Trent Fowler - May 23, 2020


Personally, I think someday being able to code is going to be one of those things that every educated person has at least some knowledge of. You can’t graduate from college without having had a number of writing classes, math classes, and classes in history and science which give you a broad knowledge of how the world works. This is just what we mean by ‘being educated’ today. Coding isn’t considered part of that foundation yet, but I think it will be, and I think the world will be better for it. At present, we all lean heavily on technology that many of us barely understand, and laws on cybersecurity and cryptocurrencies are written by people who can barely use a computer. For this to change, coding will have to become a basic skill like literacy. If you agree and want to get a head start on learning–or if you’re just interested in landing a sweet coding job –this article is for you. We’ll walk you through how to learn to code as a beginner.

What Are You Interested In?

 Guy with glasses thinking.
Choose projects that align with your interests.

Part of what makes coding so much fun to learn is that there’s almost nothing you can’t apply it to. Do you like fishing? Make an application that tells you local species of fish, where you can legally fish for them, and what their characteristics are. Prefer lifting weights? Make an app that tracks your progress and tells you how much weight to use based on your energy levels and mood.

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If you’re a complete beginner, I would recommend this list from Knight Labs . It walks you through a series of increasingly challenging games that require you to learn about random numbers, variables, user inputs, conditional statements, and lots of other essential coding skills.

You could also try to solve a problem you’re having. When I lived in South Korea, I was also learning Python. I would write little scripts to do things like randomize the set of students who got treats for completing their homework. I didn’t want to give everyone treats every time, because then they wouldn’t be internally motivated, but I figured it would provide a little extra incentive if they knew there was a chance they’d get some candy.

You could build simple applications to track your mood, schedule out your time, or interface with common tools you use. I’ve recently been learning about the JavaScript-based Google Apps scripts which let you automate tasks related to spreadsheets and Google docs.

There’s really no wrong way to get going!

What Should You Do When You Need Help?

person hand reaching for the sky
There’s no shame in reaching out for help.

Inevitably, you’ll come to a point where you simply can’t solve a problem you’d like to solve. There are a few things you can do to get over this hurdle.

One of the most astonishing things about programming today is that there are literally millions of strangers online who will answer your questions for free. You could go to language-specific forums or mailing lists and ask your questions there. But by far the most popular place to get help is Stack Overflow . Stack overflow is just an enormous gathering place for coders to exchange information and best practices. There is so much to learn on stack overflow that professional coders routinely joke about how 90% of their job is finding the right answer on Stack Overflow and copying the answer into their own code. It’s that extensive!

Practice using it from the beginning. Make an account, and learn how to clearly pose your questions with code snippets demonstrating what you’ve tried before. Seriously, this is actually a required skill in modern programming.

Much the same can be said for finding meetup groups oriented towards programming. There will almost always be a local meetup group interested in the technology you’re learning, unless you live far into the wilderness (and sometimes even then). Here, you’ll also get to learn about clearly posing questions, understanding and implementing answers, and helping others learn as well. It’s often the case that teaching something is the best way to learn it, and with Stack Overflow or local meetup groups, you’ll get to do both at the same time.

This is also arguably the single best way to meet people who can give you clues on where to find employment. If you get good enough, you’ll be able to switch careers entirely, a process made easier when you already know 50 people in the local tech community.

Even complete novices who’ve never written code in their life can pick up this fascinating skill. With the strategies presented here, there’s no reason you can’t be a good, even professional, coder in no time!

About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.

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Trent Fowler

About the author: Trent Fowler is a data scientist and writer with an interest in machine learning, blockchain technologies, and futurism.

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