10 things I learnt while learning to code

I’ve been on the outskirts of programming for a while now; I studied computer science and maths in high school, and although I was pretty good at maths, I never fully fell in love with programming — at least not to the same degree I was with languages and literature.

In May this year I finally decided to take the leap and learn to code, as I have been trying on and off for years and it felt like the right time to finally do it.

I decided to join Le Wagon (a brilliant coding bootcamp) in Rio - because I’ve never been and wanted to since forever, due to my early teenage obsession with a Brazilian telenovela called O Clone, which portrayed Rio as this beautiful, sometimes troubled city, home to incredibly nice people (all things that I found out to be true).

I cannot explain how amazing O Clone is

The super intensive bootcamp started at the end of July and will finish at the end of September, and with one week to go, I realised that in these short 8 weeks I’ve learnt more than just to code (although finally learning that Java and JavaScript are not the same programming language was a pretty wild thing for me 😱😂).

Here are some of the things I’ve learnt:

You’re going to spend quite a long time trying to figure how to make things work, and once you do, you’re going to think that it’s the most important thing ever. That’s likely to change a bit when you finally take a look at your wonky website and realise that ABSOLUTELY NO ONE IN THEIR RIGHT MIND would spend more than 5 seconds on your landing page, because it looks like one of Jackson Pollock’s early works, and your users (stupid as they may be) are too busy to decipher what the 🦆 you wanted them to do.

Nobody likes brilliant jerks, especially so if said jerks are not brilliant at all. The bootcamp has a pair-programming system in place that will have you pair and code with someone different every day for about 6 weeks. It’s pretty stressful because you will work better with some people than with others, but you will also be pleasantly surprised to have your assumptions challenged. The most important thing to remember is that you’re going to be wrong more times than you’re going to be right, so don’t worry about it, just learn.

It’s like a rollercoaster of emotions — one day your code just works, and then 5 minutes later everything breaks. You call your teacher over in a super animated state, and they will ask you to read the error message, and as you’re staring at your screen feeling like a dumb-looking fish*, it clicks — you’ve declared a variable in one place but didn’t call it in the other, and now it’s all working again. You feel great and then things start breaking again. And on. And on. And on. But eventually you become more comfortable with this, and realise that it’s only part of the learning process. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

*what your screen sees when you’re reading your error message

Whatever you’re building is going to look like 💩. This is a fact. In the final 3 weeks of the bootcamp, you get paired with a few other people from the course to work on two projects — one that takes a week, and the other 2 weeks. This is what we built as the first project. Like, yes I know it’s not the ugliest thing ever, but would I use a product that looks like that? Absolutely not 😂, but I’m still so very proud of it. This is the thing we’ve built after 6 weeks of learning to code!!

how I’ll be for the rest of the year

I really like the team I’m working with — they’re all very smart, they have ideas, they’re expressing them well, they’re accountable and self-accountable, and most importantly, they care about doing a great job. There have been times when my pull request wasn’t accepted because it wasn’t good enough and I had to accept it and do better next time. There have also been times when my code needed to be refactored, so I took a look at what was being done and went with it. Building products is fun, and it’s good to care about writing readable & maintainable code for yourself and for the rest of your team.

You have to become comfortable with being the dumbest person in the room because this is how you’re going to feel for a while. You will also surprise yourself at times when things finally start to click, and you’re able to express your thought process well to others. Truth is, some things will make sense almost instantly and some never do, but that’s why we have Google and StackOverflow, right? 😊

...but there definitely are stupid products and features. Everyone is going to use your product for their purposes, so you need to take that into account when building it. Whether they are tech-savvy, sophisticated users, or it’s the first time they opened a computer, you will need to anticipate their needs and their journeys. The clearer the path they are likely to take, the easier it is to build it.

Whatever you’re doing, you’re probably going to find that there’s an easier way to do it. The whole bootcamp is designed like this, too — you first learn things the hard way and then get to the easier parts. It works and it will work while building your software, too.

With only one week to go, I wonder why I didn’t learn to code 5 years ago 😄 But, it definitely feels like the right time and I’m excited for all the things to come. Also, I now FINALLY have an opinion on JavaScript that is from my own experience of using it, and I believe that it is lit af 😍.

Are you hiring? Many of my brilliant colleagues are looking for jobs. Drop me a line or a link and I will ask them to reach out.

Building workals.com, where software developers find their mentors.

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