It’s never too late to learn how to code

DevToolsGuy / Wednesday, November 11, 2015

“We've arranged a global civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces

- Carl Sagan

 If Science writer Carl Sagan’s prophesizing seems a little melodramatic, we still agree with the sentiment. According to eMarketer's stats, more than 2.5 billion people – over one third of the global population - will own smartphones by 2018. However, while they’ll be carrying computer power in their pockets that only 30 years ago would have required a room, the proportion who actually understand how their mobile works will remain incredibly low.

 Why’s this a problem? From fraud and hacking to Artificial Intelligence taking your job, if you don’t understand how computers work, you expose yourself to a lot of risks. On a more day-to-day level, an understanding of code is a little like understanding how your car’s engine works. It can save you a lot of time and money when dealing with the problems it throws up. And of course, there’s also a lot of benefits to learning to code. While you may not become the next Zuckerberg or Wozniak, coding is fun. The basics aren’t as hard as you might think, and there are a lot of resources out there to help you!

 The benefits of learning code

A lot of people take one look at a page of HTML and think “that’s not for me”. There’s no doubt that learning to write code can feel pretty daunting. If you weren’t a grade A math student or found computer science tough at school, myriads of dashes, dots, slashes and brackets can look pretty alien. But don’t let that put you off. There’s method to the madness and with a little bit of determination you’ll soon experience some real advantages:

  • Better understanding of how IT works

If you’ve ever wondered at exactly how Google Maps finds where you and your Smartphone are, the answer is (basically) code! Every single computer program, web page and mobile app you’ve ever used is, of course, based on code. So, as you learn the basics, you’ll begin to have a much better understanding of the technology you use every single day.

  • Undergo brain training

Writing code is essentially about solving problems by using logic. Once you’ve learnt the basics of a programming language, coding requires you to turn that knowledge into a problem solving tool. Few other activities require such a pure approach to problem solving – it’s both mentally challenging and really engages all your brainpower to find solutions.

  • Find solutions to niggles

Following on from the previous point, coding can be used to solve problems in your everyday life. You don’t need to be a full-time professional to set up your own little programs that automate boring day to day tasks. From updating spreadsheets to automating folder creation, you can create programs which will save you time on a daily basis. These can often be completed in a couple of hours.

  • Improve your CV

In so many professions, a knowledge of programming languages will make your CV stand out. While it’s increasingly common for people to have some coding knowledge, it’s still pretty rare. So, even if the job isn’t purely development oriented, if your next career move requires use of the Internet and software (i.e. basically every job), your knowledge will make your CV stand out from the pile.

I get it, so what next?

So, if you’ve decided that coding is for you, how should you go about learning to do it?

 1.     Get your knowledge of computer science up to scratch

If RAM, CPU and algorithms all sound a little intimidating, we’d recommend reminding yourself of the basics of computing. With those building blocks in place, you’ll find telling a computer what to do a lot easier.

 2.     Free, part time courses

There is a huge range of free, online courses out there. CODE or Code Academy are decent places to start. If you’re looking for information on a specific solution, it’s almost certainly out there (and quite likely on GitHub). 

 3.     Paid online courses

Sites like Coursera offer paid (but affordable) courses on a lot of topics, including computer science – often from some of the best universities in the world. Paid courses mean you have a stronger guarantee of quality and usually offer some sort of certificate – making them great for your CV.

 4.     Attend evening classes or even go back to school

We’d definitely recommend using the online options first – not only will they save you cash but most importantly help you decide if you actually enjoy writing code. However, if you want to take things more seriously, attending classes is a good option. You’ll be given assignments and will have the support of a professional instructor and peers.

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