If you are looking to get started in software development and become a highly sought after developer then it follows that you need to learn how to build software.
This is what you will be hired to do. So you should be able to do it, and do it well.
In this age, and with the internet, there is no shortage of learning materials that can quickly get you the skills you exactly need locked in.
But if you don’t filter the material and be specific about what exactly you want to learn, it can turn into information overload.
Information overload leads to a situation where you are forever looking for the right materials to use to learn but never taking any action.
Even with the best material in your hands, if you don’t take any action they will do you no good at all.
Learning to code…
…if you are specific as to what exactly you want to learn can be a short and fun process.
You could get up and running coding apps in just 6 weeks or less depending on how much time per day you allocate to your studies.
There are various ways you could learn to code and get really good at it.
You can decide to go the traditional way of taking a college degree say in Computer Science then learn algorithms and some coding skills.
College will open more doors for you, but remember you still have to walk right in there and work.
You still have to deliver on the job or you might be labeled as incompetent.
Often than not, what you learn in the classroom is NOT what you actually need to get the job done. So you will still have to put effort to learn actual software development practices in the real world out of college.
A college degree can easily get you a placement as an intern with a company.
This will in turn give you the chance to learn the skills you need in order to be productive.
Getting internship placements will be a challenge if you are purely self-taught with no degree and no experience.
From my experience it doesn’t really matter much where you take your degree in computer science from. The real skills that you need in order to deliver on the job will be learnt when you are outside the classroom.
Remember if you go the university way, you will have to take 4 years studying and then come and spend a year or two in internships before you can become great at your job.
If you are already in college, by all means go ahead and complete your studies. It will do you great good. It will open more doors for you and your job search will be much easier.
College is also a great place to network. The connections you form at college will prove really useful when you are out of school. But if you are still contemplating joining college then check out my next point.
Yes, teach yourself.
This is the most common, easiest, shortest and probably the most fun way to get to learn how to code.
You’ve probably heard a lot about self-taught software developers being founders of successful startups in the past.
They founded software startups that were really successful while still learning to code.
When you teach yourself how to code, you are able to filter out the noise and only focus on the material and content that you really need to get the task at hand.
It really saves you the time, energy and resources you’d otherwise have to spend if you went the traditional way of a college degree.
If you teach yourself how to code, you probably won’t spend 4 years learning to be able to be good at it. Just a year or 2 would do.
Learning is a continuous process, though, and today I still find something new to learn in every new project I take to build.
This is despite the fact that I have been coding for years now.
If you teach yourself to code you will reach an employable level much quicker, probably in just a few months.
If everything goes well you will be able to get into a senior position after 4 years of coding, while a college graduate will only be able to secure a junior developer position at that time.
So how exactly do you teach yourself how to code?
This is the most common and fun way of learning to code.
Video courses that are well done are a great way to get started learning.
When you interact with the instructor’s authentic voice, it becomes easier to learn.
The instructor is able to stress on key points with the tonal variations in his voice. Besides, live code demonstrations on your computer screen make it easier to learn.
It’s much better if the course instructor is within reach, because you will be able to reach out to them when you are stuck and need some help.
There are great online platforms for learning where you could take a premium or free course and get started learning.
On these platforms you will find good courses that will teach you Web development, Android, iOS, Java, Game Development, Desktop applications, Data Analysis, Ethical Hacking technically any skill you need to learn.
Besides, some of these online courses have instructors with great teaching approaches and are available to assist you when you are stuck.
Books are the traditional and proven approach to learning.
However, with technology and particularly coding, you will need to pay more attention to the year of publication of the book to ascertain relevance.
Programming languages evolve pretty fast. New versions are released every now and then.
Old commands easily get deprecated with every new release version of a programming language so if you spend your time studying with an outdated book you are in for a bumpy ride.
I personally made this mistake when I was starting out learning PHP. I studied PHP 4.0 which already had a lot of functions deprecated by the time I was leaning it.
The code I then wrote could not run on the server. It was throwing errors at every attempt to execute it.
Even with the best video courses online, you still will have to pick a few relevant books by the side to act as your reference.
Most courses are targeted at achieving a particular goal and will not take time to delve into the details which you need to set a strong foundation.
In this case therefore a book comes in handy when say you want to check out all the functions related to string manipulations in a language.
You will face a lot of frustration trying to learn from a book that is outdated because the code most likely will not run on the latest server software.
One other important thing that will help you settle on the right book is to check on the programming language version that the book is teaching.
If say you want to learn PHP. You grab a book either digital or paperback. Check the PHP version it teaches. Then go to the official PHP website to check out the latest version of PHP in the market.
If the book teaches PHP 5.0 and the latest version is PHP 7.2 then by all means leave that book alone.
Spend more time looking for a more up to date book. It will save you many a pain.
Books can give you a very strong foundation, especially if you have limited resources.
I learnt my first three programming languages C, C++ and then PHP purely from books. It took me longer but gave me a strong foundation that enabled me to build the Gliver MVC framework.
So don’t underrate the power of books yet.
BootCamps, CodeCamps or Hackathons are pretty much everywhere these days.
They are a really fun and interactive way to learn if you can get a chance at any of the, but HackaThons require you to have previous coding experience.
They are a great place to
Learning to code completely on your own without getting help from anybody is a recipe for frustration and failure.
Finding a coding buddy is a great way to keep your coding adventures alive as you will share ideas, enthusiasm and kick out the boredom.
Have you started learning to code yet?
If YES, what is your preferred method of learning?
Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.
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Geoffrey is an experienced software developer and open source evangelist. When not coding he writes and talks about current technology trends, small business tips and developer productivity hacks. He is no coffee addict.
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