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15 Tips from Pro Developers for Programming Beginners

This guest contribution was written by Alex Yelenevych, CMO & Co-founder at CodeGym.

The global technology industry keeps growing at an incredible pace, seemingly unstoppable and immune to road bumps other economic sectors are suffering from. Even the mighty COVID-19 crisis didn’t manage to stop the soaring tech industry as it managed to grow in 2020 and is now on a path to reach $5 trillion by the end of 2021, which would indicate a 4.2% per year growth trend.

Alex Yelenevych, CMO & Co-founder at CodeGym
Alex Yelenevych (Image: CodeGym)

As the tech market keeps expanding, its appetite for talent is growing as well. Tech businesses worldwide are hungry for qualified software engineers, and this increasing demand stimulates more and more people to learn to program and join the profession. It is estimated that today there are around 24 million software developers around the world, and this number will grow to 28.7 million by 2024.

Demand for software developers is accelerating

People all around the world are choosing software development as their profession. In terms of growth in the number of software developers, the Asia Pacific region shows the strongest development, which is mainly attributed to countries like China and India. China is the top nation for annual developer population growth, while India’s pool of programmers is expected to overtake the United States by 2023.

But even this will not be enough, as the number of jobs in the tech industry is growing faster than the developer population. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that the number of jobs in computer and information technology occupations in the U.S. would grow 11 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Also interesting: Here Are 8-Bits of Advice for New Programmers [Video]

When rising demand outstrips the growth of the developer population, it makes a great employee market. So it’s no wonder so many people today are already learning how to code or just considering this career path for the future. But as much as can be done to make this knowledge easy and accessible, software development is a demanding discipline. It is typical for beginners to hit multiple road bumps on the way to becoming professional software developers.

15 programming tips that you might benefit from

Recently I conducted a survey of well-known software development experts and industry influencers, asking them to share the most valuable advice and guidance they can give to programming beginners. I compiled this list of the most essential and valuable recommendations for coding beginners based on what they have told me.

1. Practice is the key

It should come as no surprise that number one advice from most of the experts I surveyed was to practice as much as possible. All the best and proven online programming courses are practice-focused, as this is the way to teach people how to code with utmost effectiveness.

Quote Practice writing code as much as possible Erik Hellman
Image: Mohammad Rahmani / Unsplash

“Practice writing code as much as possible. Do all codelabs and tutorials you can find,” recommends Erik Hellman, mobile programming expert and the author of ‘Android Programming: Pushing the Limits.’

Javin Paul, a renowned Java blogger, has pretty much the same recommendation to give: “Code daily, read blogs and books, and do projects.”

2. Don’t get trapped in theory-learning.

Learning theory is the second crucially important component of learning how to code after practicing. And even though the theory is important, beginners often make the mistake of devoting too much time and effort to reading tutorials without enough practice.

“Try to avoid the tutorial trap." - Karolina Sowinska
Image: Roman Synkevych / Unsplash

“Try to avoid the tutorial trap. Doing structured courses and tutorials is obviously very useful at the beginning, but eventually, you must start building the real thing,” recommends Karolina Sowinska, an experienced software developer, and tech industry influencer.

3. Join a community of developers

Social communication is also an important factor in learning how to code. This is why it is highly recommended to find yourself a community of developers that you can join to ask questions, discuss programming-related topics and support each other. These communities can be both offline, which is always better for establishing personal relationships and contact with others, and online. Codegym, for instance, has a Java developers community, where our users can discuss everything about Java software development.

"Trends come and go, so the responsibility of every developer is to follow current trends and those on the horizon. They need to find an environment or group where they can be discussed,” - Ken Fogel
Image: Le Wagon / Unsplash

“Programmers love to debate methodologies and trends. Is OOP dead? Are scripting languages the future? Is functional programming just cycling back to structured programming? A beginner should immerse themselves in the community associated with the language or environment they are working in. They should join user groups. A beginner needs to know the pulse of the industry. This year it’s functional programming and, much to my regret, untyped languages. Trends come and go, so the responsibility of every developer is to follow current trends and those on the horizon. They need to find an environment or group where they can be discussed,” explains Ken Fogel, Java expert and Computer Science Technology Professor at Dawson College, Canada.

“Find a community of developers where you feel comfortable asking questions. Don’t worry if you feel your question might be too simple. You’ll get past that quite soon,” adds Erik Hellman.

4. Learn to search for and find the solutions

Being able to search and find solutions to your programming problems and ways to solve coding challenges is almost half the success when it comes to software development. Even if you are lacking technical knowledge or skills, searching can be that meta-skill that will get you through the difficulties of professional programming. 

"Many like to say that programmers are just professional googlers. I would take that as a compliment." - Ken Fogel
Image: Solen Feyissa / Unsplash

“Many like to say that programmers are just professional googlers. I would take that as a compliment. How you use what you learn is what defines you as a professional rather than a duffer,” said Ken Fogel.

Related story: Which Programming Language Should You Learn First? [Flowchart]

Erik Hellman also thinks searching is the key: “Learn how to search for solutions. Even if you know the answer to something, google it and see what else comes up to compare.”

