Why I want to learn how to code

Last week was Europe Code Week, an initiative launched in 2013 to promote programming through hundreds of tech events across the continent. I was fortunate enough to be at the Netherlands Girls in Tech event held at the booking.com offices in Amsterdam. The evening, titled Cracking the code: Why programming is essential for women in technology was a mini-conference with practical tips on how and where ladies can learn to code – and what to do next.

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Since the last time I came close to coding was my first year of varsity, I was pretty sure that the talks would go completely over my head. I was wrong. Although the ladies presenting were all pretty badass developers, their talks focused on how and why girls would want to start coding, and where they could go to start learning, with plenty of practical tips and resources. Why I want to learn how to code? Because being fluent in a second language that is universal seems like a rather smart idea.


So, how do you start coding? You consult the source of all knowledge and power: the internet. I had no idea there were so many resources available online! Here are some of the most useful sites to get you started with programming (you can also read our article on 4 free ways to learn how to code online – I’ve mentioned some of those coding resources here as well).

  • com has theoretical material, tutorials, and opportunities to practice what you learn, all for free. If you want to get certified at the end of the course, you pay to take the exam.
  • Tuts+ offers a range of free tutorials plus a bunch of full courses, most of which are paid for (but are all pretty cost-effective). They have a wide range of programming languages and levels, so you can look around to find exactly what you’re looking for (Side note: Tuts+ is not exclusively for coding. They also have lessons on photography, web design, music, blogging, and a range of other topics)
  • Treehouse offers online courses starting from $25 per month across a number of different programme languages. Although it’s not free, the site looks as though it has a lot to offer, including video lectures, quizzes and interactive code challenges.
  • If you’re interested in HTML, CSS and JavaScript, CodeAvengers offers 12 hour courses with Level 1 free, and Levels 2 and 3 costing between $29-$39 each.
  • Code School has a mix of free and paid courses for Ruby, JavaScript, HTML/CSS, iOS, Git and other electives. They have videos, presentations, and fun assignments to keep you practicing.
  • Codecademy is a super cute site that teaches you how to code in step-by-step lessons that allow you to play around with the code as you go. There are a number of different levels to progress through and – as far as I can tell – it’s all free. Lessons are in HTML/CSS, Javascript, jQuery, Python, Ruby, and PHP.
  • Coursera is a fantastic resource offering university courses (all free!) through videos and assignments. The courses are run by university professors from big-name universities, and cover pretty much any topic you can think of! Some of the courses run at specific times, meaning that there are deadlines and feedback for assignments, but you can always watch the videos at your own pace.
  • EdX is similar to Coursera, with collage-level courses offered by professors of acclaimed universities around the world. They offer a range of courses not limited to coding, but with a number of computer science oriented topics.
  • Udacity specialises in high-demand tech skills and offers courses at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels. Courses and ‘nanodegrees’ are built by companies such as AT&T, Facebook, and Google, so that you know you’re learning skills that are coveted by employers. this type of learning doesn’t come cheap, so you’re looking at paying around $200 per month to join the courses.

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So, once you’ve chosen a platform (or a combination of platforms) and learned everything you need to know, how do you take these skills and turn them into a career?

  1. Build and break your blog or personal website approximately a million times. It’s great practice.
  2. Everything. If you don’t know something, there’s a good chance that somewhere, sometime, someone else had the exact same question as you do.
  3. Get a mentor. If you know a real life person, great! But even if you don’t, online forums are a great way to meet potential mentors.
  4. Work with existing code. Find someone else’s working code and play with it, examine it, break it, and fix it again.
  5. Do some volunteer work to build up a portfolio. It’s a great way to practice, it’s nice to be nice, and your potential future employer will want to have some visible proof of your talents. It’s a win-win-win.
  6. And finally, learn all the things! Ask questions, absorb knowledge, and never, ever stop learning.

The most important take-away for me was that it’s never too late to start coding. Of the five amazing ladies who gave presentations, only one studied computer science at university. The other four all started from scratch and taught themselves, and now they’re speaking at tech events.

If you’ve been thinking about getting into programming and were waiting for a sign from the universe, this is it. As one of the presenters said “It doesn’t matter what you’ve studied or what you’ve done, all that matters is what you’re going to do.” Go forth and kick ass, girls.

I'd love to chat to you some more.


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