I’ve learned a lot from picking up how to code. It goes without saying that I’ve learned new skills in web development, problem solving, and even, learning how to learn.
While the first year will always feel the most eye-opening (and confusing), I think the biggest changes have come in the past year. Coding has ultimately changed the way I think. It has taught me new habits and given me new ways to leverage technology. I always said that, “the worst thing that could happen is that I would learn a new skill”. Well, the boat certainly sailed that direction.
It’s nice to feel like I’ve reached that special tipping point. Even if I walk away from this field now, I have transferable skills that completely change the way I think and how I apply myself in the future.
So what have I learned besides the obvious? Well, I’m glad you asked! Here’s another top 5 because well.. I can only do lists with 5 things on it.
1. Automate anything you can
Lots of code that is written involves automation; everything from server configurations, deployment to extracting data relates to automation. Anytime I do something tedious or repetitive, I now think to myself, can I automate this? Will I need to do this again in the future? In other words, can I write myself a script to do it a lot quicker now and in the future. Even if I don’t write it myself, I’m infinitely more aware that someone has probably solved a similar problem, making me much more likely to go looking for such a solution. Nowadays, If I do something more than two times, alarm bells start going off now. Sometimes it’s a trade-off between investing in automation and waiting until the annoyance level is greater than the time spent. Nonetheless, coding has taught me to automate as much as possible.
2. Use typical code tools outside of coding
A perfect example of using typical “coding tools” outside of code is something like version control (e.g. Git). I fricken love Git. It’s probably one of my favourite tools in development. While tools such as Dropbox offer cloud syncing and some history tracking, Git allows me total control of recording my history and backtracking as needed. While it doesn’t track everything, there are still lots of use cases with tracking documents, especially when we’re concerned with pure content changes. Another example might be using scripts to handle importing records or manipulating repetitive data. Coding taught me to think more creatively about uses outside the world of development.
3. Read the documentation
Documentation is essentially instructions and most people tend to dislike instructions. In fact, the stereotype of guys is that we don’t read instructions; we will “figure it out” because we are “just that smart”. When it comes to code, it’s time to check that ego. Documentation isn’t the most exciting thing, but quite often, it has 90% of what you need. When I’m in a rush to find an answer, I do tend to skim more than read, but when I have extra time, it’s always good to read about how to get full functionality out of your tools, libraries and everything in-between. Coding has taught me to RTFD – read the fucken documentation.
4. Document yourself
Following up on point 3, I think it’s equally important to learn the skill of documenting yourself. Whether it’s for your own project or for others, there is a good chance you will forget key steps or information that only you may know. To save future you and others from struggling to “figure it out”, do everyone a favour and document at least the bare minimum (e.g. Getting started). I’m decently good at documenting as needed but coding taught me that documenting should be essential.
5. Stay modest and humble while learning
The more you know, the more you realize how much there is to know; it’s the roller coaster challenge that you embark upon in coding. As you venture further into this world, I think one of the biggest traits to keep in check is to have a sense of modesty and humility as you grow in skill and knowledge. Regardless of your level, you should never feel that you can’t learn something or receive advice from someone. I suppose the attitude is to consider yourself a life long student; good advice for any profession I imagine. Coding constantly reminds me to stay modest, even as I have transitioned into positions of teaching and mentorship.
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