Cover image for I did the impossible, I'm learning to code

I did the impossible, I'm learning to code

naresh profile image Naresh Poonia Updated on ・6 min read

A civil/construction engineer learns to code

A shattered dream and humble beginning

26th October 2019, I received a push notification for an email from the University of Reading. The email said that my application for studying Master’s in Construction Management had been accepted conditionally. I was thrilled. In the next three-four months, I would meet a Study Abroad consultant, figure out my options, apply in twelve different universities and colleges in the U.K and Canada.

Construction Site Picture

I worked on writing better Statement of Purpose for all those universities, got a Letter of Recommendation from my colleagues at work, appeared in IELTS exam and scored more than required bands. Post this, seven universities sent me unconditional offer letters to study Masters in Construction Management. By mid-March, I was figuring out how to arrange the funds for the study, It was difficult, but I figured eventually something or other will work out & I was excited to fly to the U.K. & start my studies in September-2020.

Fast Forward to 1st July 2020, 10 Million people had been tested positive for Coronavirus till then, out of which almost 300K people were from the U.K. alone and 600K were from my home country, India. Many universities decided their entire session next year would go online while most of them decided for Blended Education. The construction industry in the U.K got affected badly because of the interrupted supply of material, migration of labour & lockdown imposed by the Government. A lot of employees working in the construction industry lost their jobs. In short, my dreams were crushed.

Heart Break GIF

I had put so much effort into this study abroad thing for almost five months & because of it, I got emotionally attached to it. I had put all my hopes in it & I could see the results too but suddenly because of Coronavirus I lost everything.

It was hard for me, seeing my dreams crushed in front of my own eyes & on top of that, the Indian Government had imposed strict lockdown since March-end & the coronavirus cases were continuously rising, which confined me to my home. I couldn't meet my friends, and I couldn’t even travel anywhere to deal with this heartbreak.

freeCodeCamp comes to rescue

Then suddenly I saw one of my good friends, Jai’s number flashing on my mobile screen who also happens to be a very successful programmer. I had been trying to talk to him for some time. I told him everything. He suggested various things & then he mentioned freeCodeCamp.

My first line of code

I wanted to code for a long time, but then I used to tell myself, "You're a Civil Engineer working for almost eight years in the Construction Industry. How can you code, you haven’t studied Computer Science". But I wanted to give it a shot. I opened the website, made an account & started my first lesson for HTML. The website had three sections, the first vertical section would have the information about the topic & a coding challenge, the second vertical section would the section where you type the code & the third one would show you what that code did for you & I wrote my first line of code:

Hello World

As soon as I wrote it, the preview panel flashed: Hello World, this was such a beautiful feeling when you could see the result of your code in a matter of a few seconds. Just like that, I completed my first coding challenge. The first thing I did was to take the screenshot & send it to Jai. He was happy for me and he agreed to guide me through the process. He asked me to promise him that I would give one hour to coding for 30 days with NOZERODAY. I promised instantly, and my beautiful journey of coding started.

Community help

Unlike the first coding challenge, I found the following coding challenges comparatively difficult but thankfully, in freeCodeCamp, there's a help section where you can take help by either getting a hint or Watching a video and if none of this helps you, You can Ask for Help from the Coding Community. So for the next few challenges I had to Watch a Video to understand how I was supposed to do that particular challenge.

Slowly and steadily, I was making progress. In the next few challenges, I didn't have to watch a video, and getting a hint would be enough for me to complete the coding challenge. Finally, I was at a point where I was completing the coding challenges without any help whatsoever.

But one day, I got stuck at a challenge, I couldn't figure out what was wrong with my code, I got a hint which didn't work, I tried watching a video that didn't help me either. I didn't know what to do next, I immediately texted Jai, I waited for his reply, but I was losing patience. Then it struck me that there was one more option of getting help, Asking for Help.

So I posted my query on freeCodeCamp forum. To my surprise, I started getting replies on my query within 2 minutes. I couldn't believe it. I guess community support is one of the biggest reasons a lot of self-learners are achieving great results.

I also wanted to be a part of this amazing community, so I made an account on discord and joined freeCodeCamp server and started chatting. The first day on discord was amazing; people there were quite welcoming and encouraging. Before starting on discord, I had already begun to post my journey on Twitter and started looking for people going through the same journey, but I couldn't find anyone who had a similar situation like mine.

A mentor can help you in so many ways & if he/she is a friend then you can't ask for more

Throughout all this Jai was there for my support, as promised, I would update him daily about my committed one hour of coding, he guided me about discord, Twitter, etc. He has been a great support. There were some days when my office work would extend till late in the night, and I was so tired to code but I felt accountable towards my commitment to Jai, and I would push myself and complete my one hour of coding.

