BIG QUES­TION

Learn­ing to code is prob­a­bly eas­ier than you think. Es­pe­cially if you fol­low this ad­vice from our very own panel of ex­perts...

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We asked a panel of ex­perts: what’s your ad­vice for as­pir­ing coders?

Jonathan Hill CEO, 1mi­nus1 1mi­nus1.com

As you learn to code, remember that no mat­ter how good your code gets, no mat­ter how el­e­gant you make it, no mat­ter how well you set it up for the fu­ture, that once you are work­ing for a client, you have a busi­ness to de­liver for. If you get sucked into the de­tail and for­get about that big­ger pic­ture, you can­not write the best code for the client. So, be busi­ness fo­cused as well as code fo­cused. And fi­nally, do your best to work with more ex­pe­ri­enced peo­ple that can strike this bal­ance.

Lind­sey Marat ta Prod­uct de­signer, Buz­zFeed buz­zfeed.com

There are a ton of on­line re­sources for learn­ing to code. But while they’re help­ful for get­ting fa­mil­iar with vo­cab­u­lary, syn­tax and other ba­sics, I al­ways sug­gest try­ing to cre­ate a sim­ple page or app of your own from scratch. With code, solv­ing prob­lems you’re in­vested in is the best way to get knowl­edge to stick. An­other thing to keep in mind is that, there are al­ways mul­ti­ple so­lu­tions to the same prob­lem.

Char­lot te Jack­son In­ter­face en­gi­neer, An­sarada & co-or­gan­iser, Code­bar Sydney lot­te­jack­son.com

There’s a wealth of books and on­line cour­ses, which is a good place to start, but don’t stop there. Learn from de­vel­op­ers! We’re for­tu­nate to work in an in­dus­try where lots of peo­ple are will­ing to share what they know. Fol­low and in­ter­act with rel­e­vant peo­ple on Twit­ter. At­tend meet-ups and vol­un­teer at con­fer­ences. Then you can chat to peo­ple and ask ques­tions. Ap­proach lo­cal com­pa­nies and ask to shadow de­vel­op­ers at work. Then, if an in­tern­ship is what you’re after, you can ask for help. I highly rec­om­mend start­ing your own blog. Writ­ing down what you learn con­sol­i­dates your un­der­stand­ing of it. Plus, a learner’s per­spec­tive is new and valu­able to oth­ers.

Kevin Main Soft­ware de­vel­oper, iSAMS In­de­pen­dent Ltd isams.com

There are a huge va­ri­ety of pro­gram­ming lan­guages and they all ex­ist for a rea­son. Some are bet­ter at cer­tain things than oth­ers. Try not to fo­cus on any spe­cific lan­guage. JavaScript is a great first lan­guage to learn but don’t re­strict yourself. Lan­guages change and evolve. Learn­ing them in de­tail is hard and time-con­sum­ing and not the most pro­duc­tive use of time. In­stead start by con­cen­trat­ing on the key con­cepts – learn about loops, con­di­tion­als and ar­rays. These fun­da­men­tals can be ap­plied across any lan­guage and give a solid base.

Chris Sm ith Co-founder, Nar­ra­tive In­dus­tries nar­ra­tivein­dus­tries.com

You’ll hear a lot of terms like ‘anony­mous re­cur­sive func­tions’ but don’t be put off. Ad­vanced tech­niques and terms will start to make sense as your skills evolve. Read a lot of code by ex­cel­lent pro­gram­mers. The use­ful­ness of this can’t be over­stated: would you write a novel with­out read­ing a few first? Add numer­ous com­ments to your code. This is not just for oth­ers, but also for your ha­rassed fu­ture self who’ll be ut­terly baf­fled by some of your code. Al­ways code as if you were part of a team, even if you’re work­ing on your own.

Lily Dart De­sign direc­tor, De­part­ment for In­ter­na­tional Trade lily­dart.com

I was in­tro­duced to cod­ing on plat­forms like Neopets, Geoc­i­ties and Mys­pace. If you wanted to cus­tomise your pages, you had to learn CSS and JavaScript to do it. That free­dom to ex­per­i­ment isn’t com­mon nowa­days, but cus­tomis­able con­tent in games like Minecraft can pro­vide a sim­i­larly gen­tle in­tro­duc­tion to cod­ing. Al­ter­na­tively, small hard­ware projects can also be a good place to start. Li­ly­Pad Ar­duino, Makey Makey or even Lego Mind­storm pro­vide fan­tas­tic pos­i­tive re­in­force­ment; you see the code you’ve writ­ten, in live ac­tion.

Carter Bai­ley Web de­vel­oper carter­bai­ley.com

The times of the most growth in my skills and ca­reer have come from a com­bi­na­tion of three things. The first has been work­ing on an in­ter­est­ing per­sonal project. The sec­ond has been set­ting goals ac­cord­ing to the prin­ci­ples of SMART: Spe­cific, Mea­sur­able, Achiev­able, Rel­e­vant and Time. And the third has been hav­ing a men­tor who works pro­fes­sion­ally with what you’re learn­ing. Too of­ten begin­ners get stuck, and be­come dis­heart­ened when a men­tor could help them.

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