My name is Denzil and my coding journey started midway through my second year of university. I decided to learn a coding language, as I was studying Business Management but wanted to get into a more technological role after graduation, so I considered this the first step.
So you’re in, or you’ve just finished, your university course. But whilst studying you decide that it’s not something which you see a real future in and instead you want to get into tech, more specifically into coding. You type ‘How To Get Into Coding’ into your Google search engine and millions of articles, videos and courses pop up which leave you overwhelmed and unsure on what’s legitimate and what’s not.
If this situation sounds very familiar then this article is for you, as it’s a specific guide on how to get into coding depending on what stage of your life you’re at, and which path you should take to reach your goal. Honestly, these last 2 and a half years of me trying to get into coding have included many, many massive flops. Therefore, I feel like I’m the most qualified to comment on what to and what not to do when you’re trying to get into coding from another industry.
1) You’re at University
I feel there’s no better time than at university to get into coding. This is because the access to a support network, people you can learn besides, and computer science undergraduates are aplenty. There will be a few more times when you’ll have access to such a wide range of resources. I would suggest that you:
- Find a coding club: This is so you can learn the basics such as data types, iteration, decision statements, functions, objects and so on, with a group of other beginners.
- Seek ‘free’ courses: Free is in quotations marks because don’t forget you’re paying £9000 a year for tuition at least. But if the university does offer courses or give big discounts on professional courses, make sure you seize the opportunity because equivalent courses can cost you £1000s when you’re not a student. com and Futurelearn are examples of online courses that offer great coding courses, that universities often provide free access to.
- Join a society: Look out for a hackathon, computing, coding etc. society where you could practice techniques with people and learn how to apply and use your new skills.
- Practice regularly on pre-downloaded software: Universities usually have pre-downloaded software such as Visual Studio Code, Git etc. where you can practice coding regularly.
- Ask your friends: Don’t be afraid to ask your friends who are doing Computer Science (or related courses) project-specific questions about your project. Keep in mind nobody wants to be asked a billion questions about something that can be found on the first page of Google, but they’re likely to help with more specific questions. University provides an opportunity to mix with so many people of different walks of life, knowledge bases, career paths etc. that you’re unlikely to experience at any other time in your life, so make the most of it!.
2) You’re Taking a Study/Career Break
You might have just finished university, you’re on a gap year, or be between jobs. What do you do then?
- Don’t spend £1000’s of pounds on boot camps: I can’t stress this point enough. In reality, learning coding takes time, and trying to learn it all in a week is nearly impossible. Paying for these intensive courses is likely to leave you disappointed and unnecessarily questioning your skills. In addition, with the wealth of free learning tools available online, it’s best to try these first.
- Learn the basics through online courses: Introduction to Python is a free course on Udacity which gives you an opportunity to practice coding and gives instant feedback on whether you’re correct or not. There are also sites like Udemy and Codeacademy which teach the basics very well too.
- Attend meetups: I’d highly suggest finding a regular coding meetup group on the Meetup app or finding a tech community such as Xuntos and UKBlackTech. Similar to university, this will provide you access to a group of people that are working on much more complex projects that you can learn from. The majority of them are very friendly, approachable and helpful people too.
3) You’re in a Job
If you’re in full-time employment in a different field and you’d like to reskill and change your career path to get into coding. Here’s what I’d suggest:
- Seek free courses: Depending on the size and capability of the company, many medium to large companies are now looking to reskill their workforce and therefore may be willing to pay for you to undertake a professional online course. This is a good way to learn as it allows support from your employer throughout learning.
- Free phone apps: If you’re short for spare time, phone apps such as Sololearn and Encode mean that you can learn and work on full projects anywhere at any time. They also have a very helpful online community where you can ask questions and find answers to almost everything. I use Sololearn and it’s great. So if you have a 1-hour commute that could mean 1 hour of coding on the way to work and 1 hour of coding on the way back. By the end of the month, you’d have a good understanding of a coding language without using any extra time.
- Ask your colleagues: Talk to others in different departments for their advice and knowledge, such as the IT department. This is not only a good way to start a meaningful conversation but it’s possible that they could be self-taught as well or know others that are, and therefore guide you through the process.
- Go to a meetup: Many Meetup coding groups are run by people who work too, therefore, are work-hour friendly. Although if you can’t find one, start one! MeetUp is owned by WeWork so you could start a coding group and practice together in one of the 48 locations across the UK for free.
Final pieces of advice…
- Be proactive: There’s a lot of resources out there for free, but you need to be proactive in finding them.
- Consistency is key: Continuously stopping and starting the process will make it very difficult to learn anything.
- Plan and schedule: Have a plan of what resources you are going to use and which courses you’re going to do (and having a Plan B, if you don’t lik e the resource, helps too). Schedule when and where you’ll use these resource on a weekly basis too and be realistic with your time, as this will make the whole process clearer.
- Learn socially: If someone is at a similar stage in their coding journey to you learning together or in a group in my experience will make the whole process a lot more enjoyable than by yourself.
- Start a project: Even if you only vaguely know the basics, go and start something. Understanding and solving problems actively teaches you a lot more than courses ever will.
- Understand that it takes time: It’s generally understood to take 3-5 months to learn a coding language comprehensively, but the beauty is that once you’ve learned one language it makes learning all other languages and understanding software applications in general significantly easier.
‘69% of all developers say they are fully or partially self-taught’ (Stack Overflow’s Developer Survey, 2016)’
So never think learning is out of your reach, it’s definitely possible and the future job prospects speak for themselves as ‘top employers want to hire people who know how to code’ (Burning Glass Technologies, 2018). With all the technological advancements currently happening globally, there’s never a better time to get into coding than now.
I’m currently working on an education project in Sierra Leone that’ll allow students to download material from their school server and use it at home. In March, I’ll be living in Sierra Leone to continue working on the project and I look forward to bringing you regular updates on the project and the Sierra Leonean tech scene in general.