The stress of learning a new profession and getting a job keeps many people under pressure.
Programming is an evolving industry with a high level of demand on professionals of all levels, however, there’s always competition and besides, the profession itself is not easy at all.
So, how to learn programming and become a demanded professional without all this anxiety?
You can have it easier if you focus on planning and find the right ways to practice. Thus, you will back your knowledge with some practical experience and gain more self-confidence when doing your first steps into the profession.
How exactly can you do that? Let’s go through the main principles!
The main reason for stress in a new profession is a gap between expectations and reality. So, let’s start with understanding what the things are so that you could take your weighted decision and understand what to expect for. It will make your further journey much smoother.
It’s the first thing you need to understand about programming.
Yes, it’s a well-paid, interesting and even exciting profession, but no, you can’t become a great programmer in just a couple of months after finishing your first course. Just as anywhere else.
You need to build your learning plan and dedicate a regular amount of time every week until you can fund your first job.
You will start learning with very simple tasks, and they will give you excitement and inspiration after every new success. And it’s great.
But earlier or later, you will face a task that you don’t know how to solve. The information given in a course may be insufficient (even in the best course, sometimes you may just need more info) — or it may be a test task from your new job that you will need to handle.
It’s not the reason to give up. It’s what happens in any profession, every time you learn. You will just need to find more information, ask the community for help, etc. — and it’s a normal part of the process. You will face many challenges and you will need to overcome them.
Programming is an incredibly wide field. You will start with small steps and the further you go, the more new topics for learning you will discover.
On the one hand, it means you’ll never get bored.
On the other hand, you’ll need to dedicate quite a lot of time to learning before you become a professional — and even after. Programmers always learn new things.
All you have to do is be realistic about how much time you have to devote to learning and where it will lead you in the long run.
Some people regard programming as a stress-free career. Their thinking is constructed as: “they just sit before a computer and type.”
But stress is just a part of our lives.
You may have a burning deadline. Or a task you don’t know how to solve. This may cause anxiety — and for beginners, it may be even more overwhelming.
However, you can always work it out by sticking to the plan, setting your goals, and continuing to learn from courses, lectures, books, and the community. Again, it’s a normal part of the process.
Now let’s get specifically to what is waiting for you at the very beginning of your path as a programmer. It’s important to understand that many beginners go through these issues. Some of them may be additional obstacles, but none of them is a reason to stop.
Working in groups adds to the strain because you are always in contact with colleagues who appear brighter, more technologically aware, and paying more attention to detail. All of the above can cause newborn programmers to undervalue their worth and begin to fear being labeled as imposters one day.
But wait, you are a beginner. Yes, you know much less that people with greater experience do> It’s okay, just accept that — and keep growing as a professional.
Coding has no age limit. Yet, some people do not appear to think so and doubt whether it’s still worth trying if they are older than other students in the group.
It definitely is.
Stories about young developers can make quite an impression. Young geniuses who earned their first million by developing an app in their 20-s… there are much more stories of people who were learning hard, working, and who reached their desired level of success in 35, 45, 55, or 65. These stories are not very interesting for the press, but there are millions of people who did — and you can do, as well.
There’s a popular image that people see in their minds when speaking about programmers. Working 24/7, knowing a great load of technical stuff and speaking a language that is hard to understand.
When you are a beginner, it’s very easy to get into a trap of the impostor syndrome, especially in a technical field. Especially if there’s such an image associated with a profession. But in real life, programmers are very different people with different styles, cultures, and age.
And of course, not all of them are working 24/7. Moreover, extending your working week may lead to a quick burnout, so it;s better to stick to your regular schedule.
How can you make it pleasant and consistent to learn coding? How can you avoid becoming envious or discouraged by your peers’ successes and failures?
These are the suggestions made over the years of learning, programming, and speaking with beginner programmers in my Java field.
A recurring holy war battle in software development is whether it is better to master one programming language or to be an intermediate-level programmer in many of them. My personal answer is: it’s great to be a pro in one language with a deep understanding of other languages and frameworks.
But it’s 100% better to start with one language at a time.
So, where to start?
To learn Java is a good choice for starters.
It’s not only my opinion as a Java tutor — Java is considered as one of the best programming languages for beginners, because it’s relatively easy and at the same time extremely widespread and well-paid on the market.
It’s easier to study when you know what is ahead and a big path is divided into small steps.
This is why it’s important to map the learning curve if you want to become a programmer as quickly as feasible.
Being a Java tutor, I will map the path using Java as an example, however, all these steps can be implemented to learn other programming languages. So, here is an example:
- Java Core: These are the fundamental notions that you must master in order to create effective programs. You must know what objects, classes, and methods are, as well as what data types Java supports and what operations are valid on them. Moreover, the following are the basics to start with when learning Java Core.
- Java Syntax: This is Java grammar. The acceptable mix of keywords, symbols, and operators in Java code is determined by a set of rules.
