The Self-Taught Developer’s Guide to Learning How to Code on Their Own

Learn how to code on your own

I have had a lot of fun these last two years seeing Twitter blow up every time Elon Musk took to it. There’s a reason I follow Musk – besides the promise of a Mars trip, I look at him as one of the prime examples of a successful, self-taught developer. 

He’s not the first; of course. From Ada Lovelace who created the first algorithm, to Steve and Steve who transformed our favorite fruit into a global tech giant, there have been many. Every generation has had at least one name who has proven that the best developers are the ones with the best skills, not the best resumes. 

So, if you’re looking to join their ranks and learn how to code on your own how do you start? Let this guide be your Bible. 

Learning how to code on your own with these tips

Step 1: Pick a niche

When choosing what to excel in, remember the adage “If you want to succeed, limit yourself.” There are many skills that recruiters are hiring for and these trends will stay for a while. Trying to learn everything at once will only overwhelm you. So, start by getting an overview of what software programming involves. Understand what a backend engineer’s life looks like versus what a blockchain developer does daily. If you have an interest in a particular field, say fintech or gaming, then factor that in, too. 

Every good developer should know at least one or two of these languages: Python, R, Java, JavaScript, C++, Go, and Rust; along with frameworks such as Springboot, Django, Node JS (for backend) and AngularJS, Angular 6, Redux, and React (for frontend). Upcoming sectors that are sunrise-career options in the post-pandemic world include cloud computing, AI and ML, Full Stack, and Data Science.

Step 2: Find online resources 

There are a host of resources online that suit every style. If you’re a complete beginner, you can try out sites that offer introductory courses. CodeSchool and Treehouse are good examples of interactive websites. You can also find many YouTube ‘learn to code’ tutorials if learning through videos is your preferred mode. 

If you’re at an intermediate level, you can follow sites that allow you to practice and hone your skills. Community platforms like the one offered by HackerEarth let you upskill while interacting with fellow developers. You can duel with other developers, engage with them on forums, or expand your coding knowledge through practice sessions that are designed to push you to the next level. 

I cannot stress the importance of joining a community enough. Not only does it help to have your peers readily available for guidance and mentorship, you learn a lot about the industry from experienced developers. I would highly suggest that self-learners join one. 

Step 3: Build, break, build again

There is a ‘tutorial hell’ reserved for those developers who get stuck in the ‘learning’ phase and forget to translate that expertise into experience. A developer is only as good as their code, so try to iterate along with learning. Always remember to keep a repository of your builds on GitHub or similar platforms. A good way to practice is to add new features to your project after learning a new module.

Don’t worry about it being too ‘fancy’. The important thing here is to make errors, find out how to solve those bugs and eliminate mistakes from your code. 

Step 4: Practice for interviews

Once you have gained suitable mastery over your chosen language or tech stack, it’s time to look for a job. You can choose to freelance or find a full-time job. For either, you will need to showcase your coding skills and some other ‘softer’ skills. 

Apart from writing clean code, a developer in a workplace is also required to communicate and collaborate with teams. Engineering managers look for problem-solving and analytical skills, efficient workplace communication, and a good work ethic when they hire. While you are improving your coding skills, it would behoove you to spend some time prepping for interviews.

Step 5: Read, learn, and network

Software development is a rapidly shifting landscape. The only way to hold your own is to always stay ahead of the curve. I recommend reading and following tech blogs from the best brands (the Netflix tech blog is one name that pops to mind).

For a developer, learning is fuel to shine brighter. A highly interactive way to upskill is via hackathons where you can present groundbreaking ideas and network with developers from across the globe.

In conclusion 

The pandemic has brought skills into sharp focus, and recruiters and tech managers are looking for talented developers at a rapid scale. Expertise has started to truly trump other traditional hiring criteria like academic pedigree, and previous experience. If ever there was a time for self-taught developers to come out of the woodwork and grab their moment in the sun, this would be it. 

However, it is also important to recognize that learning to code on your own has its own set of challenges. You need to be self-reliant to a high degree and be comfortable learning in a non-traditional format. There will definitely be bad days, and having a community or a mentor to support you through these days would be beneficial. 

In the long run, your hard work and self-reliance will definitely pay off. Solving real-world issues through technology is a beautiful feeling, and I say that with almost two decades of experience. So, keep at it, and keep coding!

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