Support Systems on your Coding Journey
It’s Dangerous to Go Alone! Take this...
Summoning the great rubber duck to fix my code © Amy Richardson
The most valuable lesson that I have learned recently is to accept help. Going it alone for many years of my education, thinking that I can do it all myself, is an experience that I have grown from but also burnt out from. Perfectionism and being an autonomous learner may seem like a strong combo but it can make you super critical of your progress, and not always for the better. How have I learned to combat this..? By seeking community and being ok with saying, ‘I don’t know, teach me.’ Having spent the last four months in a blur of learning and creating, with another eight to go in my coding boot camp, the greatest changes to my usual style of learning have been mentorship and peer-to-peer learning. Although Google has been my trusted go-to for educational content and fact-checking, it does not offer the ‘over-the-shoulder’, invaluable guidance that mentors and peers bring. Here are some of the supports helping me on this new career path.
Mentors have been there and done that; grab one however you can, and make every minute count. Part of the reason that I chose to study with the Code Institute and not forge my own educational path online, was the wealth of knowledge and experience offered through tutor support, career guidance, and an engaging Slack community. The biggest reason however was their mentorship program. Students are paired with a mentor who is there for every project inception and completion. This experience was new to me and for someone who is quite happy to fly solo, I am very glad that I did not miss this opportunity. Being paired with a mentor who has encouraged me to push my skills in the right direction, and develop new ones in a short space of time, has boosted the confidence that I have in my abilities.
With a mentor session, often over Slack or Zoom, if you put the energy in, the right mentor will give it back tenfold. Preparation is key . Mentors can only help you if you have something to show. Have your questions ready, project materials prepared, and listening ears ready to get the most out of the session. If mentorship is not available to you, find someone online in the tech industry with a story and learning path that you relate to and follow their socials. For me, it’s web developer Sarah Drasner. Discovering her in my first few weeks of coding helped my brain to click with why I was doing this. Studying the content she has made and the webinars she has produced has been invaluable.
As someone who never really took to social media, I was unsure of Slack when I first started using it for my boot camp. Within days of jumping in, I had learned so much. Knowledge is not a victim of gatekeeping in the tech world and this is evident in the Code Institute community. Both fellow students and alumni welcome all types of questions and queries and are eager to both help others and learn from others. Don’t be afraid to make a post when you are stuck and remember to give back when you can. There is always a newbie following behind you. Skills and tips are shared happily and familiar faces say ‘Good Morning!’ when you start your day’s work. I have seen the same warm reception in the Codú Discord community and I am sure there are many more out there, it’s just a matter of finding the right one for you. Working and learning from home has its advantages but don’t underestimate the power of human interaction and networking on your coding journey.
Stand-Ups & Webinars
One of my favourite new activities has been to participate in Stand-Ups and Webinars. They have helped to keep me on track with my projects and are great for checking in with other people who are at different stages of their learning. They also help you to gain perspective on what is achievable for the future. Don’t be afraid to turn on your camera and microphone and interact with people and the content. The more you do it, the easier it gets and it will grow the skills you need for your future working environment. Having great interpersonal skills can help you to stand out to employers.
I could spend all day linking valuable resources that I have come across since I started coding but there are a few that I have pinned as permanent tabs and are used daily. I always back up my learning with W3Schools and MDN Web Docs. W3Schools is a one-stop resource for the most popular programming languages. Content is displayed and explained simply with no fuss and is followed by practicable examples to strengthen your skills. Quizzes and tutorials are available at no cost to the user and provide a fantastic foundation for your new skills to grow from.
For queries that require a little more context, Stackoverflow is a solution goldmine for bugs that have been squashed by others before and have somehow now made it into your code.
This is only a snippet of what is available to you online and to get started a snippet is all you need. Information overload is a real thing and scrolling countless tutorials and videos can leave you over-encumbered and unsure of which direction you were heading. Connect with people, share your experiences, and help those following behind you. If all else fails, grab yourself a rubber duck and talk out the issue, guaranteed judgment-free zone and a cute desktop mascot in one!