So, you want to be a programmer?

Hello there! This article is targeted toward individuals that have an interest in programming, but are still on the fence. I hope to clear that up by answering some common questions/concerns that i’ve heard. I’ve paraphrased those questions of course.¬†Enjoy!

“Where should I start?”

If you’re unsure where to start, the first thing you should do is pick a language. A language that I frequently recommend is JavaScript as it is a lenient language. The next step is to find a tutorial for the language and follow it to completion. That means physically typing out every line of code verbatim; it is impossible to learn a language without writing it. I recommend TheNewBoston’s JavaScript tutorial, as it is easy to follow and only requires a basic understanding of HTML (the structure of websites). Other excellent tutorials can be found on lynda.com, however a subscription is required after a short free trial period. If neither of those suit your fancy you can always use the mystical Google!

I personally do not recommend or endorse learning through websites such as Codecademy. Such sites teach through an on-rails method, which I believe doesn’t allow for new coders to develop their problem solving skills. They also fail to allow for differences in coding style, which varies greatly between people. The problems provided in the courses only look for one solution and do not consider other possibilities. I am fully aware that I am biased on the subject; however, I felt that it was necessary to share this fact to ensure that you are aware of all the options available to you.

Do not attempt to learn everything at once. Remember to pace yourself.

“Should I learn language X or Y?”

Short answer: it doesn’t really matter. Long answer: as long as the language is relatively common and accessible on multiple platforms, you should be fine. Languages such as Java, JavaScript, PHP, C, and C++ are similar in syntax and in practice, so learning one makes learning the others easier. The purpose of your first language is to act as an introduction to variables, data types, functions, etc. That’s why no one suggests picking up Assembly straight away! Languages are mediums for telling computers what to do. What language we work with is dependent on what we want to make, so don’t get caught up on flavors!

“Is coding fun?”

As far as I can remember, i’ve always wanted to be a programmer. I started learning when I was ten years old, in 2005, and I mark 2012 as the year that I got serious about programming. Thus, it shouldn’t be a surprise that my answer is: YES ABSOLUTELY! I find programming to be delightfully challenging and incredibly rewarding. I am extremely passionate about programming and currently attempting to turn my hobby into a career! If that doesn’t convince you of my passion, consider this: when I get tired of playing games, I code!

You’ll get different answers from everyone you ask, but programming can be tough and an emotional strain. It is a purely mental profession and it can sometimes take its toll. Since the majority of the time spent programming is spent fixing issues or attempting to fix an issue, we’re subject to a lot of stress. However, when a success appears out of a struggle, it is the best feeling. Despite the stress, the challenge is the fun part and without it I wouldn’t be able to improve myself.

“I don’t want to do artsy-fartsy stuff. I just want to be a programmer.”

Incorrect. You do not want to be a programmer, you want to be a developer. In this entire article, I have been using the term programmer because it is a common term that is easily recognizable by almost everyone. A computer programmer is someone who programs computers. Unfortunately, there is an even more common connotation, which I believed when I first started. That is, a programmer is someone who programs computers and doesn’t do anything else. This makes many beginners believe that they’ll never have to learn CSS, touch an image editor, or do anything that a “designer” would do. In the modern world, programmer has become synonymous with developer. A developer is someone who is multifaceted, creative, ingenious, and understands the needs of coworkers and clients alike. Anyone can program, but not everyone can become a developer. Just remember, developer not programmer.

If this has won you over, then welcome to the programming (read developer) world! If not, my feelings won’t be hurt, don’t worry. Regardless, I hope that this article has helped you in some fashion, or at least piqued your interest.

Thank you for reading!