Growing up I was never very interested in computers or coding or even video games. I didn’t own a computer until I moved out on my own, back in 2000. As years went by I would lament over the fact that I couldn’t code like a lot of my friends (and my family, my Dad is an Oracle programmer) and I started resigning myself to the fact that it was something that I’d never be able to do. Sure, I learned some basic HTML like everyone else who used forums and wanted to format some stuff, but nothing further.
I think it’s really important to keep learning things as you grow up, it keeps us from being stagnant. With a new kid I don’t have a lot of spare time but I wanted to make good use of the small amount of time that I did have. I still wanted to learn how to code, but I had absolutely no idea where to start or what language to learn – there are so many! I asked on twitter for some help from friends and they came through in a big way offering all sorts of advice.
One of the best pieces of advice was to take a look at freeCodeCamp.org. It’s a learning tool that teaches you how to code in a bunch of different languages and they offer you certificates for passing their courses. Each certificate they offer takes 200+ hours, depending on your speed. Not only that, but their ‘camp’ helps non-profit organizations. You take the stuff you’ve learned and apply it to real life situations; in this case that means creating apps for non-profits to use. So not only are you learning how to code (for free) you’re helping out some fine folks who need it, and your stuff is actually being used. I signed up, got a GitHub account attached, and started on the first lesson (which you can see part of above in my screenshot, the left hand side is my instructions, the center is my code, and the right hand side is the result).
They start you out with very basic HTML and then move to CSS. I’ve done 19 of the challenges so far, and as you progress they hold your hand less and less. You can “ask for a hint” which takes you to their forums where you can interact with other students and help each other along with your code. They encourage community and local study groups which I think is fantastic. No, I’m not doing very complicated things (yet) but I’ll get there. I can learn at my own pace, on my own time. I feel like I’m doing something constructive with the limited spare time I have. Eventually, I may even be able to get a job with my new skill set, even if it takes a few years.
This is something that’s really important to me, and near and dear to my heart. As such, I’ve decided to do a weekly coding blog post, where I talk about what I’m working on and where I am in the program. I’m hoping it’ll be a motivational tool for those who think that they’re too old to learn or don’t have the time. A sort of “hell if I can do it, anyone can do it” example. I’m also INCREDIBLY excited and proud of myself. This is something I never thought I’d be able to do and here I am. I know it’ll take some time, but I’ll get there.