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Learn to Code, Get a Job

HOW TO: Learn to code in a way that will actually make you employable

Thinking you can learn to code by watching tutorials & taking online courses is so hot right now. Sites like codecademy & teamtreehouse are growing fast, and YouTube channels like learncode.academy are picking up hundreds of thousands of subscribers.

learn to code

While it’s great to be self-motivated and learn to code, many people make the mistake of thinking that watching tutorials and doing the exercises in online courses is enough to become an employable developer. Unfortunately, learning to code proficiently enough to be employable requires a little bit more effort than that.

Don’t Be Like John

Here at FVI, we hear all kinds of stories from the Miami tech community. Victor Moreno, one of our web development teachers here at FVI, has a friend (let’s call him John) who decided to go the “teach yourself to code by watching tutorials” route. John completed dozens of tutorials on udemy.com. With his new internet credentials in hand, John went out into the world, and actually got a job at a major tech company in Miami! Very nice, great success!

learn to code

The only problem is, John is now in way over his head. He is, as the young people like to say, “freaking out” because he doesn’t know how to do most of the things his bosses are asking him to do. Instead of admitting that he may have jumped the gun on thinking he was ready to be employed as a professional web developer, John spends several hours per day on frantic, whispered phone calls with Victor.

Don’t be like John.

Learn to code properly before you get a job. Here are the three steps you need to take in order to become an employable developer:

Three Steps to Learn to Code Professionally

1. Observe people doing things in order to pick up the basic patterns.

The easiest way to figure out how to do something (whether it’s creating an HTML document, styling it with CSS, programming it with JavaScript, or anything else for that matter) is to watch someone else do it first. By observing people doing the same kinds of things and solving the same kinds of problems over and over, you’ll start to pick up the basic patterns of what they’re doing and how to do it.

2. Practice the patterns yourself.

After observing someone else doing something, you may think that you have “learned how to do it,” but the truth is that most human brains are incapable of absorbing real, practical skills just by passively observing. In order to really learn a skill, you need to practice it yourself. When it comes to learning to code, there are thousands of tiny things that you need to learn; each individual piece of syntax, specific kinds of control flow patterns, various programming concepts, and much more. You’ll need to practice each of these skills individually, after observing how they work. While in-person courses tend to be the best in this regard, online courses also tend to incorporate “example exercises,” in order to make sure you really learn each pattern as you go along.

3. Develop real projects.

This is the part where John (along with many other amateur coders in similar situations) messed up before he got his first development job. It’s one thing to understand how each individual piece of code works; it’s quite another to be able to put it all together into a cohesive product. If you’ve watched tutorials (step 1) and done online courses (step 2), please take some time to work on a couple of projects before you go out and get your first professional development job. Build a couple of websites for yourself. Create an app. Contribute to a GitHub project. Practice doing whatever it is that you’ll be expected to do at the jobs that you’re hoping to get. This is how you’ll figure out which skills you’ve got down, and which ones you still need to work on. The more you develop, the more proficient (and confident) you’ll become.

So please don’t be like John. If you want to learn to code properly from the beginning, just remember the three steps above. Observe, Practice… and don’t forget to Develop.

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