There are several different ways you can learn how to code. In a recent Ladybug episode, we discussed computer science degrees, bootcamps, and self-directed learning. Each has benefits and have brought a lot of people into the world of programming. Each also has challenges. All four of us have had unique paths to programming, so here are our stories.
I was a biology major in college and then quickly realized that I was terrible at it. So, I switched to actuarial science where I took an intro to computer science course and totally fell in love with binary, hexadecimal, and octal systems. The rest is really history. I studied computer science and my first language was Java. I was a little bit of a late bloomer but I thoroughly enjoy it.
I got started when I was 11 years old. I wanted to build my own community on Neopets. If you’re not familiar with what Neopets is, it’s this Web site where you can have your own virtual pet and you can feed it and play games. You can have your own communities and all kinds of stuff.
I really wanted to build my own community and customize it. But you need to know how to code to do that. So, I asked my dad for an HTML book and my first book was HTML goodies. I thought it was awesome and a lot of fun.
Fast forward to high school, and I took AP Computer Science. My first language in high school was Java, and I was so bad at it that I needed a tutor just to pass the class. I was like "I’m never going to do this ever." But, you know, obviously, 17 years later and I’m very clearly still coding, so something eventually clicked but it wasn’t Java.
I was an admin assistant really aimlessly going through my job; I was miserable. My dad suggested coding to me and was like "worst case scenario if you hate it you could try something else."
So, he bought me an ”Introduction to Drupal” book and – quite frankly, I do not recommend starting out as Drupal when you’re learning to code but that’s how I did. I just continue learning, continue working in the mornings before work. Then I got my first Drupal job.
A few years into that I started learning about accessibility. Then a year or so after that I started learning about React and VueJS and I’m now a React developer and the rest is kind of history.
I learned to code when I was a sophomore in college. I had no idea what coding even was, but I had an extra course block available. I decided to sign up for it because people kept telling me, ”It’s a good thing to learn and it’ll help you no matter what.”
I honestly thought that I was going to be learning how to format Word documents or something like that - I had no idea what code was. But, I was instead writing Python. It was super fun: we were building games. I just thought it was magical how you could put stuff together and have a program come out of it.
I completely reconfigured my schedule and was like I’m going to double major in computer science, this is my future. So, I started my second class which was in C++ and it was a super intense "Data Structures and Algorithms" class, which was also a weed out class. I was pulling all-nighters and working so hard in that class just to understand it. I did come out of it with a good grade. I thought "if I have to work this hard for it, it means that I’m not good enough at it. This is really just not for me."
Then when I was a Junior in college I had an internship doing mostly Excel data analysis type work, and I figured out that I could automate a lot of my own job using the Python skills that I had. So, from there, I got a software engineering internship and transitioned to working full time in code.
You can listen to the whole podcast episode where we discussed our thoughts on bootcamps, computer science degrees, and self-directed learning as well as advice for everyone in the midst of their journies.