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The four stages of learning to code

It’s the day before a new product launch, and the lead developer sends you a short, ambiguous email:

“There’s an issue with the login. We’re speaking with Luke Maz, and it’s looking like we need to recode a third of the application.”

Two questions. Who is Luke Maz? And when the hell will this be done by? The entire campaign rollout is booked and bookended. Ain’t nobody got time for this.

I’ve been privy to a ridiculous number of issues like this, and it’s possibly the biggest driver for me in learning how to code. How much better would it be if I could understand developers and we can work through challenges that come up together (with ‘Luke Maz’ of course).

But, here’s the next thing I learnt: It’s hard. An article I read discussed the learning curve of coding, and that it takes 1000+ hours to reach “the zone” of competency AND confidence.

Encouraging statistic aside, I’m here to share with you the four stages of coding we all can expect to go into with eyes wide open:

Phase One: The Honeymoon.

As you’d expect, your first introduction to code will be magical. This is a hand-held move through highly polished resources by expert teachers. Bliss.

Sure they’re teaching difficult things but they are totally doable thanks to their hand holding.

Mental state: I <3 coding

Phase Two: The Cliff of Confusion.

Just like that moment your parents let go and let your ride a bike all by yourself, it’s painful when your code teacher lets go.

Cards on the table. You’ll start to question whether the honeymoon period was a lie and whether you actually know how to do a damn thing on your own.

You know that moment when someone walks you through an example and then they say, “OK, now you have a go” and you just turn to the person next to you, shrug, laugh (at yourself) and wait for the help? Yeah. That’s it.

Time for ol’ mate Google (even though you’re not entirely sure what questions to ask).

Mental state: Am I dumb?

How to overcome Phase Two: 

Every trip to Google can take you down an overwhelming rabbit hole so make your questions specific.

Phase Three: The Desert of Despair.

The abundance of quality ‘coding for dummies’ resources dwindles as you bear into this long and lonely stage.

You don’t know why things work when they do and why they don’t work when they don’t. How do you know what you need to learn or if you’re even learning the right things? Why is that colon on the beginning and not the end of the word?

Mental state: This was a terrible idea.

See Also

If you’re studying online, this may be your point of regret as you sit alone in your bedroom (or virtual classroom). Which leads us to my next point…

How to overcome: Study in class, not online and if you’re in Sydney or Melbourne (or Brisbane soon), do it with Coder Factory Academy.

There are a lot of us in this desert, why can’t we all just be friends?

I’ve tried solo online coding courses before and never escaped the desert (the vultures are no doubt circling my avatar as I type). This time round I’m in a classroom with a dozen others and in-the-flesh teachers there to guide us out.

The difference the Coder Factory class format is making to my learning curve is immeasurable.

Phase Four: The Upswing

You’ll never resonate more with Drake starting from the bottom than at this point. This is where you’re finally finding a path out, kind of. Your code might still be siloed and fragile but your sites appear to run, patterns are appearing and from the front it all looks pretty good… but something still doesn’t feel quite right.

Mental state: Wait, am I a developer?!

How to overcome: Earn some confidence. You just need to keep at it and reach that 1000+ hours of coding to fight through your imposter syndrome of being a developer. We repeat: keep at it.

You can’t sugarcoat coding. It is hard, and it does take time. But, if you can collaborate, set clear goals, and focus on the resources that are actually going to help, then you’re in for the win!

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