by Chris Blakely

Let’s debunk the main myths about learning how to code

How many times have you thought about giving up on your dream of becoming a web developer because of things you’ve heard?

Maybe you’re concerned about not having a university degree. Maybe you’re worried about not being able to get a job. Or maybe you just don’t think you’re smart enough to work beside those “genius” developers.

As a software team lead and mentor to junior developers, I often get asked certain questions and hear certain statements about being a developer that are, well, blatantly not true.

So let’s talk through some of the common myths of learning to code.

Myth # 1: I have to go to University to Learn to Code

It is often cited that you need to go to university to learn how to code, and get a job. You have to slug it out for 4/5 years, living on beer and instant noodles, and receive a degree before you can be considered a software developer.

For some time this was true, as lots of companies and roles required you to have a 4 year college degree before you could even apply! The big companies have moved away from this (and rightly so).

I’m not saying that everyone should act like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg and drop out of university, nor am I lessening the value of a university degree - you learn a lot and gain a lot of skills at university! But the times are changing.

If you are a self taught developer, and you have the key skills, you will get a job.

Myth # 2: I need to be an expert at Maths to be a developer

I’m far from an expert at Maths. I had to split a £87.63 dinner bill 3 ways yesterday, and let’s just say I won’t be making an appearance on Countdown any time soon.

If you want to be a good developer, you don’t necessarily need to be good at Maths. You will, however, need to have strong problem solving skills & the ability to think logically.

This is where the myth comes from - as people who are good at Maths are typically good problem solvers & logical thinkers. They aren’t mutually exclusive though, so if you aren’t good at Maths, don’t worry, you’ll still be a great developer if you can work your way through problems.

Myth # 3: I need to be a master of Data Structures and Algorithms

I’ve been a junior developer, senior developer, and now a team lead, and the only time I’ve ever had to use things like Bubble Sort, Quick Sort, Binary Search, or “reverse a linked list” was during an interview. As part of your day to day job, particularly in web development, you will very rarely need to use 90% of this stuff.

Do be aware of them and how they work! Even if it’s for educational and interview purposes. Learning about them will help your logical and problem solving skills. If you decide to pivot your career towards a different path, such as finance, data science, or back end heavy work, you’ll encounter more uses for data structures and algorithms.

Myth # 4: I need to learn all the languages and technologies

Here’s a list of things I know: JavaScript, Node.js, React.js, React Native, Java, CSS/HTML, REST API’s, Docker, basic shell commands, basic network stuff, some design patterns.

Here’s a list of things I don’t know: Angular.js, Vue.js, PHP, GraphQL, Python, Ruby, PHP, TypeScript, Serverless, C/C++, Swift…

Nobody knows all the technologies. You don’t need to know everything. Companies are more inclined to hire someone who is proficient in one language, instead of someone who has light knowledge of multiple similar languages.

If you want to be an effective developer and climb the ranks fast, choose a path, and master the technologies for your chosen path.

Myth # 5: I will get a job in a few months!

Ah, if only this one were true! There have been many awesome success stories of people teaching themselves how to code and getting a job in a few months. I think it’s important to stress that this won’t be the case for everyone. You should set realistic expectations before starting your journey, so you don’t become disheartened if you don’t end up where you wanted to be after a few months.

Now before you flip the laptop and give up, I’m not saying you won’t get a job in a few months (if you do, awesome! please tweet me and let me know!), but it may take a bit longer.

“How long will it take?!”, I hear you ask! Well, the answer depends on:

  • How much free time you have
  • How quickly you can learn the technologies for your chosen path
  • How passionate & determined you are
  • The jobs available in your area
  • How good your CV/resume is

So, if you have been learning to code for a few months, and not seeing the progress you wanted, don’t give up! It took me over 20 interviews and countless applications to get my first internship.

Remember, it’s a marathon not a sprint, and good things come to those who wait.

I managed to roll 2 motivational quotes into 1 there. I feel wisdomous. 😆

Myth # 6: I’m too old to learn coding

This always makes me think about that scene from Star Wars where Yoda says “He is too old to begin the training”. Lucky for you, you are learning how to code and not how to become a Jedi master (as far as I’m aware) - which means you didn’t have to start when you were 5 years old.

Again, if you are competent in a certain set of technologies, you will get a job regardless of your age. You should see your added experience from other jobs/pathways as a plus - planning, problem solving, and people skills are all part of being an excellent developer.

I worked with a lady recently in her 40’s who owned her own cafe, she wanted to learn how to code to create her own website. Her website is live and she now takes orders online. There are many stories like this, make sure to check them out!

The possibilities are endless. Don’t worry about your age being an issue, worry about learning to code instead!

Myth # 7: Everybody is learning how to code, there aren’t enough jobs

Yes it’s true that more and more people are teaching themselves how to code. And rightly so, as the world leans more on technology, coding will soon become as important as reading and writing.

This has led to the myth of a shortage of jobs. What better way to debunk this myth than with a good chart?

Source: monstertemplates.com

As you can see, the number of jobs is going up. Still not convinced? Search Google for “web developer jobs”, and look at the many positions available.

That’s it! The End…

Just kidding, here’s one more:

Myth # 8: Learning to code is expensive

Learning to code, for whatever reason, is no different from any other discipline. If you’re learning photography, you won’t go and buy a $3000 camera and tripod right away. If you’re taking up running, you wouldn’t go and buy the most expensive running shoes and gear first thing.

Instead, you might use your phone camera, or old trainers first, to see if you like the hobby or not. Then, as you get more involved with it, you might upgrade to the more expensive stuff.

My advice for those seeking a career as a web developer is the same. There are many resources available for free, which can help you get your foot in the door before splashing out on the dearer courses.

For example, freeCodeCamp, has an entire curriculum that takes you from the very basics to the more advanced stuff and it’s, well, free - you could argue that you wouldn’t need a paid course after finishing it.

The Real End

Hopefully I’ve cleared up some common myths that are proven to be just that - myths. If you want to become a developer, no matter what background you come from or what your situation is, you can. Work hard, have patience and the results will come.

Thanks for reading!

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