What I Wish I Knew Before I Learned to Code

Where do I put the JavaScript?I bombarded the instructor with these questions before we had even opened a text editor.

I needed to understand the bigger picture before I could focus on the programming concepts.

I knew that doing exercise after exercise wouldn’t help me retain anything.

I needed to see the process from start to finish so that I could know what exactly I was working toward.

As predicted, as the course went on, I memorized snippets of JavaScript to make pop-up alerts and other flashy features, but I aced the object-oriented tasks.

My learning style ultimately affected the way I progressed through the program.

I found myself using a variety of apps to practice Ruby and acing every exercise, but learning JavaScript by reading and analyzing other people’s code.

It was almost like learning a spoken language; I had to learn to read before I could write.

Photo by Christopher Gower on UnsplashI wish I knew that everyone learns differently.

It was disheartening to watch some of my peers build professional-looking applications in a single afternoon while I was still counting brackets.

But it lifted my spirits when I mastered a concept that was causing everyone else grief and anxiety.

We all learned differently, and in the end, we all relied on each other’s experiences.

I wish I knew that it was okay to ask questions.

I felt bad every time I raised my hand (and I raised my hand very often).

I looked around the room and saw that half of the class had the same questions, but the other half had tuned out.

I felt like I was wasting everyone’s time, but I wasn’t.

I made an investment in my future, and I gained nothing by keeping my questions to myself.

I wish I knew that everyone brought a different skillset.

Some people were expert designers.

Others were fluent in Python.

Some were career changers who brought years of experience in non-technical fields, and along with that, realistic ideas for startups.

Others had worked in IT for decades and just wanted a refresher.

Everyone had something to contribute.

Ultimately, I ended up withdrawing from the program 2/3 of the way in because of logistics; it became harder and harder for me to go 4 months without any income, and a few emergencies popped up that made it difficult to get there on time (bye bye, car).

But the lessons I walked away with changed my perspective on education.

I developed a deep appreciation for sharing works in progress.

I learned more from my classmates than from the digital resources I had been using to study.

Seeing code that worked was just as helpful as seeing code that didn’t work.

I know how I learn now.

I was able to complete my portfolio at home.

I was able to spend more time on certain languages and frameworks and less time on others.

Now, I understand why and how things work, and I’m able to choose the right technologies on my own.

I figured out what works for me.

I learned to appreciate collaboration in education.

I used to be one of those people who ran away from group projects.

I was wrong.

It turns out that collaborating with other programmers allows you to build off of each other’s strengths, and that Github makes collaboration seamless.

There is no “he said/she said”; it’s clear who contributed each component of a project.

I learned to be comfortable with the unknown.

Some “challenges” didn’t have a solution.

Other challenges had dozens of solutions.

Some projects were self-explanatory.

Others appeared to make no sense at all.

I began to accept that the questions I had on day 1, while valid, were simply part of the unknown at that time.

It IS okay to spend time figuring things out.

That’s the whole point.

It IS okay if you finish an entire project today but then you spend all of tomorrow staring at your screen and wondering what you’ve done wrong.

It’s part of the learning process.

I wish I knew that this would be a lifelong journey.

Learning to code is not a race.

Even senior-level software engineers are still learning something.

This is one of the few fields where you can spend your entire life learning, and still not have learned it all.

But this is also one of the few fields where you can use critical thinking skills to figure out something you don’t know instead of taking a class or watching a tutorial.

Photo by Steve Halama on UnsplashHow did you learn to code?.What were the biggest obstacles that you faced?.Share your thoughts in the comments.


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