While this post may not be exactly “on brand” for this blog, I felt it was important to write just in case you too find yourself in the position of needing to make a change, but you’re not sure where to begin. While I obviously can’t guarantee you’ll end up with a coding position if you try these steps, this is what worked for me. (Read about why I became a programmer here.) Don’t worry, we’ll return to our regular literary travel programming after this.
Why Become A Programmer?
There are currently several free online resources to teach yourself many different programming languages on your own time. This is great because it means with a little self-discipline you can start learning in your spare time and there’s no fees to get started. You also don’t need a degree in Computer Science to land a beginner Programmer position as long as you can show that you’ve got some knowledge of coding and you’re willing to keep learning. Programmers are also in demand in the job market, and the positions pay pretty well. Finally, because programming is computer based, it is not hard to find remote positions in the field that will allow for working from home or while traveling (as long as you have wifi).
If you’re interested in learning how to program, but don’t know where to start, here are my suggestions:
Start A Blog
Seriously. A Web Developer should know how a website front-end works and how people are using websites. Blogging will give you an idea of how website design works and how users flow around websites. Creating a website (implementing a theme, deciding on menu items, adding tags and categories, and writing for Search Engine Optimization) gives a different perspective than just using a website. It will also give you a place to use your HTML skills to edit posts once you learn HTML.
A blog can also go on your resume and add several useful skills to your repertoire. I’m not talking about a free blog you’ve put a couple posts on and abandoned. A hosted and maintained blog shows long-term project commitment, writing and editing skills, and as you learn your way around the program you can add knowledge of a Content Management System. If you’re having fun with it, you might then move on to learn Search Engine Optimization and Social Media Marketing. But then you’ll want to increase the quality of your images so you’ll have to pick up photography… If you give a mouse a blog… you might end up with more marketable skills than you’d ever imagined. If you’re not sure about starting a blog, check out this post.
Free Online Coding Programs
*I am in no way affiliated with any of these, but have found them useful and would recommend them.
The 6 Certifications Free Code Camp Offers:
- Responsive Web Design (HTML, CSS, Accessibility, Responsive Web Design).
- Front End Libraries (Bootstrap, JQuery, Sass, React, Redux).
- Data Visualization (D3, JSON API, Ajax).
- APIs and Microservices (Npm, Basic Node, Express, Mongo DB, Mongoose).
- Information Security and Quality Assurance (Helmet JS, Chai, Advanced Node, Express
- Coding Interview Prep (projects)
This program explains concepts well, but covers them more quickly than Free Code Camp. I found it a good supplement to Free Code Camp. You can try full classes for free for a week, but then the projects and quizzes are locked unless you pay to upgrade. This program does not give you course completion certificates.
The coding languages Codecademy offers:
This program has very simplified lessons that make learning easy for children. I found it good for extra practice for skills I’d learned in the other programs. The only small problem, is it uses videos for tutorials so you’ll have to have headphones or be able to study with sound. This program does not give you course completion certificates.
The Computer Programming track of KhanAcademy offers:
JS, HTML, CSS, SQL, JQuery
This one has an app so you can use it on your phone! If you want to study during commuting time, this might be great for you. If you get tired of trying to type coding on your phone you can switch to the web version and do it on your computer instead. Unlike the other programs, this one uses fill-in-the-blank quizzes instead of interactive coding practice. I also found this one good for concept review once I’d seen the concepts elsewhere.
Codeasy.net (C# only)
This program only teaches C#, however I thought I’d include it because (I have to learn C# for work, but also) it’s entertaining. It has a goofy storyline about saving the world from the evil computers that have taken over and you have to solve coding puzzles to move on. The first 6 lessons are free, but the next 12 are fairly cheap (if you’re able to complete the puzzles…).
Lynda.com or LinkedIn Learning
This one is actually a paid resource, however some libraries offer free access with your library card number, so ask your local library! So far I haven’t enjoyed this resource as much because it is courses through videos, which I don’t find as useful as the interactive coding programs such as Free Code Camp and CodeCademy. However, if you learn better through watching, this might be a good resource for you.
If learning solo isn’t you’re style and you’re more of a classroom/group learner, there are also intensive coding bootcamps that will teach you coding and prepare you for programmer interviews. I haven’t done any yet, but I have my eye on this one:
The Coding Nomads provide intensive trainings in travel-worthy places. They work hard all day and then the group goes out on adventures together in the evenings and weekends. It sounds like the perfect balance of work and play.
Find A Mentor
I’d be lying if I said I was able to make this career switch without help. The webmaster at the library has been an amazing resource and wealth of knowledge. As I worked through Free Code Camp she would provide hints when I got stuck, and look at my code and point out problem areas. She looked over my cover letter and resume when I finally decided it was time to apply for programmer positions. And she sends me links to resources when she finds one that’s useful. She’s also recently become certified in Web Accessibility and her blog is a great resource. She’s pretty much amazing. So what I’m saying is, if you have a webmaster available to you, make them your new best friend. But also, in the spirit of paying it forward, if you have basic programming questions or want more resources, please don’t hesitate to send me an email!
One Last Note: Don’t Get Discouraged.
Have you made a career switch? Are you a programmer? Do you have programming resources to add to this list?
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