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How to Learn Programming in 2020: Tips and Life Hacks from a Tutor

selawsky profile image John Selawsky ・7 min read

It’s no secret we’re evolving in a world that’s highly tech-driven. And given the global pandemic, this is probably the best time to pick up a new skill and learn programming.

While many are often intimidated by programming, opting for a practice-based approach can actively steepen the learning curve. Plus, this is definitely a skill worth investing your time and energy in, given that the IT sector has not been severely hit by the pandemic compared to other industries.

How Do I Learn Programming in 2020?

After all my years of programming and teaching people how to code, I’ve learned a few things. Most of us think that if you are going to achieve any success as a learner you should dedicate as much time, commitment, and perseverance as possible, and that’s all you need. Honestly, that’s not totally correct. At the end of the day, anyone can learn how to program. It all boils down to the right approach to learning.

Rest assured, in this article I will navigate you through some tips and hints based on my own experiences and struggles. I hope you’ll enjoy it!

So, What’s a Good Path toward Learning Programming?

Here’s the list of some tips which you should follow to succeed in learning programming:

1. Choose a Language and Understand the Basics

One of the biggest mistakes beginners make is that they skip the fundamentals! Error!

You see, a lot of newbies get distracted by all the shiny tools and technology. While you should aspire to become an advanced specialist, don’t skip the basic steps just to get ahead.

When you don’t have a solid foundation, you will likely get stuck somewhere along the way without being able to retrace your steps.

Tips to follow when you learn fundamentals:

Focus on Learning One Language

Initially, you might be tempted to start a language, quit, and then start another one. Or there is another option (my favorite one) when beginners start learning a few coding languages simultaneously.

Don’t do that, please!

Instead, focus all your energy on choosing one language for yourself. Once you’ve decided on that, nail all of the fundamentals, and then move on to the complex stages. Having command over one language is way better than wasting your time half-heartedly learning it all. Of course, later it will be even better to try different technologies but firstly polish your knowledge with one language.

Create a Solid Learning Strategy

If you want to be a hardcore developer and are willing to put in the time for it, that’s great!

But to make things more productive, create a solid learning strategy.

For instance, break down your sessions into chunks. Make sure everything is consistent and there’s a balance between conceptual learning and active learning so you don’t spend all your time reading theory concepts.
Strike a balance between theory and practice to get more out of your learning sessions.

Make a Program Everyday

Try your best to create a small program or a part of a big project every day. In the very beginning, I would recommend to stick to small projects and slowly move to big ones. At some stage, it is necessary to alternate simple and complex tasks.

While this may seem challenging, cultivating a habit is important when learning programming. Make it a streak. Start with simple programs in the beginning, and then move on to more complex ones as the days move forward. This is one of the best ways to learn programming.

It’s essential that you build a solid foundation and understand the syntax and basic concepts (variables, conditionals, operators, loops, etc.). There are some incredibly great resources for the basics:

  • CodeGym — This tool I find astonishingly useful for Java beginners as it’s a one-language-only learning platform. Here you can dive deep in the basics of Java. It includes both lectures and practical tasks. The whole course is gamified to make the process of learning really exciting. You will find over 1,200 practice tasks on such topics as Java Core, concurrency and multithreading, APIs, and frameworks.

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  • GeeksforGeeks — This website not only prepares students for the interviews to get a programmer job but also has an interactive IDE. With the help of this tool, you can alter and test your code. On this platform, you can learn main programming languages such as Python, C and Java.

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  • Codecademy — It’s a perfect choice for those who want to build their career in web development. Their course will guide you through such technologies as HTML, CSS and JavaScript. After that you will be able to create interactive web pages on your own. They also present courses of back-end development so eventually you will be able to become a full-stack programmer.

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2. Create Your Own Learning Project

The best way to learn programming is to actually get in on some of the action. After getting the basics of the language, start building something from scratch.

Some cool beginner projects you could try out include building your own calculator or making your own mini-game (chess or even rock paper scissors is a good option).