- Object-oriented: It is a programming approach in which programs are built around the concept of “objects” rather than “functions,” with these objects having properties and behaviors.
- Java Collections: This enables you to interact with individual objects as a single entity (a collection).
- Java Exceptions: Exceptions are occurrences (errors) that occur when something goes wrong while the code is being executed.
Input/Output Streams: Java’s input and output activities, such as reading from or writing to a file, are handled by streams.
Algorithms and Puzzles: Algorithms are a set of instructions for performing a given activity (for example, sorting algorithms — step-by-step instructions for sorting elements).
Java Multithreading: This refers to running multiple parts of your code concurrently in order to make the best use of the CPU.
Java Patterns: This topic is connected to program design, how to construct a program that saves time and resources by utilizing well-developed programming patterns.
Unit Testing: This is a continuing process that is an essential aspect of growing your program. It requires writing tests for various areas of your code, with the unit being the smallest testable portion.
Lambda Expressions: They were introduced in Java 8. They allow you to consider functions as method arguments or code as data.
When books and video courses are useful for grasping the gist of the language, I believe that programmers should place a strong emphasis on practice while learning.
Programming is a highly-practical skill. The same as you can’t learn swimming or driving without practice, you can’t learn programming from books and lectures only. It’s always 20% of theory and 80% of practice on each small step. And I think it’s much more exciting than just reading and learning.
So, what I recommend is:
- Using books, tutorials, and video sources to understand the principles.
- And using all chances for practice (playing games, googling exercises, etc.) after each theory piece.
One of the deadly mistakes I’ve seen developer trainees make is attempting to overcome the difficulties of programming on their own. Coding is quite difficult on its own, and it’s always great to connect with other people who may give you a hint.
Here are some of the most popular communities:
- StackOverflow is a question and answer site for programmers. So if you are stuck with some task don’t hesitate to ask more experienced fellows for a piece of advice.
- Hackernews is a social news site on computer science and entrepreneurship, and
- Github is a repository hosting source where over 65 million professionals share their projects, and codes, and contribute to the open source community.
- FreeCodeCamp is a free programming learning platform with over 40,000 students to communicate with.
There are some nice online platforms and courses that combine both theory and practice that I’d like to share. Because I’m a Java tutor, they will be mostly related to Java, but some of them include other languages, as well.
It’s my personal top pick. There’s no better way to learn a skill rather than playing a game, and this Java learning platform supports this principle combining both theory and practice in a gamified form.
Here you can learn Java basics, OOP, multithreading, Collections, and more.
The course is divided into levels like a video game with more than 1200 practical tasks where you learn, gain points by solving problems and move to the next level. Some tasks are simple, for the assimilation of theory. Others are complex, broken up into several parts. By solving them, you will create different applications, for example, a restaurant emulator or a simple video game. What also makes this course special, it has a built-in validator that checks solutions. If there is something wrong with the solution, he sends tips for help.
All of the lectures are capacious and short, so it will be easy to digest new topics and try them out on practice right away.
It’s an easy-to-use and well-structured platform with a strong emphasis on practice and different programming languages included. Their Java course is really good.
If you wish to compare yourself to other learners in programming, this is the place to compete by doing challenges. Just choose a course, choose your level, and solve the challenge. The resource regularly publishes user ratings with their task solving statistics.
The most popular challenges relate to algorithms and dynamic programming, big data analysis, and some and other topics.
It’s great to use HackerRank together with a more classic learning course to compare your results with a wide community and get inspired with new practical tasks.
Codecademy is an online interactive platform that offers classes in 14 different languages including Java, as well as web development, backend programming, computer science, and data science.
It has a user-friendly web IDE, where you can write code and immediately check it, a section with useful tips to complete each task, and the FAQ section.
Codecademy offers its users three different ways to learn on their website — Free Courses, Codecademy Pro, and Codecademy Intensive. Each of the packages has its special features. This is where you may get an additional curriculum, deadlines, a separate Slack channel, exams, and so on.
The interactive lessons are short and with attractive graphics. After finishing the course, students can complete simple practical tasks such as creating a calculator.
CodeChef is a competitive programming learning platform that offers hundreds of tasks.
You can write code in their online editor and view a set of assignments that are divided into different categories based on your skill level. The site has a large community of coders who are active on forums, write tutorials, and participate in CodeChef coding competitions.
More of that, CodeChef holds regular programming contests where aspiring programmers can show their skills and win prizes.
Although there are many ways to deal with the learning stress, having a clear goal and plan for your programming education will help you approach each day of study with a clear mind. Another thing that will give you a great deal of calmness and confidence is choosing a well-structured course.
Select a language you want to start with, build a plan, choose a course, complement it with additional theory and practice, and join the communities to support you. And remember that every pro programmer also was a beginner some time ago!
First published here.