Focus is key. Maaajor key. This has been the single most important factor on my coding journey. And it’s freaking hard. Because I don’t just learn, I obsess. I want to know EVERYTHING there is to know and all at once and right now.
For awhile I didn’t know where to start. Google has a nice list of where to start for those wanting to delve into technical development. I used this list, along with some others, and quickly found myself overwhelmed. No matter how many lists I read and how many times I tried to form my own list of what I should learn, I ended up frustrated. Then when I would take a break and get on social media, I would see someone tweet about ‘Swift’ or ‘Ruby’ or ‘css animations’ and end up in a Google rabbit hole.
Technically, I was still learning, but I was not truly understanding. Most of the things I was reading about I could not do yet until I had learned other basic fundamentals first. This cycle continued until I made myself focus on learning one (or a few things) at a time. I enrolled in a Skillcrush Blueprint, and that aided in providing a more focused, structured learning environment. My experience with the online course made it easier for me when I supplemented my learning on my own time, without an instructor or classmates.
Read — Search — Ask! Part of the reason I tend to skip around so much (and maybe you too) is because when I get stuck, I get frustrated and then distracted.
The first time I saw the ‘Read-Search-Ask’ guideline was on FreeCodeCamp’s site and have practiced it ever since. As an avid reader, reading documentation has been very helpful and I find myself doing this the most.
When I can’t find what I’m looking for in documentation, I turn to Google. I’m always pleasantly surprised to find that every code-related question I’ve googled (so far), has already been answered, mostly on Stackoverflow. As someone who tends putting off asking for help as a last resort, it can be reassuring to know there’s others out there, who once were exactly where you are.
Twitter is your friend. Social media has been quite handy during my coding adventures. I began following women in tech on Twitter. I figured that if they were successful in the field, then I wanted to know what they were thinking, reading, and tweeting. I started consuming whatever blogs they read and podcasts they listened to. This has expanded my knowledge in a way I never expected. There are some women I have been able to connect with online and/or in real life, and the support has been amazing.
But also, make real friends. At tech events. And meetups. And hackathons. And… well, you get the idea? You need to leave your house, get out there, and actually meet programmers. It’s intimidating, and nerve-wracking but keep doing it until it’s not. I was terrified at the idea of going to tech events. I figured people were going to smell the “new” on me. I thought only ~super experienced~ coders went to these events.
Then I thought about how it doesn’t matter, how no one would be daring enough to come up to me and tell me I did not belong. So I made myself go to a coding event after only having been coding for 2 weeks. And guess what? I didn’t die. I had fun, learned a lot, and met some great people. At my very first meetup, I sat across from an awesome UX designer who partnered up with me and assisted me throughout the duration of the event. Only to find out after, once she gave me her business card, she was a co-founder of a local web and mobile development company. I would miss opportunities like this, to connect with local community [technology] leaders, if I had just let self-doubt win.
Up next: I’ve learned so much in such a short span of time, that I’m incredibly excited for what’s to come. I’m going to keep attending meetups. I plan to attend a hackathon before 2016 ends. I will be attending my first tech conference in November. I plan to continue fostering connections with other women and POC in tech. And my hope is to give back to others, in that sweet space where tech, social justice, and empathy intersect.