The only thing holding you back from learning is yourself
Some stories are universal. Whether you’re South African or American… this is one of them. A reminder that the only thing holding you back from learning is yourself. Thank you Laurence for sharing with us!
Laurence Bradford hails from the United States but has spent the majority of the last few years living or traveling in Asia. When she’s not learning how to code, she works as a copywriter. Hobbies include customizing her Tumblr theme and continuously taking on new labors of love. Visit her latest at learntocodewith.me.
I was a history major in college. Unsurprisingly, this left me with little job prospects upon graduation. As I kicked myself, wondering why I couldn’t have chosen a different path, I decided graduate school would be a viable option.
Maybe I could actually gain some skills to employ in the real world.
As I witnessed friends receiving great job offers, I was stuck inside preparing for graduate school applications. Luckily, this didn’t last long. After wasting precious time, I realized I didn’t need graduate school to get where I wanted to go. With the plethora of online resources, I could teach myself skills needed to excel in the workforce.
Wasting Time Studying for Grad School
Fresh out of college, I wanted to pursue a graduate degree that would catapult me into a dream career (or so I believed). But in order to get into a good graduate program, I had to do well on the GRE. The GRE is a standardized test in the US that is required as part of most graduate school applications. Like all standardized tests, the GRE is pretty painful. It’s comprised of math, verbal/reading and writing sections. It takes several hours to complete, with little breaks during.
But I wanted to to do well. Because if I didn’t do well, I wouldn’t get into a good program and I wouldn’t be successful later in life. And I would doomed to eternal unhappiness (or so I told myself).
So I spent hours a day studying over a period of several months. I focused on retaining outdated vocabulary definitions and solving obscure math problems. Essentially, studying topics that served no purpose in the workplace.
A Wrong Course of Action
As I continued studying for the dreaded GRE exam, I kept reading about the demand of coders in the US. I noticed there was especially an emphasis on the need for female coders/programmers – since the industry is dominated by men. After repeatedly seeing these messages and others – like how the tech sector is growing and the influx of high-tech job openings – I had a realization.
Instead of spending countless hours studying material unrelated to the workplace and job market, I should learn something useful, applicable and in demand: coding. I always had a knack for logic and math, why not give it a try?
So, I came to a grinding halt with my grad school ambitions. I stopped studying for the GRE and instead began dabbling in Codecademy and other free online learning programs. To my surprise, I actually enjoyed learning how to code. Quite opposite from the tedious GRE problems I spent so much time trying to master.
Starting Learning to Code on the Wrong Foot
Initially I played around with a range of free online tutorials and courses, covering varying topics. It wasn’t until I created my website, Learn to Code With Me, that I became serious about sticking to a learning plan. For the first several months, I wasn’t systemized in my learning. I jumped around from tutorial to tutorial; learning a little here and a little there. At last, I accepted the fact that if I ever wanted to get ahead in the tech sector, I had to learn the core logic behind programming.
I knew if I just learned one programming language, and became good at it, it would be easy to pick up others if necessary. While there are many programming languages, each serving a different purpose, they all share the same logic.
I made the decision to focus on Python. There’s lots of reasons why Python is a fantastic language for beginners. Here’s a few:
The syntax is clean (it looks a lot like everyday English)
It’s a popular language, meaning there is an abundance of resources for beginners
Python has many uses
There’s a demand for Python programmers in the job market
A Python Plan of Attack
To follow through with learning Python, I needed systems in place and a structured action plan.
As I began to devise a plan of attack, I became extremely overwhelmed with all the resources at my fingertips. I didn’t know where to start. There was a plethora of Python paid courses, free courses, books, guides, tutorials, one-on-one tutoring, etc.
Plus, it was difficult to find answers to questions I was having as a beginner, such as:
“What tutorial to choose?”
“How much time to dedicate a day to learning?”
“How long will it take me to actually get it?”
And so on.
Learning to code can be really frustrating. Sure, message boards like StackOverflow are helpful – but filled with technical jargon that makes me feel overwhelmed and hopeless.
Beyond a course or tutorial, I wanted a place for reassurance and inspiration.
I knew if I was facing these problems, others must be too. And I wanted to do something to address it.
My response was creating a blog, Learn to Code With Me, with course reviews, answers for beginners and inspiration.
Ultimately, the reasons for starting Learn to Code With Me were threefold:
Show others wanting to learn how to code where to start by providing course reviews
Answer questions beginners may be struggling with
Share inspirational stories of women in the tech space
Moreover, I believe that documenting my journey and findings can help others realize that being self-taught is attainable. I want to show that a person with no prior knowledge can teach themselves useful skills without attending graduate school. With the abundance of resources online, there’s really no excuse. As long as you have an internet connection, the only thing stopping you from learning is yourself.
It’s All About Self-Discipline
If you stick with a game plan and dedicate the time, you can learn anything. It’s all about work ethic and self-motivation. A person doesn’t have to dish out another $50,000 (USD) a year for graduate school to learn employable skills. It can be accomplished from the comfort of your own home.
Looking back, the shift from potential grad school applicant to self-taught coder was the best decision I could have made. While I still consider myself a beginner, I have the self-discipline and dedication to know I will one day be able to call myself advanced.
I'd love to chat to you some more.
I usually send out a weekly mailer with a recap of blog posts but also some personal anecdotes. If you want to know about competitions or just catch up in a more personal setting then you might like to receive the mailer.