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I've Never finished a "Learn to Code" Program

vickilanger profile image Vicki (she/her) ・6 min read

Recently, it really hit me:

There wasn't a problem with any one of the resources I used. They all did their thing and taught it well. I learned a lot from them, they just weren't always the right fit.

is there a TL;DR? Yes! click me


Not the Right Fit

I realized that's not really a problem or even a bad thing. There are tons of completely valid reasons it might actually be a good thing.

There'd be no point in trying to move forward with something if it wasn't something I could understand yet. Equally, if something was too simple, there was no reason to stay there. There were also times when I realized I needed a different type of material or a totally different subject. Last but not least, I would paint a false picture if I didn't mention the highs and lows of life that put a damper on learning.

What I Did

From the start, I really didn't have a plan. I played with FreeCodeCamp (FCC) after learning about it and suggesting it to a former coworker. It wasn't my plan to keep doing it.

FreeCodeCamp (FCC)

I started with FCC's HTML & CSS and picked basic things up rather quickly. I moved on to JavaScript, did 80ish of the lessons. Why did I stop? I was frustrated with the math and I was frustrated with the interface. HTML and CSS had given visual feedback. FCC JavaScript wasn't doing this the way, as a newbie, I thought it should. I also knew just enough to play around with HTML and CSS to make a landing page for the business I was building.

As I decided I didn't like JavaScript, I did some research and found Django would better suit my needs. So, I started with Django Girls blog tutorial.

Django Girls

Django Girls was the first time I had touched the terminal, played with pip, and did things I worried were going to break my computer. Once I had Python and Django installed, I followed their rather simple tutorial. I was a total newbie, but it was going smoothly. Pretty soon, I had a really basic looking blog and had set up whatever a virtual environment was. Okay, maybe I lied, I think I did finish this, but it was a small thing. Then I wanted to make my blog into something that resembled the business I was trying to build. That required me to learn more Django.

YouTube Series

I was having a hell of a time understanding Django. I was reading the docs, but NOTHING made sense. I went to YouTube and watched a couple series. It would take me an hour to watch a 15-minute video. I'd pause it every few seconds to make sure I didn't miss anything. I loved how Sentdex and Coding for Entrepreneurs took the time to explain how and why certain things were happening. Though, it was still hard to comprehend.

All the while, I was asking questions and probably sounding like I knew nothing. I sounded like I knew nothing because I really didn't. Eventually, one of the many questions @matteing answered made me realize I was doing it wrong. I was learning how to structure a Django project and template with Jinja2, but I still hadn't learned Python.

A Book

Now I needed to learn Python. I was finally figuring out why I had so many issues. I perused amazon for a beginner's book with pictures, to make it easy. I found, purchased, and received the Illustrated Guide to Python 3. To my dismay, NO illustrations, or at least not like I expected. There are some diagrams of stepping through the code. Anyway, this book is awesome. I would get out my highlighters, draw all over, underline, highlight, and I was really learning things. There were practice things at the end of each chapter and they were actually helpful and mostly not math. Shortly after I got the book, I was feeling good. A month or so later, a local college had sent out some classes that were open to the public. At this point, I was about 3/4 of the way through the book.

A Local Night Class

After receiving a listing of night classes, I decided it couldn't hurt to look. I managed to find an 'Intro to Python" course. So, I signed up and I went. It was perfect! It was reiterating the things I had just learned in the book I was reading. I knew some things. I was able to help out other people in the class. I also learn a lot of things. I learned more intricate details of the things I already knew. It was awesome. During this class, the professor told us to check out How to Think Like a Computer Scientist. So, I started going through the interactive book while going to the class. I was about halfway through the book and it jumped further/faster than I was learning. I got frustrated, pinned the tab, and told myself I'd get back to it. (by the way, it's still pinned and I still haven't gone back to it)

30 Days of Python

At this time, I felt like I knew things, but I didn't know them that well. So, I started following along 30 Days of Python and started writing notes (that made sense to me) about allllll the basics. I needed to be able to reference something that didn't have all the awful foo, bar, and math examples. I'm not considering this one "never finished". I'm calling it "a work in progress". I'm still writing my notes and I still reference them. If you also hate the math examples, check out my basic Python series. I would work on this series more, but I paused some to build Vets Who Code Retweet bot and Code Questions bot


Still, There's Progress

I haven't finished many "learn to code" programs or tutorials or books, but that doesn't make me a failure. I've learned a ton. I've made and shipped projects. I have an open source project that I maintain and improve. I contribute to other open source projects.

