08 Aug 11 Milestones in Learning to Code
There’s a handful of things you need if you want to work in coding; some aptitude, an open mind, and perhaps most importantly, resolve. The one thing our most successful graduates have in common is determination.
Bootcamps are intensive and hard work, so it’s nice to remember that you’re never far from a eureka moment.
Those little moments, when the fog lifts and coding becomes that little bit clearer, are milestones in learning to code. If you’re embarking on this journey, we would advise taking a beat to savour these milestones.
A little disclaimer before we dive in: People learn in different ways, of course, but this would be a typical sequence for someone learning in our full stack bootcamp.
1- “Hello, world!”
The “Hello, world!” moment is both small and momentous. The two humble words, “Hello, world!” have launched countless coders over the years. Writing that line along with the accompanying HTML tags, turns a simple phrase into the beginning of a website. The longest journey begins with a single step, and with this step, aspiring coders have learned to make a page.
2- CSS to style it
Thankfully, not every site is just a bare-bones statement of “hello” to the world. A burgeoning coder soon learns to add colour or different font sizes to a site or app’s text, and if they’re feeling really bold, they experiment with it. For many, this is their first opportunity to play with coding, and this moment destroys the myth that software development is not creative.
Learning CSS is like finding a drawer full of colour paints after you’ve been sketching everything in black and white.
4- Putting your work onto GitHub
As some of you know, GitHub is a social media site for coders. It’s where versioning and first drafts go public for the first time. As you make small edits and improvements, you upload them to GitHub, a working directory.
Some learner-developers find this step daunting – but the more daunting a moment is, the greater the feeling of gratification. This is when you (tentatively) begin to show off. It’s momentous – your work is going from theory to practice.
Now you have a frontend, you would want to start working on building your backend functionality…
5- Backend functionality – allowing the creators to see its users
Learning to code is acquiring skills that you didn’t even know existed. And with backend, developers can see what’s happening under the hood: It’s seeing who’s using your software, from where, for how long, and more.
This is the moment a developer learns that they can not only build things, but see things they couldn’t see before.
6- Building a database
A database could include anything, from the contents of a phonebook to a bus timetable to a stud horse’s breeding calendar, and many of your favourite websites capitalise on the near-infinite seas of information available online.
Building a database super-charges your site, and for coders, the first database is a taste of the potential the world’s biggest, evolving library provides. Like all of the disciplines listed here, database building has many levels of sophistication: From beginners to experts, from two columns to thousands, the range of complexity is as broad as you can imagine.
6- Applying all three tiers
Conquering a working knowledge of frontend, backend and database and then combining all three disciplines is a beautiful moment: It really brings home why you’ve been learning everything so far, and you see how they work in tandem.
Motivation is easier when you understand the extent of what you’ve learned: combining these lessons does just that.
7- Testing your project
There’s a certain “brothers in arms” quality among software developers. Only coders will truly understand this heartbreaking scenario: You feel great about your site. You’ve worked hard on its appearance and UX. And then you test it.
Finding your first bug dampens the initial excitement (to say the least), but through trial and error, some lateral thinking, and approaching the conundrum from different angles, you debug and fix it.
It’s hard to put into words the frustration of a test, and the euphoria that comes when you’ve figured out what’s wrong. And when this happens on your first project, for the first time, you have a new understanding of what working life is for coders – the frustrating lows followed by the glorious highs.
This is your go-live moment – the moment when you launch your website or application online and make it available for use.
It’s a special time – where once there was nothing, now there’s a workable product.
9- Creating your first ‘readme’
Another event that’s common to every developer, but also unique, is the readme moment. A readme is a short, written document accompanying a piece of software. It has configuration instructions, licensing contact information, information and more.
It’s one of the final stages in creating the first version of a piece of software, and the readme text is like a brief bio of the software so far.
10- Seeing your first unexpected user
Your site or app is out in the ether, and somebody has discovered it. It’s not a classmate or a tutor or your mother or best friend. It’s a stranger, who has happened upon your work and chosen to click on it. They chose it out of over a billion websites online.
This is the author seeing their book in stores for the first time, a teacher facing their first class, or an entrepreneur seeing the first evidence of income.
11- Becoming the master
By this stage, despite the relatively short period of time, you are now able to go into Stack Overflow and dev communities and share what you’ve learned. You will see questions from others and you’ll be able to answer them. This is when you’ve made the journey from student to master.
You’ll still have a lot to learn: Software development evolves all the time, and even the most experienced software developers evolve throughout their careers. But the best evidence of knowledge is the ability to teach others.
The journey from student to full stack developer is challenging, but taking even a moment to appreciate what you’ve learned along the way will make the journey easier.