You Don’t Need To Be A Genius To Be A Coding Expert

Chris McQueen

Practical lessons I learnt from overcoming the fear of programming.

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In year 12, we got to do our first coding project. My biggest problem was that I couldn’t complete the previous year of coding basics. I was thrown in the deep end.

My friend, the genius, helped me out. And as a genius, he was a master at coding. So he did the coding, while I did the electronics for our projects. It was a fair and legitimate split. But my fear hadn’t been conquered.

I was too scared to start learning to program. I believed the prejudice, that only a genius was able to code.

Writing tens and thousands of lines of cryptic code seemed that little bit too daunting. So I put it off. I pushed it aside and tried to avoid it.

Fast forward three years and I’m so happy coding is part of my daily work. It provides me with everyday challenges. Every mistake in my code is a new opportunity to learn and improve; adapt, and optimise.

How did I get to this point? And how can you start learning to code?

An intriguing opportunity

When I applied for my dual studies in Stuttgart, I wasn’t sure what my dream job would be. I used to an IT-Consulting company for the 3-year bachelor degree. The company accepted me for a different study course than the one I applied for.

In September 2018, I was ready to start my studies in business information systems. They split the course into two parts. The business aspect of it was entirely new for me. Informatics or Programming was slightly more familiar, but I had no hand-on experience.

It was going to be tough. I knew that this intriguing opportunity would be a lot of hard work, but hopefully worth it in the long run.

I started the first semester full of hope and anticipation. What followed was my first major challenge. I failed 75% of my exams in the first semester.

One of the exams I failed was the programming exam. I got 10% of all the questions right.

Now I could come up with a list of reasons, why I am not at fault for failing that exam. But making excuses will not help you to grow as a person.

To put it bluntly, I was too lazy.

You have to put in the effort.

I sat in my programming lectures at university without grasping the concept of how coding worked. After three hours of listening to the professor on one ear, I’d pack up my stuff and head home. If we had an assignment, I’d wait until our next meeting, as we’d always go over the right solution.

After I failed that first programming exam, I was devastated. It was a harsh wake-up call. I thought the professors would go easy on us in the very first semester.

Not so.

I cried out for help.

And my company gave me the support I needed. A student one year above me taught me programming in six weeks. We’d meet up twice a week to review the basics and go over the core programming concepts.

He would give me exercises that I couldn’t look up on the web, so I had to start thinking for myself. It was a big challenge, but in return, extremely rewarding. The feeling of solving a coding problem is hard to describe to anyone who hasn’t felt that joy. (yet)

Those weeks were hard. But I got the practice I needed, and I got lots of it.

With everything in life, you need to put in the effort to succeed. This also applies to coding. You will need to sit down, open up your editor and start typing. The best way to learn is by playing around with the code. Try out different solutions. Don’t copy the answer from the blackboard in the lecture.

Start today

Every coder starts at zero. Even Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Linus Torvalds weren’t born a competent programmer. But they did have one advantage:

They all started young.

For example, 10-year-old Linus was fascinated by programming. Computers amazed him. So he started writing simple programs on his dad’s computer. Today he is one of the worlds most famous developers. Linus is the mastermind behind the development of the Linux operating system.

So the key here is to start young. However, I am assuming that if you’re reading this, you’re not a ten-year-old. Luckily, not all is lost. You can keep learning.

Start today.

Whatever programming language you want to learn, there is a way to start today! Check the web for free courses on YouTube. Browse the documentation of the website. Set yourself an easy project to kickstart your journey into the depth of a developers world.

The basics will not be hard to learn. Once you grasp what variables, functions and methods are, you’ll be able to apply them to all programming languages.

Get help from the experts.

You might be highly motivated by this point. If that is you right now, awesome! Get cracking straight away!

But if you’re just a little like me, every new project can seem quite daunting at first glance. For that very reason, you might want to get help from the experts.

I chose to browse the web for web development courses at the start of lockdown in March this year. During my research, I came across this course on UDEMY.

So far, I’ve done an hour of coding almost every weekday. The instructor starts with the very basics and guides you through the difficult topics. And best of all, she includes a lot of practical exercises!

If you can set up a routine for learning and development you will improve your coding within weeks.

Challenge

I always like to end an article with a challenge for the reader. If you’ve had this stigma about coding, it might be the right time to understand what the real problem is.

Do you think coding is for the geniuses out there that sit in their dark rooms with a wall full of many screens hacking away until dawn?

I did. And I was wrong.

So my challenge to you is the following:

  1. Write down five reasons how coding could help you.
  2. Watch coding courses and set up a routine.
  3. Start today, what’s stopping you?

Thanks for reading.

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Writer of productivity and life hack topics. Business informatics students. Constantly learning and growing as a writer

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