coding for beginners

Coding for Beginners: Our Advice On What to Master First

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So you’ve decided that coding is definitely something you want to dive into – the job prospects look fantastic, the industry is buzzing and you’re fascinated by what goes on in the backend of the internet. But what next? Firstly, every aspiring dev enters the coding arena with a different level of experience – some already have an understanding of the basics, while others are literally starting at the very beginning. Your first port of call? Be cognisant of where you are as a first-starter and be patient with yourself – learning how to code requires an investment of time and resources, especially mental ones. Put on your proverbial seatbelt, because it’s going to be an interesting ride. Here’s our advice on coding for beginners, and particularly, our perspective on the fundamentals that you should aim to master first.


Get to Grips with Frameworks and Libraries

According to Rainer Hahnekamp, one of the first things that beginner coders need to learn is that code already “exists in the form of a library or a framework.” Understanding this will save you precious hours writing a buggy version of a library instead of consulting the right, existing library in the first place. Well-known libraries include Moment.js, Jackson, Lodash and Apache Commons. What Hahnekamp argues, is that it is important for beginner coders to shift their mindset away from developing everything from scratch, to exploring and using libraries.

So what’s the difference between a library and a framework? Put simply, a library is a “file containing re-usable code that can usually be shared among multiple applications.” On the other hand, a framework “can be everything you use in application development.” Some of the most popular frameworks include: Twitter’s Bootstrap, ZURB’s Foundation, Front-end Boilerplate or Themosis.

An alternative, interesting perspective on how rookies should approach coding is presented by Alex Devero, who argues that sometimes devs are faced with the decision about whether to learn a language or use a framework instead. What Devero learnt was that if you have a specific idea in mind for what you want to build, and you’re pressed for time, a framework might just be your best bet. However, you’ll need to bear in mind that that’s not a “one size fits all” solution. Best practice is to put the time and effort into learning a language. Once you’ve mastered it, you can turn to libraries and frameworks for “shortcuts.” In the long term, becoming a dev is about getting through the initial learning process, investing in some good trial and error and along the way, learning from the experience of others.


Find a Mentor

At the beginning of your coding journey (and even years into your career), you will most likely have moments of bewilderment – moments akin to what writers go through with “writer’s block.” In those moments, devs with mentors are able to sidestep curveballs and find solutions much faster than those without mentors. Knowledge and skills transference is one of the key benefits of the mentorship – you may find that the learning process becomes so much more efficient when feedback and help is easily accessible.

Coding can be daunting, and intimidating, so having a mentor is an indispensable tool for overcoming hurdles, of which there will be many. We know it can be a bit scary – approaching a mentor can be compared to asking someone on a date. But once you get passed the initial ice-breaker stuff, you’ll find that your mutual love for problem-solving will bridge any other uncomfortable gaps. Here’s one thing you may not realise – mentors benefit just as much as mentees do. Having a mentee to assist and advise, keeps mentors on their toes and makes sure they’re always operating in beta mode. In our experience, coders who mentor are always on top of their game.


Master the Mindset

Coding requires mental stamina. Remember that. And the coding mindset is less about book learning and more about practical experience. Every experienced dev will tell you that they spent late nights pondering problems and trialing lots of solutions before they felt like they were close to creating something that worked, even at half the capacity they needed it to. Time is your most precious resource. And practice, practice, practice, has never been more relevant to the process of learning how to code. A word of advice? Develop an allergy to being too hard on yourself. The quicker you can get used to failing, the easier it will become to start succeeding. As Yi-Jirr Chen puts it: “It’s OK to fail. Coding is all about failing and fixing things, and about learning how to do things better. If you don’t build things and work on areas that you know you are weak on, you’ll never get better.”

As a coding newbie, the best advice anyone can ever give you, is to get stuck into the nitty-gritty as quickly as possible. The process of learning how to code should be an immersive one. Talk to people, ask for advice, read as much as you can and start building a support network for yourself. Thankfully, there are so many resources out there for aspiring devs, that choosing coding as a career has never held better prospects.

If you’re a coding beginner, you’ve come to the right place – our mentors are ready and willing to provide you with invaluable guidance on what your next steps should be. Connect with a mentor – we look forward to meeting you.