Given the prominent role that software plays in the modern world, it’s hardly surprising that so many people want to learn to code. Learning to code has never been easier, but it is still possible to go about it the wrong way.
If you are preparing to begin learning to code, here’s what you need to know to get the most out of it.
The Personal Benefits Of Coding
In the process of learning to code, coders pick up numerous transferable skills. For example, to succeed as a coder, you need to learn to think logically. Coding is all about solving problems. For every challenge in coding, there are innumerable potential solutions. If you are looking to develop your problem-solving and lateral thinking skills, coding is a worthwhile undertaking.
Many things motivate people to learn to code. For some people, it’s about satisfying a long-held curiosity. But for other people, learning to code is a much more utilitarian pursuit.
Students of engineering and the physical sciences can benefit enormously from being able to code their own calculators, for example. With the right scripts in place, all students need to do is input the appropriate variables. This is just one example of how coding can be used to automate daily tasks.
The Professional Benefits of Coding
Some people learn to code as a means of self-improvement. But there are just as many people who are motivated by professional considerations. Of course, numerous coders have taken up coding as a hobby, only to discover that they have a real passion for it and want to pursue it professionally. If you learn to code on your own volition, it is then relatively simple to formalize your knowledge with a qualification and apply it professionally.
Even if you are not working as a coder or software engineer, learning to code can still benefit you professionally. There are very few businesses out there that would not benefit in any way from having a competent coder on their staff. A simple script to automate end of day processes, for example, could make a real difference to productivity.
Once you know how to code well enough to earn a formal qualification, you can pretty much pick and choose whatever industry you want to work in. There are no modern Industries that do not use software at some point. Wherever you see a piece of software, a coder was (hopefully) paid to make it.
Avoid University Courses (For Now)
If you want to learn a specialist skill such as coding, it might seem logical to start looking at university courses to enroll on. However, once you start looking at degrees, you will quickly notice that there isn’t much in the way of coding degrees. Instead, university degrees focus on specific career paths.
For example, there are plenty of software engineering degrees out there. But if you have no prior coding experience and you don’t know what you want to do as a coder in the long-term, rushing into a degree course could ultimately be counterproductive for you.
More importantly, anyone who wants to start learning to code can do so utilizing free online resources. In other words, you don’t need the weight of an academic institution or the supervision of a university professor to get started with coding. Not only can you get started on your own, but many professional coders are entirely self-taught.
Not only will you find all the resources you need to get started with coding, but you will also find numerous other tools that will help you on your journey. For example, if you are completely new to the world of coding, concepts like binary may well be alien to you.
Binary is a number system that has only two digits – 0 and 1. Understanding what binary is and how it works is useful knowledge for any coder to have. Learning to convert decimal to binary and vice-versa will help with numerous coding projects, as well as enabling a better understanding of computing more broadly. There are a few guides online but it’s easier to opt for a free online service like Convert Binary that has a decimal to binary tutorial that walks you through the process in the simplest terms possible. They also offer an online tool that automatically converts numbers and text for you. Convert Binary is just one example of the many high-quality coding resources that are freely accessible online.
Until you have gained some experience and decided what you want to do with your newfound coding powers, university courses won’t offer you much. Obviously, university degrees do have enormous value. But in terms of just learning to code, a university course is going to be overkill. This is especially true when there are so many quality resources freely available online.
Pick Your First Language Carefully
One of the first decisions you need to make after deciding to learn to code is what language you will learn. Choosing the right language is imperative. You don’t want to put in the hours in for a language that is ultimately useless to you.
If you already have some idea of what you want to do once you have learned how to code, picking a language becomes much easier. All you need to do is determine which language is the best one for the career you want to pursue.
But if you don’t yet know what you want to do and want to keep your options open, there are several ideal languages for beginners. For example, both Perl and Python are programming languages that are easy to get started with and have numerous practical applications.
If you don’t know where to begin, Code Academy is among the best starting points you will find. Code Academy doesn’t just teach you how to code for free. It offers a range of languages and clearly shows you which languages match up with which career paths. You can use code academy to sample as many potential languages as you like before you decide which one to commit to.
Once you have decided on a first language to learn, try not to flitter between other options. If you do this, you will inevitably get confused and start mixing things up. Wait until you have a reasonably good grasp of one language and understand the underlying fundamentals before you start learning another one.
Start With Simple Projects
Something that many people find challenging when they are learning to code is finding things to apply their knowledge to. The best way of learning to code is to set yourself little projects and work out how to accomplish them. These projects can be something as simple as a guess the number game, or as complicated as a data scraping and analysis tool.
For enthusiastic coders, it can be difficult to set limits on your ambitions. However, it is important to be realistic about what you can achieve. There’s nothing wrong with having a big and bold project in mind that you wish to complete over the long-term. But you need to be prepared to take on much simpler and less glamorous projects while you are still learning the ropes.
Apply What You Learn
As you encounter new ideas and learn new concepts, your repertoire will expand. Every time you encounter a new idea, you should be asking yourself what the practical applications are. There is a purpose to every command in a given programming language; none of them are useless. Every single concept and command you encounter has real-world applicability, even if it’s relatively obscure.
Once you start pursuing your own projects and ideas, you will begin to realize that everything you learn has a place in your coders’ tool kit. The first stage of any coding project should break it down into individual components.
Think of software as being like a watch. The user only sees the complete product with all the constituent components are working together in harmony. Like a watch, you can take software apart and reduce it to individual pieces. Take any individual peace out, and the whole fails.
Breaking software down into individual routines is an excellent way for coders to see how all the concepts they learn can be made to work together.
Far too many people begin learning to code but trip themselves up by approaching it in the wrong way. The fact that you can learn advanced coding with no prior knowledge for free using online resources is pretty amazing. Accessibility is a significant selling point of learning to code for lots of people. But that accessibility can be a curse, as much as a blessing. A common mistake is learning new coding concepts without thinking about their practical applications or how you might integrate them into your own projects. As you learn, you should always be thinking about how to apply your knowledge.
If you approach it correctly, learning to code could be one of the most rewarding things you ever do. You will learn valuable skills that can be applied to your personal and professional life. Best of all, you can get started today for free,