Would you call that a failure? So, why do some people claim the unfinished course rate as a bad thing? If it's your course, I know it might feel personal. I'm here to tell you it probably isn't. There was a reason someone didn't finish. It might be your course, but there's a better chance it was a personal reason like most of mine.

You made a course and some people don't finish!

You made a course. It's awesome. It's the best and everyone should take it! I believe you. I know the whole thing is amazing. Here's what you do when someone doesn't finish:

  1. Know that you helped them
  2. Ask what you could do better
  3. Remember it's not personal
  4. Watch for trends and change material, as needed
  5. Recognize that you didn't fail yourself or them

If someone doesn't finish a course, it doesn't mean they didn't learn from it or keep learning


TL;DR

So, here's a (probably incomplete) list of places and people I learned from. I totally recommend allllll of these, if they apply to you.

Resource Learning Why I didn't Finish
FreeCodeCamp HTML, CSS, then JS confusing interface, for me, to learn JS as a newbie
Django Girls Django and Python I finished this :D
Tango with Django django stuff great intentions, but I never actually built anyhing with this
Try Django Tutorial Series by Coding for Entrepreneurs Django web dev still didn't know wtf I was doing w/ python
Django Web Development with Python by Sentdex Django web dev and jinga2 still didn't know wtf I was doing w/ python
HackerRank Python Algorithms/Logic Felt disjointed and it wasn't helping me figure out how to put things together
Illustrated Guide to Python 3 basics of python Had learned enough to do some things and then the class started
Forsyth Tech Community College: Intro to Python basics of python I finished this too! :D
Python Game Programming Tutorial: Pong by Christian Thompson Python Turtle Library I made a pretty intense Pong game
How to Think Like a Computer Scientist not as basic, basics of python I got distracted by making projects

Discussion

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jspiderhand profile image
Justin Stout

I totally understand your frustration with learning JavaScript. I’ve been having the same issue with wanting to see immediate results and not being able to do so, at least when it comes to building web pages. I’m aware of the DOM, but still feel a disconnect when trying to use it. In the mean time, I’m using an awesome coding playground called Repl.it to practice basic JavaScript, C# and C++ and will practice using the DOM as I gain a better understanding of how to use it.

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vickilanger profile image
Vicki (she/her) Author

I've heard Repl.it is cool. Though, I learned about them well after I was looking to learn JS. I've looked at playing with Glitch, I think it's similar and has the ability to work with Python.

Good luck! I couldn't (didn't let my self, I guess) wrap my head around JS. I think at this point, I could go back and learn it rather quickly though.

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jspiderhand profile image
Justin Stout

Thank you! I love using Repl.it and it actually does work with python too.

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andystitt829 profile image
Andy Stitt

Thank you for showing that I'm not the only one who has left a wake of unfinished coding courses! I'm sure many, many people can relate to it. Especially those of us who came to this profession from a different one and didn't have a formal computer science education.

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vickilanger profile image
Vicki (she/her) Author

That is exactly why I wrote this! I came from managing aircraft maintenance. Which by the way, is not a computer science or IT field. I knew I couldn’t be the only one with a ton of unfinished courses, tutorials, and the like. I tried blaming life and my inability to finish things. When I realized there was more to it, I knew it had to be more than just me.

What did you do prior to coding?

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andystitt829 profile image
Andy Stitt

I did nonprofit administration. Started as an executive assistant and then managed scholarship programs. I eventually took over managing a website and rekindling an interest in web from when I had built a website on Tripod in 1998 as a bored teenager. 12 years later, here I am!

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Jeffrey Seneff

You should come hang out at Operation Code Vicki!

I saw your VetsWhoCode bot, and well OpCode is just a bunch of veterans in the coding community. You can sign up at operationcode.org and after signing up, you get an email invite to the slack channel. Same email and password you used to sign up I believe.

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Vicki (she/her) Author

I've signed up. Thanks!

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heyjtk profile image
JTK

I have no formal instruction in Vue, Python, or SQL - the three things I work with most on the job 😂

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vickilanger profile image
Vicki (she/her) Author

I see no problem with that.

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vunderkind profile image
mogwai

I love this so much! So often I read fun stories of people finishing stuff and wonder, where are my wayside warriors, ahoo!

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vickilanger profile image
Vicki (she/her) Author

Yeah, I tried to beat myself up about not finishing anything. I tried telling myself it was ADD. I tried telling myself I was failing, over and over and over. Then, I realized there were mostly good reasons for me to have moved on from each of the things I have used to learn.

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drm317 profile image
Daniel Marlow

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

🙂

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meesudzu profile image
Du

Just find some things I need, do some things they want.
No more.
xD

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vickilanger profile image