When you’re taking introductory programming classes in college you have a ton of information to take in at once. I suppose this is why many instructors leave out the good stuff; the stuff that would make your life and all of those assignments ten times easier… So here is my list of tips for beginners:
1) Begin in your native OS. Trying to figure out a bunch of hoopla to get your tools installed correctly in unfamiliar territory is asking for a headache.
2) Do not try to code when you have a headache, are super tired, or impaired in any other way. Rest first, you need a well-functioning mind to produce good code.
3) IDE, baby! Integrated development environment. I love bare bones text editor and command prompt/terminal just as much as the next guy; but I am a bigger fan of efficiency and speed. Anything that can cut down time I spend developing is my friend. Less time with technology = more time with family = happy boyfriend and daughter. Employers are all about it too (of course)!
4) Know how to get information! Develop Google skills. I had no idea it was a skill to “Google something” until I took my first database class and learned aboutcorsera queries. Read this and this, then tell everyone you know to do the same. Otherwise you might soon be the person everyone who is lazy or not tech savvy asking you to do their research for them. (& trust me, that sucks.)
5) Find your niche. I know after your first hello world you will want to learn multiple languages, have a ton of projects, and just be so excited you can’t contain yourself! Stop. Learning a new language takes time. Eventually you can and will have a stack of languages under your belt, but it takes time. If you want to work as a programmer you need to figure out what you want to do, and what to learn now. There are many options (web development, databases, applications, software, the list goes on…) so do some research, find what interests you, and try to stick to that for a while.
6) If you’re in college, taking a programming class, or learning from a coding book from your library- beware! Most beginner books will give you steps to follow for assignments in order to get some practice. I have no idea why, but many of those will give them to you in crazy order where you don’t write your main method until step 5 and by then you have 13 lines of code. No main method, no compilation, no test, no run. You should be compiling and running your code every 2-3 lines. Do NOT attempt to write all of your code out then run it. If you’re doing exercises from books don’t be afraid to go out of order, you have to be able to run your code early on.
7) Learn as much as you can! We live in the world of information. Watch YouTube videos, get a learning app, check out online course sites like corsera and MIT’s open coursework. Even if you’re in school, they can only teach you so much. Learn all you can whenever you can.
8) Manage your time. Don’t do it unless you’re passionate about it. Developing takes a LOT of time. You really have to be devoted to it if you want to become a programmer.
9) Read, write, and review code. If you’re in school utilize your instructors. Learn as much as you can from their feedback and don’t be afraid to ask questions!
10) Code things for you and use them! Work on small projects (remember games and other big projects have many, many people working on them), don’t set yourself up for disappointment. Get involved. Join a user group if you have one in your area. Contribute to an open source project. Be active in forums. You will learn so much this way. And remember to always stay up to date!