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5 steps to learn to code successfully in 2024

I'm Fahim, a software developer turned tech founder. This article is part of my series: The Developer's Launchpad. I'll share my top lessons, hacks, and best practices for learning how to code and launching a new career - things I wish I would've known earlier in my journey. If you're starting out your own coding journey, this series is for you.

We are alive at a fascinating time in human history. AI-based technologies are changing the way we live, learn, and interact with the world around us. Meanwhile businesses across every industry are using AI to build more personalized experiences for the people using their products.
Of course, with all these rapid advancements in AI, there's a big question on everyone's mind:

"Does it still make sense to learn how to code today? And if the answer is yes, what's the best way to do so?"

First of all, I strongly believe that now is a great time to learn how to code.

AI won't be taking any developers' jobs any time soon (this is something I have written about a lot. In fact, we need more new developers to build the next generation of software for the next generation of global users.

However, we still need to remain aware of the ways that AI is poised to change the game for experienced developers and new learners alike - and learn how to use AI to our advantage (I'll talk more about this later on).

So today I'd like to talk about learning to code in the age of AI - and 5 steps you can take to set yourself up for a long and successful career as a software engineer.

(These steps are the same whether you're in a university, or teaching yourself to code online. No matter which route you choose, you will still need discipline, focus, and clear goals).

Here's how I would learn to code in 2024:

  1. Build problem-solving skills
  2. Learn the basics of a language
  3. Tackle real-world projects
  4. Get comfortable with AI
  5. The last mile (landing a job)

Let's dive in!

5 steps to learn to code successfully in 2024

1.) Build problem-solving skills

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This first step is all about learning how to think like a programmer before you even type your first line of code.
Knowing how to code is just a tiny part of being a professional software developer. Developers are problem-solvers at heart. 80% of our day-to-day consists of designing solutions to challenges - 20% consists of actually executing those solutions with code. The "coding" part is simply the process of translating those solutions into a format that a computer can understand.

You may be surprised to learn that you are already using your problem-solving skills every day, whether or not you realize it.

My biggest piece of advice during this stage is simple: take your time. Success isn't about building complex projects right away - it's about starting simple.

By investing in mastering fundamentals in logic and problem-solving, you will establish a strong foundation for your entire career. In fact, this foundation will enable you to more easily learn additional programming languages and skills down the road.

At Educative, you can develop your problem-solving skills while getting a Taste of Code - without getting too technical too quickly, and without making any sort of long-term commitment.

Last thing: as AI gets better at accomplishing basic coding tasks, problem-solving skills will become even more important. AI can help developers achieve that final step, i.e. translating the solution into code. But it will still be up to humans to understand how to approach the problem in question, and design the most efficient solution.

2.) Learn the basics of a language

Learning to code is a lot like learning to drive.

How so? It wouldn't make much sense to start by driving on the freeway. You want to start on the side streets. It's critical to get comfortable with how the car handles, and with the basic rules of the road. From there, you start building muscle memory - and only then is it safe to explore more heavily-trafficked roads.

Similarly, learning to code requires that you start by getting hands-on with the fundamentals. Take your time to build muscle memory before you jump into building anything. Truly mastering the fundamentals of your programming language of choice can set you up for long-term success. But which programming language should you learn first?

> You can start with any language, and your particular choice depends on your career goals.

If you haven't decided yet, I think Python is a great choice for any beginner in 2024.

Why Python? Here are a few key reasons why Python stands out as the best programming language for beginners:

  1. Most popular language in the world
  2. Easy to get started
  3. Intuitive
  4. Versatile

Despite its relative simplicity, Python is a very powerful and versatile language. As a Python developer, you can apply your skills to various specializations - whether that's back-end web development, data science, machine learning, or AI.

So, which Python concepts would you need to learn before progressing in your learning journey?

  • Algorithms & data structures
  • Functions
  • Data types
  • Operators
  • Lists & Loops
  • Libraries
  • OOP basics


Educative offers a free course called Learn Python 3 From Scratch, which will help you get a leg up on the essentials.

3.) Tackle real-world projects

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To truly internalize the basics, you need to practice applying them in projects. Building projects is a terrific way to get real-world practice with technologies and processes you will use as a professional.

Software engineers usually work on individual parts of a larger project, sometimes taking weeks or months to complete. However, at this stage in your learning, you will want to start with shorter, self-contained "toy problems," and graduate to building more and more complex projects.

Remember, it's important not to move too quickly: don't skimp on the fundamentals before jumping into projects.

When you're ready, Educative offers more than 200 full-featured Projects. This is a great way to build your portfolio and practice your skills in a real-world setting.

4.) Get comfortable with AI

The future of tech is going to be increasingly infused with AI.

This means every developer eventually needs to learn AI skills. As a beginner, it's enough that you simply learn how to get the right outputs out of Generative AI tools through prompt engineering. Along the way, you should also get comfortable with some AI terminology and basics.

But getting comfortable isn't just about learning particular skills - it's also about getting comfortable with AI's prevalence in general.

Let's address the elephant in the room: Many beginners are nervous that AI tools will make junior developers obsolete.

But the truth is that you don't need to be afraid of AI taking developer jobs. Much in the same way that calculators didn't eliminate the need for mathematicians - AI tools won't replace developers. They will simply help us work faster and make our jobs more enjoyable. Better yet, they'll help us focus more of our time on problem-solving, and less time on rote memorization and tedious work. (Not convinced? Check out my other Medium article about Generative AI's shortcomings
In fact, new coders are lucky today because AI brings unique opportunities for learners.

AI has the ability to bring a greater degree of personalization to your learning, helping you build and practice the skills you need to level up. (At Educative, for example, we use AI to help you get customized feedback, tips, and guide you through each step of your coding journey.)

5.) The last mile (landing a job)

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Learning to code is hard work, and can definitely feel like an uphill battle at times. If you have made it to this point in your journey, congratulations!

However, you may be surprised to hear that I see a lot of aspiring developers struggle most not at the start of their journey, but at the end.

Here's the critical step most people miss: interview prep.

It's possible to secure an interview with a solid portfolio that includes plenty of projects. But what a lot of new developers don't realize is that succeeding in an interview depends on an entirely new skill set. (In my experience, this is an area where university programs and many bootcamps often fall short).

Hiring managers are looking for you to demonstrate certain skills, so succeeding in an interview is all about knowing how to navigate the process and demonstrate those skills.
That means interviewing is a skill that can be built, similar to how you might learn another technical skill.

In my experience interviewing software engineer candidates, I have seen many talented developers struggle in technical interviews - but I have also seen many inexperienced developers perform exceptionally well. The difference is preparation!

Start Learning to Code for Free

Ready to learn to code and become a software engineer?

You can check out our free skill path to get your first taste of code on Educative.

Then if you like what you see, you can follow the steps from your first line of code all the way to your first day on the job with our Learn to Code resources.

All you have to do is take your first step.

Good luck - and happy learning!

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Top comments (1)

sssshalleeee profile image

This is a great article on best ways to learn how to code. I agree with building real life projects because staying in the tutorial world will only get you so far. Applying it is the best way to learn, apply, and test your skills.