5. Take the time to stop and celebrate a new milestone

Even though to become a professional programmer, you will most likely have to push yourself pretty hard. You should also know when to let it go, relax and celebrate a new milestone in this journey, even if it isn’t a big one.

"Often we are so afraid that we want to be a hundred percent ready, and that’s a really poor attitude to have in our field." - Dylan Israel
Image: Annie Spratt / Unsplash

At least, this is what Dylan Israel, a senior frontend engineer, coding mentor, and YouTube blogger, recommends to programming beginners. “The first piece of advice I would have is: celebrate your mini-milestones. When you learn something new, appreciate that you spent the time to learn something new; when you build something, appreciate that you built something and challenge yourself. Often we are so afraid that we want to be a hundred percent ready, and that’s a really poor attitude to have in our field because you are never going to know everything. You are never going to be a hundred percent ready. So be afraid and do it anyhow,” he told me.

6. Start applying for jobs and doing interviews early

When it comes to applying for actual programming jobs and having job interviews, it makes sense to start doing that as early as possible, even if you don’t feel ready for it yet. The fact is, jobs for software developers always have a lot of requirements, and feeling a bit under-qualified when you are reading them is quite normal for beginners. But that shouldn’t stop you from actively trying to get them.

"Get out of your comfort zone, be afraid and do it anyhow." - Dylan Israel - Programming Coding Dev Tips
Image: Fernando Hernandez / Unsplash

“When you’re applying for a job, and you only meet about 50 percent of requirements, apply, see it start interviewing way earlier, get out of your comfort zone, be afraid and do it anyhow. This is something I want you to remember because that is the thing that will propel you faster. That’s the thing that will make you grow. More growth is challenging. It’s difficult, it’s stressful, but like anything else, when you grow, you get better, and you’ll be a better programmer in the long term,” said Dylan Israel.

7. Follow your passion more

Another good piece of advice when it comes to applying for jobs in software development is to follow your interests and intuition instead of making choices based on current trends or a potential salary size. Being genuinely interested and passionate about what you do will be extremely helpful along the way, keeping your motivation high and giving you the strength to go on.

"Follow your passions right now, don't think of it as the final decision for the rest of your career though." - Masha Zvereva - Programming Coding Dev Tips
Image: This Is Engineering / Unsplash

“The most frequent advice I hear from experienced software developers is to follow your passion when it comes to choosing the direction in which you want to take your career. You’re going to spend a large proportion of your life working, so you want to make sure that this activity still lights you up and motivates you when things get tough. And you want to enjoy your day-to-day life in general, so take your time to identify the best pathway forward for you right now – don’t just follow the path that pays the best, for example. Follow your passions right now, don’t think of it as the final decision for the rest of your career though. The beauty of tech is that you can grow in different directions later and switch fields pretty easily as you gain experience,” recommends Masha Zvereva, an entrepreneur and the founder of Coding Blonde blog.

8. Take time to learn fundamentals

Even though the practice-first approach is highly advisable when it comes to learning how to code, you shouldn’t neglect fundamental knowledge and underestimate its importance. Knowing basic CS skills and disciplines, such as algorithms, computational thinking, data structures, and more will prove itself useful and help you advance faster.

"Investing time to understand the core concepts behind the technology we are using is crucial to stay relevant." - Markus Eisele - Programming Coding Dev Tips
Image: Nicole Wolf / Unsplash

“Our industry is constantly reinventing itself. We went from mainframes to pizza-style Intel servers to the cloud. We had bash scripts, continuous integration, and now GitHub actions. Investing time to understand the core concepts behind the technology we are using is crucial to stay relevant. Always aching to use the latest and greatest technology is not,” said Markus Eisele, a reputable Java expert and founder of JavaLand.

Vadim Savin, an experienced full-stack developer, and programming blogger has similar advice to give: “In times when there are more JavaScript frameworks than days in a year, it might be daunting to start learning and to know what exactly you should focus on. The FOMO (fear of missing out) is there even when you are a senior. There is no way to know everything in our industry. Focus on the fundamentals first and make sure you have a solid base. These are skills like problem-solving, algorithms and data structures, etc. When you have solid fundamentals, it is going to be pretty easy to pick any new trend that there might be.”

9. Learn several programming languages

Besides learning the basics of computer science and other fundamental disciplines, it would be a good idea to invest time into learning several programming languages, as it will help you understand how they are different from each other.

"Learn a few different programming languages to appreciate the differences and ecosystems." - Lukas Eder - Programming Coding Dev Tips
Image: Boitumelo Phetla / Unsplash

“While following the latest and greatest seems tempting, I think in the long run, those programmers who truly understand the basics will be in higher demand than the ones that followed marketing. This includes learning data structures and algorithms. No need to be an expert but also understanding them. Learn the relational model, normalization, SQL. Learn about programming paradigms, including imperative, object-oriented, functional programming. Learn a few different programming languages to appreciate the differences and ecosystems,” recommends Lukas Eder, renowned Java and SQL expert.

10. Embrace communication

Professional programming is almost always a team effort, so developing your communication skills and practicing them is also a part of the road to success.

