A mentor once told me that to be great at something is to align one’s habitual behaviors with a desire for success. At first, I never really believed him because I was always of the opinion that “habitual” was boring, and boring was unsuccessful. However, as I matured in my career, I began to understand his advice to be bland but true. During college, I was always working. There was only about 2 or 3 months collectively that I did not have a job, and that was normally because I was finishing one job and waiting to start another. Holding a job while taking a full load of classes (and surviving in them) is no easy task. At first, I struggled immensely. It wasn’t until I perfected habits that let me balance work and school. Habits like doing homework as soon as I possibly could and waking up early to get a head start on work were what allowed me to stay afloat. So, translate that into the task of learning how to code. Learning to code is a daunting challenge when you are new to the scene. There are literally hundreds of different programming languages. My advice to you? Adopt and develop habits. For me, it was the easiest way to introduce myself to the world of coding.
- Keep it simple. By keeping it simple, I mean don’t smother yourself with many different languages at once. Personally, I found it easier to focus on one language, or a couple of very similar languages, to start out with. Many coding languages follow a very similar, general flow of logic, so if you focused on mastering one or two, when you spread your wings, it will be a little easier to fly into other languages.
- Explain your logic. This one takes me back to 9th grade geometry class, where we did a unit on proofs. At the time, it was miserable, but in hindsight, it was one of the most applicable lessons I learned in high school. If you can systematically explain how you get from input to output, you are in good shape to code. As you write a function of code to achieve a goal, I have learned that it helps to explain your logic through comments in the code. This habit has more bonuses than many realize. If your code does not behave how you want it to, you can go back and use the comments to help you decide where your code or your logic went wrong. Furthermore, if others are using your code for themselves, it allows them to understand how it works. Even the most experienced code masters welcome comments of explanation in code.
- Study and observe. I can’t begin to explain the benefits of making this a habitual thing. There are countless resources out there to familiarize yourself with code, whether it be books or online tools. I have always been told that the best way to get good at coding is to observe code. Study the code of your favorite website to familiarize yourself with how different parts of code work. Look for patterns and things that stand out. You will never be successful in coding unless you take the time to be able to read code, or at least follow the logic of a strand of code. There are books and websites that specialize in training you to be able to look at a strand of code and know exactly what is going on.
- Practice. Practice. There isn’t an expert in any field of life that will tell you that they didn’t have to practice what they specialize in. Practicing is, by far, the most effective habit in becoming a great coder. The best part is, it doesn’t have to be boring! Practicing can be fun. Experiment on your own code to see what you can do. The possibilities are endless. The feeling you get when you have come up with your own working code is extremely rewarding. Manipulating code to adhere to your desires and commands has an appeal to any coder! Just practice. The benefits are obvious, and the results are advantageous.