Always Learning: How and Why I’m Learning to Code

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With 2015 almost over, I have been working on figuring out what things I want to work on next year. Even though I don’t really like making new year resolutions (it’s a surefire way for me to NOT succeed), I think that making goals and reflecting on them is something I need to do more often. When I started this year, I wanted to start a blog, and I wanted to write a cookbook (with the help of my blog). Well, I can say that I was able to successfully start a blog (even though I definitely need to write more often!), and I basically didn’t really start a cookbook at all, though it’s still something I am planning on working on, though I think it’s probably going to take longer than a year.

One thing that I started working on this year that came as a huge surprise to me is learning how to build websites. It is something that I have been interested in for a while, and I became more interested in it as I have started blogging. I have a really good friend who builds websites for a living, and it’s been so interesting hearing about what she does. In talking to her, I realized that it is something I would like to learn how to do. So, one day last summer, I decided to do it. I have been slowly but surely learning how to build websites since then, and it’s something I am really excited to share with you today!

The interesting thing about learning how to build websites (or coding, as it’s also called), is that there are not a lot of women in the industry. There is currently a huge push to get women involved in coding, starting with girls who are still in school. This is a really important issue, because girls often stay away from STEM fields, and they shouldn’t. So, I am excited to be a part of this push.

When I decided to learn how to code, I did a lot of research, and got help from my friend. I have already spent eight years in college (earning my Bachelors and Masters degrees), so I was hoping to be able to avoid going back to school for it. College isn’t the only way to learn to code, there are independent and online schools that provide certifications as well, but since I have still paying off my student loans, I didn’t really want to do a program that required tuition, unless I had to. After doing some research, there are many good resources for learning how to code independently and for free.

The first resource that I found that has been really helpful in learning to code is Codecademy. This site is a free (unless you sign up for their new Pro option) resource to learn the various languages and aspect to making websites. Codecademy is awesome because the classes are pretty easy to understand, and there are resources to help. It starts off being very hands-on, which is awesome when learning something that is so technical. When working on lessons and assignments, you get to see the product of what you type in as you type it. If I were to type something in wrong, it is obvious pretty fast, because you can see that the result of what was typed in is not what the lesson asked for. There are encouraging emails sent as lessons are mastered. The only thing I don’t really like about Codecademy is that the entire course used to be free. That included all the lessons, and bigger projects that ask that you build dummy websites that look like examples provided. These bigger projects were extremely helpful when I was trying to learn how the basic coding languages worked. Now, those bigger lessons are only available if you pay. I know that education can’t always be free, but it is still unfortunate to me. Regardless, Codecademy has been a valuable resource for me.

Another resource I use are apps on my phone from SoloLearn. They also offer these courses on their site, but I have really liked using the apps they offer. They offer different apps for the various languages, so that there is less confusion about what you’re actually learning about. The way the apps from SoloLearn work is that there are lessons, which you can either read or watch videos about, with review questions. At the end of modules, there are quizzes covering what you have learned so far. Just like Codecademy, there is quite a bit of encouragement, which is really helpful, especially because learning how to code can be extremely frustrating. It is different because it is a little less guided than Codecademy, and there is no way to see the results of the code typed in during the quizzes. It is nice as a complement to Codecademy (or some other learning tool). I use it as a way to solidify and further explore the things that I have just learned from a different resource.

The third resource that I have started using is Free Code Camp. The thing that drew me to this site is the fact that people learn how to code while working on projects used by nonprofits, who get websites built for free. As  I have started using it, however, I have found so many other things that I love about it. One cool thing about Free Code Camp that is different is that it’s more interactive in that you are encouraged to communicate with your fellow “campers” and work with them on projects. There are Facebook groups set up for campers from different locations (so people are able to meet up with people who live near them), Just like Codecademy, while learning concepts, it is possible to see how things would look on a website after code is typed in. It is also a great complement to Codecademy. There are lessons in Free Code Camp, and while some of them are covering the same concepts I learned with Codecademy, some of them are different, so using both allows for a more well-rounded education. Currently, I am stuck on a quiz question in Free Code Camp, and was encouraged by a fellow camper to go back to Codecademy to learn concepts to help me with the quiz question. Another cool thing about Free Code Camp is that they are recognized as a school by the social network LinkedIn, which allows for campers to network on LinkedIn as well. One final thing about Free Code Camp that I really like is that they are currently getting ready to launch more classes and make the path through the camp much better. Instead of getting two certifications within a few months, it will now be possible to get 4 certifications within a year. At the end of the course, they also offer help on getting a job, including how to interview for positions in the tech industry, which I really appreciate. They claim that many people don’t finish their full course, because they get a job before then, but I am kind of excited to finish the whole course, because it will be a huge accomplishment, and I hope to not have too many gaps in my knowledge when I enter the workforce.

Finally, a resource I have not really used yet, but appreciate and hope to use in the future is Skillcrush. It seems that Skillcrush is geared more towards women who want to learn to code. One cool feature is that they offer a free 10 day bootcamp, which gets people who are interested in learning to code to start thinking about the concepts involved. They offer three-month courses to learn how to code, depending on what career path you are interested in pursuing, but they are not free. They do offer payment plans and ideas on how to earn money coding while learning how to code (which seems crazy, but it possible!). I really appreciate their approach, and their customer service is awesome, because you get to interact with a real person, which is sort of rare.

I am really excited to continue to learn how to make websites, and even though it can be frustrating at times, it’s always like a puzzle that I desperately want to solve. It’s fun having something to challenge me, where I can continue to learn. I will keep you all updated on how this new journey goes for me!

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6 thoughts on “Always Learning: How and Why I’m Learning to Code

  1. This is so exciting! I don’t code but I used to be in the systems review/ audit environment, and I admire all women in STEM. All the best in coding and in all your 2016 resolutions! 😀

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