Jacob Packert

You should probably learn to code. Here is how I (kind of) did.

Learning to code has been the best investment, I’ve made in myself.

April 08, 2017

I started out with Codecademy to learn basic syntax. The last couple of years I’ve been using Codeschool.com, which offers far more advanced material and gives you a deeper understanding for solving problems with code.

Codeschool consists of short videos, that introduce concepts and functions in a specific programming language, followed by challenges where you write all the code necessary to solve the specific problem. It can be difficult, but it’s fun and very educational. Even for a guy like me with no programming background at all.

I wouldn’t call myself a programmer. But gaining a knowledge of programming or scripting languages like Javascript, HTML and CSS as well as devtools and databases, makes it much easier to understand the language, the internet is woven of. And this again makes it easier to consult clients on digital opportunities and makes it possible to build digital solutions such as landingpages, basic webapps, chatbots and dynamic bannerads in collaboration with the skilled developers in my company.

I highly recommend it to everyone who want to learn something new: learn to code. Try Codecademy or Codeschool or something else (Treehouse, Lynda, Pluralsight or maybe attend a local codecamp).

There are so many ways of working with code that it can be hard finding the ‘right one’ to start. My own journey hasn’t exactly been straightforward:

I learned a little HTML and CSS through side projects like my former blog, where it was nice to be able to edit the HTML directly for full control of the text. And through a former job, where it was really helpful for stuff like embedding Youtube-videos or Google Maps in an article.

I wanted to learn R to work with statistics for my political science degree. R is apparently not that easy, and some articles said that it would be a good idea to learn a more general programming language like Python or Ruby. I’ve heard about Ruby and Ruby on Rails, and at that time it was a very popular language used to build services such as the original Twitter and the project management software Basecamp. I spent a pretty long time taking learning basic Ruby and took the Rails for Zombies course on Codeschool followed by the Rails Tutorial. And I guess it was about here I hit a wall and at the same time realized there was something called Javascript that was way easier work with. From there, I started taking a lot of Codeschool courses on Javascript and the jQuery framework, and I’m going to continue to dig deeper at Javascript as well as the the Node.js framework (which lets you run a webserver written entirely in Javascript) and the React.js framework (which apparently is all the hype right now). I also want to learn more about Git and version control as well as SQL- and NoSQL-databases. I might even learn some more CSS, even though I don’t enjoy it very much.

So yeah — not a very straight path for me. I wish someone would have given me a curriculum. But then on the other hand, web development changes so fast, so there is never really a point where you’re fully done.

My advice would be to start out with HTML/CSS, Javascript or maybe Python. Those are good and relatively easy languages to learn and get results with and very widely supported in the community with great tutorials and lots of people to help.

Don’t get discouraged just because it gets hard or it seems overwhelming. The most important thing is just to get going and keep at it.

There is no ‘right’ way of being a developer. Everyone uses Google all the time to look stuff up, because it’s impossible to remember an entire programming language. Everyone uses Stackoverflow, because someone has probably run into the same problem as you before. And don’t get embarrased by your progress or projects. Reid Hoffman, founder og LinkedIn, once stated that“if you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product you’ve launched too late”.

Making something just to learn from the process is one of the best ways of learning. And even the best people sometimes just hack stuff together until it works, even though the code could be prettier. Remember, bugs exist in the real world too (even in million dollar companies).

As I stated, I wouldn’t call myself a programmer. And maybe I shouldn’t be the one to give advice on how to learn programming, since I can only do relatively basic stuff at this point. But I wanted to share my experience and my excitement on learning to code. It gives me so many new opportunities, and knowing how to make computers do stuff for you will continue to be a valuable skill in the future.

Learning to code is the best superpower, you can give yourself. Now go get started — and have fun!

Written by Jacob Packert
I write about the Internet, tech, code and design.
Lead Engineer at DR, The Danish Broadcasting Corporation

© 2022, Built with Gatsby, Netlify and 🧡 in lovely Copenhagen.