"Embrace a different communication style." - Markus Eisele - Programming Coding Dev Tips
Image: Kelly Sikkema / Unsplash

This is what Markus Eisele has to share with us on the matter: “The number one lesson I learned when I became a developer was to embrace a different communication style. I met many new people, some of them very senior and experienced, and as you might expect, I wasn’t exactly seen as a productive part of the team because I was still learning. Don’t let yourself down over experiences like this. Read a little about the four-sides model and always remember that the most important part of being a programmer is to create valuable business solutions and put them into source code. This is a team effort.”

11. Learn to manage innovations and to change requirements

And here is another valuable insight from Markus Eisele, advising beginners to get used to ever-changing trends and requirements in the software industry as they are unavoidable, focusing on key skills and fundamental knowledge instead.

"Our toolbox grew massively over the last decade, and it will continue to do so. Learn to manage innovation and to change requirements as part of your technology portfolio." - Markus Eisele - Programming Coding Dev Tips
Image: Eric Wendt / Unsplash

“Think about the functional and non-functional requirements that exist and map them to the technologies you think could be a good fit. Our toolbox grew massively over the last decade, and it will continue to do so. Learn to manage innovation and to change requirements as part of your technology portfolio,” he said.

12. Learn to plan your work

Being able to think strategically and plan your work ahead is another important skill for a software developer. Experimenting and looking for new ways to solve existing problems is also a part of it.

"Programming profession is akin to experimental science." - Ken Fogel - Programming Coding Dev Tips
Image: Bill Oxford / Unsplash

“I tell anyone who asks about being a programmer that this profession is akin to experimental science. If you enjoy learning how something works and if you like to run experiments to further your understanding, then you should consider becoming a programmer. You should also be an organizer of whatever work you do now. You need to be able to plan out your work before you start,” said Ken Fogel.

13. Prepare to learn all the time

Another trait that makes a really good and successful software engineer is learning all the time throughout the career. So if you want to be one, better prepare yourself that learning will never stop.

"Being a programmer means a lifelong commitment to learning." - Ken Fogel - Programming Coding Dev Tips
Image: Dmitry Ratushny / Unsplash

As Ken Fogel has put it, “Being a programmer means a lifelong commitment to learning. It is likely that every project you work on will require you to learn a new skill or technique.”

14. Stay consistent and don’t give up

And of course, it is always good advice to view programming as a long journey because it is and it will take many steps, with all sorts of trouble and challenges along the way. And if you want to make it, you better stay consistent and don’t let road bumps stop you.

"Learning programming is a marathon, not a sprint." - Saldina Nurak - Programming Coding Dev Tips
Image: Fitsum Admasu / Unsplash

“This is a very broad industry, and it is very easy to get lost in the ocean of information and possibilities, so my advice is to look for something that you really like. That will help you to stay motivated and enjoy what you’re doing. You can make applications for medicine, music, art, science, sports, games, fitness, anything you can think of. You can change and affect other people’s lives with your work. You can earn a lot of money and become famous as a programmer, but you’ll have to be consistent because learning programming is a marathon, not a sprint. You didn’t learn to walk when you made your first step, and you didn’t learn to talk when you said your first word. The same applies to learning programming – stay consistent and don’t give up because of many – and there will be many – obstacles that you come across.” said Saldina Nurak, a software engineer and YouTube blogger.

15. Try to have fun along the way

But even if it is difficult sometimes, no one said that software development should be a somber journey. There are many opportunities to enjoy it and have fun along the way, and you are strongly advised to do exactly that.

"Stay smart. Be proactive about the way you learn, and always try and make it fun. Keeping it fun will keep you motivated, and motivation builds success." - Filip Grebowski - Programming Coding Dev Tips
Image: Brooke Cagle / Unsplash

“Stay smart. Be proactive about the way you learn, and always try and make it fun. Keeping it fun will keep you motivated, and motivation builds success. Once you learn the fundamentals, it’s important to pick something you enjoy, whether it is frontend, backend, or, more specifically, a tech stack that you enjoy. Then explore all of it,” recommends Filip Grebowski, an experienced software engineer and the creator of popular programming tutorials on YouTube.

Conclusion

These are fifteen fundamental recommendations that multiple experts found to be the most essential and valuable for programming beginners. You can use them as a set of strategic guidelines to becoming a professional software developer. And I hope that these tips will help you to avoid hurtful mistakes and unexpected traps along the way, making this journey easier and increasingly filled with excitement rather than struggle.

This guest article has been submitted by Alex Yelenevych. Thanks for your contribution, Alex! If you want to learn more you can also check out the video below by Andy Sterkowitz.


YouTube: Q&A – Advice for a complete beginner to programming? (Andy Sterkowitz)

Photo credit: The feature image has been done by This Is Engineering. All other works are credited directly under the image throughout the article.
Source: CompTIA report “IT Industry Outlook 2021” / Shanhong Liu (Statista) / US Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections
Editorial notice: Parts of the interviews and quotes were condensed for clarity. The views of the author do not necessarily reflect the view of TechAcute.

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