Forget what you’ve heard, now is the best time to become a coder.
6 min read
Do you want to be a coder? Are you on the fence about trying it? Nervous to get started?
The time is now. Time to pull the trigger.
There has never been a better time to become a coder.
And I'm going to tell you how to get started.
My History as a Coder
I started writing code professionally in 2002. Before that, I was building (terrible) websites for myself and friends. I even ran a business for a few years crapping out HTML/Perl sites in the late 90s for good money. I built shoddy software in Visual Basic for businesses.
To learn how to do this, I bought expensive books on HTML, Perl, Visual Basic, and Unix. I read them cover to cover and marked them up. Google didn't exist yet. I consulted Usenet newsgroups where they insulted you for asking "stupid questions" and figured out most of the stuff the hard way. I learned Unix so I could host my customer's sites and destroyed a lot of stuff before figuring it out.
I was living in a rural area and had very few friends that were even into this kind of thing so I had few people to bounce ideas and questions off of. I hadn't yet gone to college and met other technical folks.
I'm not telling you this so you'll think I'm awesome or some kind of grizzled veteran who is better than you. It was hard, and I wasn't very good for many years, but I still got the job done. I spent countless nights chugging Surge and hacking away trying to figure out things. I got good. I figured things out. But it sucked.
Your story doesn't have to go that way. The world is at your fingertips. You have all the information to get where I am right in front of you. Some grizzled veterans like myself say things like "new developers don't even have to work for it" and pretend like we're so much better because of our struggles. Not true. In reality, because you have this information readily available, you'll get better faster. The developer I was at the three-year mark will be a rookie compared to you.
Today's beginning developers are positioned to be the best generation of developers yet.
That's part of the reason that NOW is the best time to start. You have Google, Stack Overflow, Dev.to, Social Media, Pluralsight, YouTube, you name it. NOW is exponentially better than 1995 as far as a starting point goes.
The Market: We need developers!
Another great reason now is the time: we are in a talent shortage. Everyone I talk to is looking for developers. Junior, Senior, mid-level, whatever. Can you code? You'll get a job. It doesn't even have to be in the language they're using.
In the mid-2000s being a developer I had to know everything under the sun to get in the door to interview. They had crowds lined up fighting for every job. In 2019 if you learn the basics, throw some projects on GitHub, and start sending out resumes you'll get that call.
According to code.org, there are 504,199 open computing jobs nationwide. There were 63,744 computer science graduates entering the workforce last year.
There are more jobs available than coders to fill them.
The numbers are in your favor.
What do you need?
- Do you need a Computer Science Degree? : No
- Do you need expensive training? No
- Do you need a MacBook Pro?: No
You don't need any of these things. If you want to get started, you can do it with a ChromeBook.
- Create an account at JSFiddle and start hacking away.
Don't worry about details like getting your own website, server, etc. Just do it.
Want to learn some Python? You can install it on your old Dell laptop and start going. CSS? PHP? C#? These are available to download free and will run on nearly any machine built in the last 10 years.
At some point you will want a faster computer and more in depth training. But to get started this is all you'll need.
Disclaimer: So, remember how I talked about how hard it was to learn tech? It's what drives me now. This stage of my career is dedicated towards teaching people, and improving their tech skills. In the interest of transparency I work for a company called Pluralsight which is the leading tech skills platform. This is not the only reason I recommend them, I was a customer long before becoming and employee and it's boosted my career tremendously.
So for next steps after taking some tutorials and getting your feet wet, do the following to break into this industry.
- Determine what you want to develop (Web, Mobile, Desktop)
- Find as many tutorials as you can on the subject. (You can contact me if you need help with this)
- Create a GitHub account
- Start uploading code samples you build with tutorials
- Start a project -No matter how stupid it seems. Make an app to store your favorite jokes, or todo lists.
- Create a HackerRank account - Start tackling some puzzles.
- Pick problems from Project Euler and write code to solve them.
- Get to know Stack Overflow - Search it when you have a problem and answer questions if you know it!
Once you get to this point, you'll start feeling comfortable. Keep working and improving your craft. Dig deeper on the tech you've chosen. Build things, even small things. Then think about getting your first job.
- Check out Pluralsight - They have specific learning paths for roles.
And many more. If you're targeting a specific role, this is a great way to get your skills up.
- Build something useful - Build something that solves a problem for you, a friend or your employer. Nothing teaches like you like building something real.
- Start teaching - Nothing helps you learn a subject like teaching it. When you get comfortable with your knowledge, share it.
Stop making excuses and don't listen to people who tell you you can't or shouldn't learn to code. If you want it bad enough you can do it and get paid for it. Teaching others is a deep passion of mine so if you get stuck on something or need some advice, hit me up I'd be glad to help.
Now get coding!