Top 10 Ways to Teach Yourself to Code

Posted by E.L.E.X on February 24 2019 under Tech/Cybersecurity

Programming is one of the most valuable skills you can pick up in these modern times, whether for career prospects or to stretch your brain and create something awesome. If you're just getting started on your coding journey, here are ten tips and resources to set you off on the right foot.

10. Figure Out Why You Want to Learn to Code

The direction you go in will depend in large part on why you want to learn to code in the first place and how much time you have to devote to learning. If you want to be a professional programmer, signing up for tutorial courses might be your best bet. (Google has a list of suggested skills and courses for would-be software engineers.) If you want to build websites or games for fun (and possibly profit) in your spare time, interactive tutorials might be better. 

9. Choose the Right Language

There's no one "best" programming language, and once you've learned one, it's fairly easy to pick up another, so don't get hung too up on choosing your first language. That said, some languages are more beginner-friendly than others. The language you choose to start with might depend, again, on your purpose. (For example, if you want to write an iOS app, you'll need to learn Swift.) 

8. Start Small (and Be Patient)

No matter which language or learning method you choose, you should start at the very beginning (a very good place to start). When I started learning to code, I spent one weekend getting an introductory grasp of Php and one weekend getting an introductory understanding of Mysql—going through the tutorial, deleting all of the tutorial code, and working through the tutorial again from scratch. Start with the basics and be patient with yourself as you progress. To take your first coding project from start to finish, break down the project into simple steps. And if one method of learning isn't working for you (e.g., books), try another method (e.g Videos) before giving up.

 7. Eventually, you need to specialize

Eventually, you will need a specialization. Computer Science and even just Software Engineering are broad fields. No one can be an expert in it all. It would be like a medical doctor knowing as much about eyes as an ophthalmologist and at the same time as knowing as much about feet as a podiatrist. Whether a language, an industry (biotech, finance), a platform (windows, apple, mobile, web), or a sub-field (usability, security, localization, quality, data, networks, performance), or some combination -- you should have things that you are better at than other things.

At the same time, diversification is also necessary. If you are a world class Java programmer, I would bet that you also know other languages. It gives you perspective. Helps you make implementation decisions. Generally makes you a better programmer. I would say any "great" software engineer should have a little experience in an Object Oriented language, functional language, compiled language, scripting language, low-level language, and high-level language.

6. Use Free Online Training Sites and take a coding course

Free online training sites like Codecademy can help you write your first computer program. Tutorials from KhanAcademy, Codecademy,, and many other organizations will introduce you to the basics of programming—all while creating a new game, site, or other projects. Find the resources you need according to the language you're learning. These are good starting points, but you'll need to take the initiative to further or continue your learning after these introductions.

Online computer science courses offer a bit more of rounded educational experience compared to online training sites focusing on one language. These courses are designed to teach you fundamental skills over several months.

5. Grab Some Free Programming Books

When you get stuck on a problem or just need to look something up, reference books come in very handy. There's a huge collection of over 500 free programming books posted on GitHub, and another collection of Ebooks covering 24 programming languages.

4. Play Coding Games (Not compulsory)

Often the best way to learn is through games. While plenty of coding tutorials have you building simple or complex games yourself, a couple of teaching sites are literally games: Code Combat and CodinGame are two you might have fun with.

3. Ask for help. You'll need it.

As awesome as it would be to become the next Steve Jobs on your own, the reality is that people learn faster with peer feedback. What may seem like an immovable bug or an unlearnable topic could be quickly alleviated by a fresh pair of eyes or a new interpretation of the subject. Whether it’s online or in-person, ignore the trolls and don’t be afraid to ask for help, because every programmer has been in your shoes before. Besides, most developers love to code, and if there’s one thing that passionate individuals enjoy, it’s to share their knowledge with others.

2. Get a Mentor (or Teach Someone Else)

The programming community is full of people who are willing to help the next generation of programmers. Hack.pledge() is one site that will connect you to a mentor, or you can sign up to mentor someone else. Even just planning to teach what you've learned can help you retain the information better.

1. Hack Someone Else's Code

When you reverse engineer someone else's code, testing each line to see how it works, you get a better understanding of the big picture. Thanks to tons of open source code, you can learn just about anything—and keep learning through the incremental-hacking cycle. Just remember to share your code back with the community if you improve on a program.

Conclusion: Keep Calm and Keep On Coding

Despite these 10 tips, the most important ingredient to learn to program faster is to remain confident. To do so, you should expect to fail repeatedly and be patient with your progress; because becoming an expert at anything requires hard work and time. And if a single doubt ever clouds your mind, remember that every programmer has walked this path before – none of them was more destined to become a developer than you. Whichever path you are currently on, be it university or coding boot camp, the only barrier to success is your work ethic and confidence to persevere.

To be great at anything is more of a journey than a destination. The more you know the more you will be aware that you don't know. I would be suspicious of anyone who called themselves a "great programmer".


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