Advice for learning how to code


3 min read

Advice for learning how to code

When I was working in publishing I started learning to code by studying for 20 minutes each day. After about 18 months of doing this I did a bootcamp and got an apprenticeship in tech. This post gives some tips I have for anyone learning to code - especially alongside a full time job or other responsibilities.

women writing on notebook in front of open laptop

Photo by J. Kelly Brito on Unsplash

Which language should I learn?

Most people start with HTML, CSS and JavaScript and these are still essential for working in web development. Languages like PHP, Python and Ruby are user friendly and general purpose. If you want to be a mobile app developer you should look at Kotlin for Android and Swift for iOS. Rust and Go are newer languages that are loved by developers and could be a good bet for the future.

Practice spaced repetition and active recall

Research has shown that some of the best ways to learn any new skill are spaced repetition and active recall.

Spaced repetition involves reviewing and recalling topics at optimally spaced intervals. This technique interrupts the brain’s natural forgetting curve allowing the information to be stored in long term memory. It’s difficult to work this out on your own so I use Execute Programme which also has the added benefit of getting me to actively recall the information.

Active recall means testing yourself to see how well you’ve understood something at every stage of your revision. It’s actually the process of retrieving information that helps your brain form memories faster. This method is much more effective than passively reading an article or watching a YouTube video.

Learn underlying concepts

It’s helpful to understand some fundamental concepts that underpin most languages and software projects. Variables, loops, objects and functions are ideas that you will come across time and time again. Understanding a bit about Big O notation could help you impress at interview. There are broadly three types of programming: function, object oriented and procedural. Knowing their strengths and weaknesses helps you make the right choice.

Build projects

You should be getting stuck into code quickly as you will learn the most from tinkering with it. Download the starter files for a YouTube tutorial and take it further by implementing new features. You could also create a clone of a popular site like Netflix or Instagram. Consider building a portfolio site and use it to host a blog where you write about what you are learning (like this one!)

Learn Git

Git the most widely used distributed version control system for software development. Regardless of what programming language you use, being familiar with Git is essential. You don’t need to know all the Git features and commands (most developers will never come across all of them) but you can learn the basics here. Git is most often used in conjunction with a service like GitHub, BitBucket or GitLab for hosting. Create a GitHub account and use it to show off your work.

Obviously there is way more advice about learning to code than I can cover here. These are just my views and the tips I wish I’d followed from the start. If you are interested in reading more about my journey to becoming a developer you can do so here.

For information about my bootcamp go to Founders and Coders

For online resources check out FreeCodeCamp and Scrimba.

Happy coding!