Padawan coder

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Thinking of Learning to Code?

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My perspectives – why I’m learning to code at the Flatiron School

Thinking of learning to code, and wondering if it’s worth the trouble, or if you should go solo or sign up to a course?

I’ve wrestled with these questions before and this post outlines my thought process and why I’m learning to code at the Flatiron School:
global imperative – coding is the new literacy
personal imperative – empowerment rocks, impotence enrages
optional – exponential learning

1) Coding is the new literacy

Avi said on the first day of school that coding is the new literacy. That really resonated with me, because it’s true.

In the not too distant past, before the days of universal education, reading and writing were considered optional luxuries. Now, no one even questions the need for literacy.

When personal computers first came out, they were considered novel gadgets for a small slice of society – the geeks and bandwagoners with spare cash. – Why would a regular person need to use a computer?

Now, everyone uses some form of a personal computer, all the time, whether it be a computer, laptop, tablets, or smartphones. For many young children today, iPads are often more familiar than books.

Technology and software already underpin most of today’s operations, and will only become more ubiquitous, not less so. And so, knowing how to code – to interact with software with more control instead of being a powerless end-user – will soon be imperative.

I’m educating myself for the future. Do you want to be left behind?

2) Empowerment vs. impotence

Coding is empowering.

The Boy and I had an idea for a potential start-up several years ago, but neither of us code. More than two years, multiple developers / programming language changes and a large chunk of our savings later, the prototype is mostly built, but still not to our envisioned specifications.

We felt impotent, because we had no control of our project - timeline, deliverables, destiny. And that has been a frustrating and enraging experience.

I wanted to regain control of my life and my destiny, and the first step is to learn how to create.

That was what really pushed me to learn code seriously instead of doing it part time, on weekends – I wanted to be empowered, and coding is empowering.

3) Exponential learning

When I first told my friends that I was hopping on a plane from London to New York to learn how to code, most of my friends were like: “Why do you need to go to New York? Why can’t you learn to code at home? It’s really easy to learn from a book or the web. The best way to do it is just to code, and you can do that at home, and it’s free.” I see where they are coming from, and I think that’s definitely a possibility. A lot of really great programmers have learned their craft by themselves. It requires a lot of time, commitment, discipline, and probably a certain type of personality.

Personally, I’ve tried that, and I’ve realized that it doesn’t really work for me. I’m just not disciplined enough – often get distracted by surfing the web, or doing errands and chores.

Even if you prefer working through your problems alone, rather than working in teams, going to a school can still be a great option, because it can really supercharge your learning.

Having passionate instructors who imbue you with enthusiasm, and guide you through programming pitfalls for beginners, and instilling best practices, really make a difference.

Although I’m not a natural ‘group’ person because I learn best by doing, and often like to figure things out on my own – I’ve really enjoyed group learning in my first week at Flatiron School.

Getting different perspectives or solutions to problems from classmates has been enlightening. When I’m stuck on something, instead of spending hours on it, I can ask an instructor or a fellow classmate for help. When I get tired or discouraged, there’s always someone else to buoy me up and debug my code with me. – It’s a very different experience from sitting alone at my desk and banging my head on the wall.

So if you feel like you’re going nowhere fast with learning on your own, try pairing up, or learning in a group, or signing up to a school.