Get Started Coding with Codecademy
If anyone out there tells you it’s easy to be an engineer- they’re definitely lying, but it IS accessible to pretty much anyone, granted you have the basic pieces of technology necessary to write code (a computer and a working WiFi connection). Case in point, I got my B.A. and M.M. in Opera, and more than seven years after graduating I did a 180° career-change and decided I was going to learn how to write code.
In pursuing a completely new profession at the end of my 20’s, there were a few things that helped me narrow down what to pursue.
- I didn’t want to wait multiple years before being hire-able in a new field
- I couldn’t afford to pay a ton of money for a grueling bootcamp
- I needed to be able to literally see my progress happening
Coding seemed to fit the bill perfectly. I decided to give myself a couple months of focused work to see if it was for me. I started with Codecademy.com, a free platform that offered short, task-oriented lessons that I could take at my own pace.
I started at the beginning of beginnings, and took notes on everything. Literally, everything.
Starting with the Basics
There were countless options of languages to learn and instruction on specific tools, but I went straight for anything that started with “Intro to …”.
In the bottom right corner, I would see a small notification alerting me that, ‘You’ve coded for 17 days! Good job!’ and as a total newbie it felt really good to receive encouragement for just investing the time. Whether I was wizzing through entire chapters (which could take me between 1 hour and 2–3 days) or I was logging on to just complete a few tasks on the current lesson because I only had half an hour to work, I knew I was making progress.
As a newbie, Codecademy also helped me get comfortable with the actual act of writing code- no matter how basic. Their set-up makes it easy to see the workflow that you will eventually be using as a programmer.
Looking at raw code (the middle section in the photo) was so intimidating for me at first. But because I was able to see the main components of coding all one one screen, I started to understand the breakdown.
The step-by-step lesson bar is always on the left, the code editor is in the center, and the rendered code appears on the right.
Even though I wasn’t running separate programs on my computer (which I would later learn how to set up) I was able to get comfortable with toggling between several different documents to resolve one problem.
In each step-by-step lesson, there was always the option to ‘Get a hint,’ so I never felt completely lost. I used the hints a lot for the first few months because I wasn’t sure what the index.html file even was, but as I progressed through the lessons I challenged myself to not use the hints unless I was really desperate.
“The best engineers aren’t the smartest ones- they are the most patient.”
And if you only take one thing away from this article, let it be that.
Developing and honing this skill was probably the most challenging part about learning to code. As a typical type-A personality, I tend towards structure and timetables. Not knowing the answer to a problem, and trying to think through the different aspects of it without expecting myself to instantly come up with the solution was painful. One of my most significant developments, thanks to Codecademy and my own stubborn persistence, was getting comfortable with not knowing the answer. I began to understand that that’s where all the learning actually takes place.
Though I know I have only scraped the surface of all there is to learn about coding, Codecademy helped me establish a strong foundation to move forward confidently. You could say it was my HTML, giving me the structure to understand how broad the scope of a front-end developer is. As the world of engineering is constantly expanding, the skills I learned with Codecademy prepared me to keep pushing forward into the unknown. Rather than shying away from the challenges because they’re new and confusing, I know I can face them head-on because I have built up my toolkit of dev skills to help me make my way through.
You might be wondering what happened to the final 31 days of my year-long journey into coding, and the answer is I’m now officially available for interviews, so reach out to me on LinkedIn!
If you enjoyed this article, keep your eyes peeled for the next installment in my three-part series on how I went from Opera Singer to Front-End Developer in less than a year.
Have any questions or thoughts to share? Feel free to DM me on Twitter @jessica_nicolet.