Learning How to Learn How to Become a Programmer

Becoming a programmer: Diary entry #1

Image by Markus Spiske, available on unsplash.com

An array of variables (programming pun intended), left me wanting to quit my job at the age of 32.

First, I didn’t love my job. I used to work in the international development sector in a generalist role. The job didn’t allow much space for creativity; the industry can be quite bureaucratic; the sector is exceptionally competitive and recruitment processes are slow, making it hard to switch organisation or role; my particular role was quite repetitive and only required a small set of soft skills (which became an issue when I started to look for other types of work). I’d also become cynical about the work that was being done. Enough said.

So, I started seeking an alternative career.

I outlined a list of needs and a list of wants. It needed to be: something that allowed me to work remotely (as my partner continues to work in the international development sector for now); something that would allow me to work in Sweden in the future; something in a growing sector so I would have a higher chance of getting hired at some point; something I could learn without going back to school at the age of 32. I wanted it to be something that would force me to develop some hard skills, something which I’ve always craved; something that would allow me to be creative; something that might eventually allow me to be my own boss and to work on my own projects.

So. Coding. Decision taken. Or so I thought.

Coding is vast. There are so, so many things you can do. There are so many options. More than this: when you start its difficult to even navigate the options because there is so much vocabulary to learn. What is Front End? What is Back End? What does Full Stack mean? Should I learn JavaScript or Java? Are they related? What about Python and Ruby? Are coding and programming the same thing? Is HTML a programming language? (Turns out it is not.) Which track should I take? Should I become a web developer? Would I enjoy data analysis and visualisation more? More than this, there are so many different resources that are available. Which one do you choose? Code Academy? FreeCodeCamp? Coursera? Skillshare? Should you pay or use a free course? What about good old fashioned books?

Suddenly, the decision to learn to code, which had felt empowering and final, had shape-shifted into something paralysing and daunting.

That is what this series of entries will cover. The daunting and uncertain journey to becoming a coder (or a programmer?). It will touch on a whole range of topics. Choices that need to be made; mistakes I make along the way; great snippets of wisdom I stumble upon; useful resources that I find; summaries of what I have learned (in part to reinforce my own learning); and fears about whether or not learning to code was the right decision. It intends to be a resource for other people trying to navigate the same waters.

For now, I intend to simply set sail towards the open horizon with a big stock of patience and an abundance of curiosity (and this is what my advice would be to others who are seeking to transition into a coding career).

At this stage I first commit to learning, but not yet to any particular track, coding language, or specific end goal (other than eventually getting paid). Put another way, I intend to commit to be flexible and shift course along the way. The more I read about coding it seems to be a way of thinking and that once you learn one or two of the programming languages that are out there, you can more easily pick up the others. Relatedly, it also seems to be a sector that demands constant learning — somehow, this makes postponing a few decisions about exactly where to start and where to go a bit less scary.

Follow my journey in <The Self-Taught “Coder”> on Medium.

Overcoming a fear of public displays of writing (PDW) while teaching myself coding and hoping to make a career transition.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store