by Katerina Pascoulis
How you can learn to code in 2019
A few weeks ago, this interview with Ruth and me was published by freeCodeCamp. In the interview, we talk about the coding bootcamp, Founders and Coders, that we took part in and how our careers have progressed since. Ruth is on her second full-stack software engineering role now at the company I started.
Lots of people got in touch to ask how they could go about learning too. With the aim of sharing that answer more widely, here’s the advice I would give to anyone learning to code this year.
You don’t need any kind of technical background
I went through the start of my time working in tech thinking coding was about already having a technical background. Or being good at Mathematics. It isn’t. So much of it is learning how to learn, where to look, and problem solving. You don’t need a computer science degree to build something.
In fact, having a non-technical background (I studied law) gave me more transferable skills for coding than I ever thought it would. I wrote a post on that topic alone.
You don’t have to go all in straight away
There are numerous resources that are free and online that are specially designed for beginners.
Take some time on the weekend or after work to start a course on CodeCademy. They have a pro version (and will try to steer you into it) but they still have a lot of free courses on there. It also gives you an environment to code in within your browser (Google Chrome, Safari etc). This means you won’t need to configure and handle a more complex set up yet.
Another great option is freeCodeCamp. Beginner and intermediate level content, all served up to you for free to try in your own time.
Find your Cohort
The coding bootcamp set up works as it makes you part of a cohort of people, going through the same experience, at the same time as you.
Find your cohort. For example, Founders and Coders and freeCodeCamp both have communities online. Having other people to work through problems with really helps.
You can re-create the in-person benefits of a bootcamp by going to meetups designed for beginners.
If you’re from an under-represented group, check out Codebar. It’s an evening meetup, often hosted by the kind of tech company you might want to get a job at. You’ll be paired with a mentor and work through a problem of your choosing together (don’t be intimidated by not knowing what to work on. The freeCodeCamp exercises are great for this).
Founders and Coders also run a meet-up called ‘Coding for Everyone’ with a similar vibe (not just for under-represented groups).
You could also put together your own group in your local area or online.
My co-founder and I did this while he was still at his job and I’d just started on Founders and Coders full-time. We’d meet up at someone’s office, order food and work through coding problems. Each week we’d try and get a few more people involved. We used Facebook to organize it and kept it to friends of friends/colleagues
Choose your Outcome
Now you’ve gotten started, you need to figure out what you want to achieve.
There’s never really an endpoint in learning to code (check out Dan Abramov’s post on all the things he doesn’t know yet. Dan works for Facebook on React).
With the tools above you can learn how to build a simple site and understand a bit more about how the web is put together.
How to get started
If you want to become a full-time developer, there are a few options. What works for you depends entirely on what your lifestyle can support (savings, dependents, location).
I think this is the longest and hardest route in but also the cheapest. I didn’t do this so you should check out Linh’s blog (she’s now a software engineer at Asos). Linh spent the best part of a year learning in her free time alongside a full-time job. My co-founder learnt on the job in his role and putting in the hours after work. It is definitely possible.
Take an Evening Course
Recommendations here will be London centric as it’s where I’m based.
- CodeFirstGirls run evening courses for free if you’re a woman and within a few years of graduating university. They run paid for professional courses too.
- General Assembly run evening courses and they are pricey. I don’t know anyone personally who has taken a part-time course with them so talk to ex-students before committing.
In my opinion this is the quickest way to get to a level where someone will pay you to write code for them.
I wrote about my experience of how I learnt to code in a scarily short space of time here. The TLDR is I wanted to focus on coding full-time and evening work alone wasn’t enough.
Founders and Coders was the bootcamp I took part in. There’s no cost to you other than you having to support yourself in London for 4 months (which isn’t trivial by the way).
Makers Academy is a paid bootcamp. I’ve got friends who have gone through it and gotten great jobs afterwards. Both of the above I can personally recommend.
Also checkout Lambda School (US) and General Assembly. I don’t have personal experience of these so again, talk to students who have gone through them and gone onto get jobs afterwards.
I haven’t contributed to our main codebase since April 2018 so this is likely the last thing I’ll write on this topic! As CEO at Personably, I now handle everything but the tech.
I talk through my career path: from law to crowdfunding to coding to founder in this podcast for GeekGirl if you want to learn more.