After two weeks of coding, Jai suggested that I go for The Coding Career Handbook. This gave me a perspective to look at the implications of my work. By this time, I had completed all the coding challenges of Responsive Web Design and now it was the time for the projects When I saw the project exercises for the first time, I got intimidated. I realised that though I had done almost everything that the user stories said but to complete the projects I'd have to go through the coding challenges all over again.

The burnout

So then, the craziest period of my coding journey started. There was a lot of office work, after finishing the office work l would go through the coding challenges again to understand how to go about the coding projects & then I'll work for an hour on my coding projects. I'd spend some time on the coding career book, Twitter, and discord, and at last, I would read a couple of more books. I slept very little for almost a week.

Burned out giphy

Connecting with the community on twitter & discord has been the most difficult thing for me. But I was making some progress, and I am still working on it. At the end of that crazy week, I was on the verge of a burnout, but somehow Jai got to know about it, probably because I was sending him my progress screenshots at 2:00, 3:00 & sometimes at 4:00 AM. He asked me if I was putting too much stress on, I conveniently lied to him, but I learned my lesson from that week onwards I started to sleep earlier than the previous night & so on.

Earning my first certificate

Happy Ending GIF

The day I finished my first coding project, my happiness knew no bounds, because the first time I saw the project exercise I told myself that I would not be able to do that, coding challenges were different but project exercises were a different ball game altogether, but I had faith in the faith that Jai had in me & I kept going until I finished my first coding project & later on four more of them.

On the 27th day of my journey, I completed all of my five projects & got my first certificate, Responsive Web Design Developer Certificate from freeCodeCamp. I still don’t know if this is a big deal, but that surely made me extremely happy and proud.

freeCodeCamp Certificate of Completion

Join the discussion

I would love to get some feedback here.

  • Have you also had a similar journey?
  • How was it for you when you started learning to code?
  • Do you have a suggestion / or a recommendation I should follow?

Photo by Christin on Unsplash

Posted on by:

naresh profile

Naresh Poonia


30yo Civil Engineer, Code newbie, Learning: HTML, CSS, Javascript from #freeCodeCamp


markdown guide

Grit and determination are the two most important elements in learning something new, and you have both of them in abundance. Incredible to see your progress. Keep it up!


Thank you so much, Jai :)
You have been a great support throughout, without you none of this would have been possible.


Congrats on your first certificate and turning such a heartbreak into a positive one. Thanks for sharing your great story of ups and downs.


Thank you.
I thought my journey would help people who are just starting & I would also get some recommendations/ suggestions from Experienced devs.


In the micro keep practicing. Make real things. Deploy them. Transform tutorials into something completely different.

In the macro determine what it is that you want to do, front end, back end, game, mobile, data, enterprise. Choose languages and frameworks that are used in the direction that you want to go.

I will be making a portfolio profile by the end of this month, I'm looking forward to learning to make more things.

I was hoping to complete the entire curriculum of freeCodeCamp & then see where my interest lies.

Do you think it is a bad strategy?

Early on it is really hard. There is a lot that you need to learn in order to get started. Sometimes its best to go through a curriculum in order to get a feel of everything, but don't let yourself get stuck in a tutorial loop.

It is now easier than ever to setup your own domain and ship a site. Services like netlify and vercel can build your site, or even drag and drop your site into production. If you setup some sort of side project with what you know, you will begin to form questions that might be answered in your curriculum. Things that may have gotten brushed over will turn into "ah ha" 💡 moments.

Thanks, I hope I don't get stuck in a tutorial loop, at least this is not something I am planning.
Maybe after the first go, I'll have a better understanding of what can I make with which language & what interests me more.
Umm, I want to make a website from scratch using whatever I have learned in my HTML & CSS tutorials & I am looking forward to a lot of "ah ha" moments. :)


Great article, thanks for sharing! I've been looking around this site for a short while hoping to see content like this, as I'm considering sharing my journey also, so thanks! I'll be following and wishing you all the best.


Thank you :)
Yes, you should definitely share your journey, it would help a lot to people who are just starting their journey.


Congrats. Did you get a dev role? How long were you learning for?


Thank you.
No, I didn't get a dev role yet & I don't even think that I have learnt enough to get a dev role. I have been learning for over a month now


Oh wow to finish that path in 1 month is solid. Keep going my tip if I had to go back and do it again is would be look for job you like and see what skills the job role lists then focus on learning those. Even contact a company advertising and ask what they looking for specifically and just focus on those skills.

I wasted a lot of time jump around learning different things like C# but then went into a UI role. I think to get first job just focus on what the entry role requires and be solid candidate at that.


Thank you, That's some great advice.


Congrats, @naresh it was a good one, I’m starting like you on the hard way of JavaScript, I hope we can share experiences about it. Cheers!


Thank you
Yes, That would be great. Cheers!


Great article! I'm also learning how to code. Having a mentor is priceless. Just keep going and keep building things.. :)


Thank you.
Yes, having a mentor is priceless. I am blessed to have a great one.