I urge you to begin with a project that excites you. Working on a project you find interesting will intrinsically motivate you to learn code.

3. Learn to Tackle Hurdles the Right Way

Joining the ranks of expert developers isn’t easy. There will be times when you’ll get caught up in common issues and problems. When that happens, it’s crucial that you have a proactive strategy to deal with a coding problem.

So, how do I tackle a coding problem?

Well, this may sound easier than it looks, but follow these steps every time you get caught up in a coding problem:

Step 1: Understand the Condition

It may sound simple, but go ahead and read it a couple times. Maybe even take a break in between to get some clarity. If this step doesn’t work out, go for step two below.

Once you’ve understood the condition, don’t immediately rush to code. Create an approximate algorithm. When you get stuck, doing the following may help you figure out a solution:

Use a Debugger

Have the debugger up and running with your developer tools. Debugging the code will make things clearer for you and will help you identify the problem.

Scan through the Documentation

Re-reading the documentation may clear up confusions and queries. You’ll want to go through the official documentation pages to make sure you don’t miss out on anything.

Take a Break and Come Back to It Later

This can be used as a general life tip too. Sometimes when you’re staring at a problem, you get boxed into it. Consider taking a break or going out for a walk to clear your thoughts. I know this has helped me out many times, and I’m sure it will help you too.

Google it!

Google is practically every developer’s best friend! There are tons of people out there who’ve probably had the same questions and sought out answers before you. I’m sure you’ll be able to find solutions to the problems you’re looking for.

And remember, it’s always best to Google before you go ahead and ask someone. All I’m saying is, use your resources carefully!

If the code still isn’t working after the above step, then jump onto step two.

Step 2: Seek Help

As mentioned above, there are many thriving communities with developers from all around the world. When stuck in a problem, sometimes it’s probably best just to ask for help. Consider using the following forums:

If you still find yourself stuck in the same problem even after asking for help, perhaps it’s best that you switch over to another task. This is probably a good option, plus you can always come back to problems when your mind is clear.

4. Deep Dive into the Code

Reading code written by other developers is a fundamental process to becoming a developer. Thanks to all the open-source platforms out there, you have all this information ready to be absorbed. You’d be surprised by how much you’ll be able to absorb just by reading someone else’s code.

Log into GitHub or Stack Overflow or find few Java libraries and cultivate a habit of not only reading through but also trying to understand code.

When you get the real idea down, you can reverse engineer it and write your own code. This is how you’ll truly be able to understand what’s going on. Reading through sample code isn’t enough; play around with it and tinker. Develop your problem-solving skills.

Once you’ve worked on your own code, don’t forget to share it with the community. This will allow you to gain feedback from others or perhaps even inspire new beginners like yourself to learn.

5. Find Yourself a Mentor (or a Mentee!)

Do you know why sports guys are able to train so well in a short amount of time?

Well, it’s primarily because they have coaches. Having a mentor helps you stay grounded and even provides you with the emotional encouragement to move forward.

Now, if you’re unable to find a literal mentor, just know that there are amazing programmers out there on the internet who are willing to help just about anybody. GitHub, Stack Overflow and SourceForge are practically designed to allow developers to thrive and collaborate with each other.

Not only do developers on GitHub share their own work, but they also give back to the community by mentoring others and giving advice.

And, of course, once you’re able to fearlessly navigate your way in the world of programming, pay it forward. Give back to the community by helping newbie developers. This is also a great way of refreshing whatever you have learned, plus you’ll be building on good karma too!

Conclusion

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my tips and that they prove to be useful to you. I know learning programming can seem intimidating, but trust me, it’s worth it.

For all I know, I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy coding as much if I didn’t make use of the online community or take breaks when I really needed them.

So, tell me. What are some of your tips and tricks for learning how to code?

Be sure to leave your thoughts below. I’d love to hear back from you.
Until next time, keep calm and code.


First was published on LevelUp Coding.

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