Ninth standard students from Bangalore built a prototype mobile app earlier this year. But these are not any wonder kids doing the extraordinary. In fact, children as young as four years of age are learning programming. Schools are teaching coding as a subject, just like math, science or languages because coding will be an important skill for the present and the future. Fortunately, it is also an easily learnable one. Whether you’re a young professional or an experienced one, you can learn to code anytime. But how do I start learning to code, you ask? This blog post is a comprehensive guide for why, what, when, where and how to learn to code.
How Do I Start Learning to Code?
Before you start learning to code, let’s understand what is coding.
What is coding?
In its simplest form, coding is the process of writing an executable computer program to accomplish specific tasks. Code is the foundation of all software in use today. You can code in any of the several languages in use. In fact, many applications are written in a combination of multiple languages.
The process of software development typically involves the design, development, debugging, testing, as well as maintenance. Coding, in general, refers to the development stage. However, programmers regularly do the rest of the tasks as well.
Why Should I learn Coding?
In the digital world, software plays a central role in everything we do. From writing this article to ordering groceries to planning retirement, we use digital products for everything in life today. As more and more people across the developing world begin using technology, the demand for programmers is bound to grow.
More importantly, programming is also a necessary part of modern fields like data science, machine learning, artificial intelligence, etc. As a data scientist or an ML engineer, you will be expected to write production-ready code and deploy it. A strong foundation of 1-2 programming languages will help boost your career in any of these future technologies.
What Skills Do I need Before Learning to Code?
- Mathematics: A basic understanding of mathematics is necessary to learn coding. Nothing complicated — high-school level understanding arithmetic and algebra will do.
- Logical reasoning and critical thinking: To follow the best practices of programming, one needs to understand what those are. Some of the basic concepts in this area include Boolean and conditional logic, variables, loops, strings and so on.
- Organisation and problem solving: Can you guess how many lines of code have been written for Google’s Internet services? The answer might shock you – it’s 2 billion.
Even the smallest of programs have millions of lines of code. Being organised is an important need for coders. Take the example of CSS (cascading style sheets). In CSS, style is arranged in a manner where the top level of the site is written first, cascading down level by level. To be a good CSS programmer, you need to be organised.
- Attention to detail: Accuracy while writing code is fundamental to making it work. However, mistakes are inevitable. Good programmers have great attention to detail, as well as patience, which helps them find their mistakes/bugs and fix them appropriately.
Where to Start Learning Code?
The first step in learning to code is identifying why you want to do it. How would you be applying your coding skills? Do you want to build mobile apps, web apps, write data science algorithms, build apps for future technologies like augmented reality or virtual reality?
1. Choose your programming language
Based on your interest, you can choose your programming language. This is the language in which you’ll write your code. Each language has its own structure, syntax, semantics and purpose.
- HTML is a standard markup language for web-based applications, to be displayed in a browser.
- CSS is a style sheet language, which determines how the web application is to be presented.
- Java is a general-purpose programming language, used from web servers to desktop applications. It is also one of the pillars of Android.
- Python is a readable, high-level language, used in several web and mobile applications. Companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon extensively use the language. Recently, Python coding is gaining popularity among data scientists and machine learning practitioners as well.
- For mobile development, Swift is very popular among iOS developers and Kotlin among Android developers.
2. Get coding education
There are several online and offline resources that teach coding for beginners. If you’re still in the formal education system — such as college/university — find programs that offer programming as a subject. Many science, commerce, and arts programs offer a minor in coding, take advantage of that.
If you have already graduated, you can still find several resources online to teach your coding. There are several books available. The most popular ones are:
- Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug
- Java: A Beginner’s Guide by Herbert Schildt
- Programming Python: Powerful Object-Oriented Programming by Mark Lutz
After the theoretical foundation, you can also practice with help from online resources like w3schools, the world’s largest web developer site offering tutorials and examples.
3. Learn by doing
You can’t learn coding by reading books/resources alone. To become a coder, you need to code. Make it a habit to practice everyday. Download a code editing software and apply your lessons everyday. Once you are comfortable with the concepts, make something. Build your own personal project. This will give you some real experience as well as work as your portfolio. Once you’ve created something, share your code on GitHub and seek feedback from the community.
There are also other online communities such as Reddit, Stack Overflow, etc. where senior developers regularly discuss programming. Join these communities and follow people you can learn from. Participate in hackathons to challenge yourself. Hack other people’s code. Find a program, GitHub is a great place to start. Download and look through the code carefully. Identify errors and opportunities for improvement. Edit them. Remember to post it back to GitHub for feedback.
Get yourself an internship to learn coding in a serious business environment. In addition to programming, you’ll also learn teamwork, agile development practices, collaboration and so on. Whether you’re looking for a career in core technology product building or seeking opportunities in future technologies like data science, machine learning or artificial intelligence, coding is a critical skill. If you already know basic programming, explore the possibilities in data science and AI/ML at Springboard’s online learning programs today. All the career track programs come with 1:1 mentoring-led, project-driven approach along with a job guarantee. Check it out now!