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Coding can be scary but shouldn't be

Posted on May 4, 2017 by Administrator


Many people are talking about the need for people to prepare for the future by developing other skills that they don’t currently have in order to remain relevant in the future. Look around you. How much information do you process or fail to process every day? When making a decision in your current position at work what goes through your mind? How do you make that decision to choose one option over other another? Do you rely on third party input into your decisions? How do you collect and access your data?  Do you generate reports? How do you evaluate your options? How do analyse the results? How do present them visually? I could go on and on.

We live in a fast paced world where access to quality information has become such an important part of lives. Our success is very much dependant now on how well we can process the information around us and indeed our relevance depends on how much value we can add to the organisations we work for by able to not only use the tools available to us but being able develop our own tools that are adapted to our own unique situations. What has this got to do with learning to code? Everything!

You see in the past Economists used to rely on statistical packages such as SPSS for statistical analysis. Without complicating things, today Data Science is now a discipline with many subjects. Data Interpretation and analysis has become just a part of something much more diverse. Without even knowing it we now rely on applications that collect, store and interpret information that we then access to make decisions, without knowing what is going on in the background. It then goes without saying that anyone that is able to know what makes what do what is without relying on a third party becomes a master of their own destiny. In fact this is fast becoming the reason why some have and others don’t.

This is why it is important for you to take up computer programming. Without being computer literate at the coding level you are going to be left behind in the future. Many countries in the world have long realised this and have passed policies that make computer coding mandatory in all schools. Luckily for us, we don’t need anyone to prescribe this to us. We can make the choice ourselves and start.

How? We have access to the internet which has a lot of information for you to use to learn what you need to, to be able to build applications that you need to do your work. We have OpenSource technologies that allow you to launch an online store without spending months even years developing one. If it is this simple why is it that not everyone is doing it? I started with OpenSource software in 2006 and had not idea what a command line interface was! Google has been my friend for more than a decade now!

There is an information overload out there which makes it difficult for you to focus and select what is important and relevant for you to learn. You will never finish going through the millions of documents that are available on the internet. There is just too much information out there and more is coming every day. How do you beat the noise and focus on what you need to learn. You need guidance and you do need schools.

I have already highlighted why you need to learn to code. Where do you start? There is a misconception that coding is hard and can only be mastered by people who have done maths, physics and other fancy subjects. Such subjects help to frame your mind but do little else. Many people have taught themselves to code and have gone on to find fantastic jobs.  I did Economics myself.

So how do you start?

  1. Start with simple things like HTML, CSS, there are plenty of sites littered with information on how to make your very own website, even without knowing what a Header or Body is. I am focussing on the simple version of going about learning to code here. Many will argue that this is not the right way. They are free to do that. But between you and me, I started to learn to code when I was asked to update a website that shared stock market price and volume information. I was simply told to change a number inside <p></p> to another number on a daily basis. I read HTML code before even knowing what everything meant and marvelled at how simply changing a <h5> to <h1> resulted in displayed text growing in size. I said to myself “wow”.  I look back and say to myself if I had not done some HTML I would never have wanted to code. I am studying Javascript now to make HTML, CSS code interactive. I had opted to study Python and even bought a book on Amazon which I have never read.
  2. Start and don’t be afraid to break things. When I started teaching myself I would crash my computer. I lost some data after deleting things by mistake. I got hacked a few times and luckily I asked google “ How do I secure a webserver” and got lots of information on how to secure a webserver because of it. I also learnt about webhosting services because of this.
  3. Join a community and read widely. Don’t be afraid to ask when you don’t know something. That’s how you learn. But don’t take short cuts. Read first and gain knowledge so that when you get the answer you can quickly understand. Believe there is plenty of help out there. But those who know don’t want to be ‘used’.
  4. Build things. I learnt much of what I know about HTML from customising some opensource software. I learnt the hard way that syntax is important. If you miss a space or ‘ or ; that can cause you sleepless nights. I had many of those by the way! But the desire to learn to make something run kept me going!  
  5. Don’t focus on a language, focus on making things happen and solving problems. If I had focussed on learning python and not solving problems that I was experiencing, I would never have learnt about building a webserver or deploying content management systems on one.
  6. Continue to develop yourself. I continue to learn because I know that I don’t know everything.

There are many paths to becoming a coder, but all journeys must start with a destination. We all know that we need to learn to code, but why? It is going to be a never ending journey that’s for sure. New methods of programming come up every day but you don’t need to learn all if they don’t affect what you do. Passion for coding helps! Just like learning a new language which is not your mother tongue, words sound strange and are difficult to use or pronounce. With practise coding will become like a second language to you.

As a Zimbabwean I look around me and I say if only I could code that and solve that. I hope this story will convince you to learn to code no matter what you do, I continue to look for ways to coordinate and help teach code to as many people as possible. I am looking for volunteer teachers, people who want to learn more by teaching. I want to hear from you. What would you like to teach? Comment below or send my any email at sales(a)brieftechonline(dot)com.

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