So you’ve decided to start learning how to code. Whether you made this choice because you want to change careers and become a developer earning on average R305,000 a year, or get new skills for your career or personal interests, coding for beginners can seem daunting. However, it doesn’t have to be; with our helpful tips for learning coding for beginners you can start learning, stress free. Let’s break it down.
It’s all about the mindset
Coding isn’t simply about writing code, especially at the beginner’s level. It’s about cultivating a mindset for analysing and solving problems. For professional developers, programming isn’t an answer, but a tool. Before they write out even their first line of code, they ask themselves, “what problem am I trying to solve here?” and, “how could I start engaging this problem?” When coding for beginners, the best thing is to start thinking like a programmer. This mindset has three features:
Logic: think about problems, and their solutions, critically.
This is about coming up with effective and efficient solutions for problems, even if they don’t necessarily lie in programming. For example, your boss asks you to go through a folder of documents and change every caption of a certain picture in those files. Would it be faster to code something to scan through those documents and make those changes more efficiently, or just do it by hand yourself?
Persistence: don’t give up easily, and break big tasks into simpler parts.
Whether it’s the program you’re writing, or your learning journey in coding, it’s always important to remember to keep it simple, and keep at it. Stick to your learning schedule. Write out one part of a challenging, complex program at a time.
Intent: a clear and methodological workflow that shows you know the answer, and shows others how you got to it.
A great habit is keeping a clean workspace that’s easy to follow. This includes well-structured code that’s clearly signposted for others to follow and understand. This is especially important because developers have to ‘think like a computer’: the machines they use have a rigid set of rules for logic, syntax and structure, and knowing how to think about problems in terms a computer can understand.
Taking on the mindset of a developer is a step you should take even before you think about what kind of developer work you want to do.
Picking a field
Go with your heart.
There’s a lot of talk out there about earning a lucrative salary in particular languages or systems, but burnout and career crashes are as real in the tech industry as they are in any other professional environment. If you pick a career solely for the money, and not because it interests you, you’ll eventually have had enough and do something that you actually want to do.
So the answer is simple: do what you love. If you’re creative and enjoy making visually beautiful things, then the field of front end web design and development is the way to go. If you love being an entrepreneur and want to make better decisions for your business and future, then understanding data through data science is the field for you.
This decision will naturally lead you to your next decision, which is…
Picking a language
There are over 700 programming languages out there, and if you google the phrase “what is the best programming language”, you’re bound to encounter a thousand thinkpieces from a thousand different specialists each claiming the title for the language they use every day.
Don’t get caught up in this petty fight. Instead, think of programming languages as tools to solve a problem, rather than a box you have to dedicate yourself to using exclusively for the rest of your career.
Often, languages will share – or have a lot of similarities in – their syntax (how you write and structure your code), and use the same logical functions (things like loops, which run a piece of code a certain number of times, are everywhere in all kinds of languages). In fact, in many professional environments, you’ll supplement the language you code in with technology stacks that add an additional layer of functionality into your program.
At the end of the day, however, a beginner can’t go wrong with picking one of the top ten most popular languages in programming. The winners of this top ten are:
In terms of best utility, ease of use, and good career flexibility, any of these languages are a great place to start.
And if you are an absolute newcomer to coding for beginners, the best bet is to start quite literally from Scratch: this beginner language is a surefire way to practice the very basics of programming, and understand how logic flows would work in a more complex language or application, While solving problems, designing projects, and communicating ideas.
Choosing your learning path
There are a lot of ways to learn how to code, and each one has its own strengths and weaknesses.
✔️Internationally recognised degree when you graduate
✔️The deepest, years-long dive you can take in learning programming
❌Expensive. Can cost hundreds of thousands of rand
❌Time-consuming. It could take you 3 years or more to start working and earning
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)
✔️Accessible and online courses you can do anywhere
✔️More affordable than uni
❌These courses’ open structure doesn’t work for some people
❌Some course content can be shallow, filler, or out of date
✔️ The most accessible and affordable
✔️Highly structured learning environment that’s dedicated to coding
❌Not all bootcamps are fully certified
❌Many bootcamps don’t offer a traditional ‘campus experience’
When deciding what learning path is best for you in coding for beginners, you’ll have to take a personal decision, weighing the pros and cons of each against your lifestyle, availability and budget. There isn’t a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ decision for learning how to code, so take a look at where you are, think about where you want to be, and consider how each kind of education model could get you there.
Once you get signed up, registered, or logged in to your first coding lessons, there are a few extra things you’ll want to do as a beginner programmer that will help you to grow, and help to develop your career.
Register for a GitHub profile – this is where you’ll manage and contribute to large projects, and start building a personal portfolio of work. Most developer teams use GitHub to manage their projects, so it’s also good work preparation.
Sign up for challenges – check out sites like coderbyte and hackerrank to keep your developer skills up to speed with daily coding challenges.
Bookmark useful tools – Stack Overflow is perhaps the most popular community forum to find answers to coding problems, but there are hundreds of tools out there that can make your developer journey that bit easier.
Start a personal project – this could be a personal website where you keep your CV and published work, a banking app to stop cheating on your family Monopoly games, or anything you’d like to make yourself. Plus, you can add it to your personal portfolio of work!
If you want to start your journey of coding for beginners, our bootcamps are the ideal place.
We believe that anyone can code, even with limited education and no previous experience of programming. Our bootcamps are designed for you to succeed, with full 1-on-1 personal mentorship, expert code review, and full career development support as you progress to getting job-ready in just 6 months – or less.
Want to start learning the very basics, totally free of charge? Click here to check out our free trial, where you can learn the essentials in data science, full stack web development, or software engineering.