Monday Musings, 44: "I'm Learning How to Code and You Should Too"

I make my living as a marketer, using content, advertising, and other digital and offline tactics and strategies to help promote products and services and grow companies. But I’m also interested in how things work and how they’re built, specifically software, apps, and websites.

Since I was kid, I always loved to play with computers and software. Case in point, around the year 2000, I owned a Compaq Presario pre-installed with Windows 98. In 2001, Microsoft released their revolutionary operating system, Windows XP, something that I knew I had to have on my Compaq. Not fully understanding how operating systems and software worked, I thought I could copy the OS files from my friend's computer (which had Windows XP) onto a floppy disk and transfer them to my computer (which had Windows 98) and upgrade to Windows XP. That method obviously got me nowhere. I eventually managed to get a Hewlett-Packard computer pre-installed with Windows XP. That was just the beginning of my curiosity about computers, software, and the web.

This year, I'm taking my love for the web and technology a step further by learning how to code. It's something I've always wanted to do, but never fully committed to. Things are different this time around, as I now have the desire, motivation, confidence, and partial knowledge of programming languages, terms, and concepts to dedicate myself to improving my coding skills.

Why I'm Finally Taking The Plunge

Every day, I log on to Product Hunt and see a swarm of new features, products, and tools submitted for upvoting and commentary by the tech and startup community. I've been consistently impressed and inspired by what I've seen over the past few years. Not only are these products creative, some of them solve real issues that people face every day (some of them are borderline revolutionary for certain industries). As someone whose creative nature is and will always be a cornerstone of my personal and professional success, I'm motivated to get in on the tech product action and create something that potentially changes lives, helps people live or work better, makes me some money (to be honest), or just puts a smile on someone's face and makes them laugh.

I'm also intrigued by how I can become much more valuable to others (companies and individuals) by adding multiple programming languages to my repertoire of skills. I've worked and studied tirelessly over the past few years to build my breadth of knowledge when it comes to marketing. Adding multiple programming languages to my skillset is the icing on the cake and will lure many more opportunities my way. I'm always hungry to learn and grow, and coding is the obvious next step.

As someone whose creative nature is and will always be a cornerstone of my personal and professional success, I’m motivated to get in on the tech product action and create something that potentially changes lives, helps people live or work better, makes me some money (to be honest), or just puts a smile on someone’s face and makes them laugh.

Why You Should Learn How To Code

Computer programming is too important and accessible to ignore. Some of the most revolutionary and advanced companies in our society are salivating for new developers and engineers, but are finding it difficult to find people with the appropriate skills. For example, Mark Zuckerberg once said, "Our policy at Facebook is literally to hire as many talented engineers as we can find. There just aren't enough people who are trained and have these skills today." This speaks to a larger problem in our education system, where only 40% of schools teach computer programming. Code.org is a great website to learn the current state of computer programming in our education system and what we can do to help current and future generations take full advantage of the technology.

But if you're contemplating coding as an adult, who is years into a career, just know that coding isn't the mythical skill you may think it is. There's a misperception that coding is hard to learn and only a select few can learn it and subsequently build something great. That's far from true. We all have the ability and the affordable (and sometimes free) resources to learn how to code. It's essential that we prioritize this in our personal lives, professional lives, businesses, and education system.

How I'm Doing It

Codecademy's Full Stack Path, available to Codecademy Pro users

Codecademy's Full Stack Path, available to Codecademy Pro users

Instead of continually dabbling into the source code of every website I can find (which I'm still going to do), I've signed up for Codecademy Pro ($19.99 per month) to put myself on a structured path filled with lessons, quizzes, and projects. I'll also be doing my usual reading and Googling of things that may not be so clear. My plan is to learn front-end development, create a web tool in May (idea is top secret), and then move to back-end development, and create a web application by the end of the year. Here's what I'm going to be learning over the next few months:

  • HTML (I know this pretty well already)
  • CSS
  • JavaScript
  • jQuery
  • AngularJS
  • Ruby and Ruby on Rails
  • SQL (A key language to learn for marketing and business)
  • PHP (Those WordPress themes, though)

Here are some tools I've downloaded/signed up for so far to help me practice and build my first web tool:

  • Adobe Brackets (Code editor #1)
  • Atom (Code editor #2)
  • Codecademy (What I'm using to beef up my knowledge)
  • CodePen (A cool place to create, share, and discover front-end creations)
  • GitHub (I mostly use this for work, but I'll now use it more often for personal projects)
  • Web Maker Chrome Extension (A tool that allows you to work on code offline)

If you have any tool or resource recommendations, feel free to add them in the comments below.

So there it is, folks. I’m putting my hat in the basket and going all in. I'm aware of the reality that I won't be a pro over the night. It's going to take a lot of practice, Googling (it's a verb now, deal with it), asking around in communities, and creating shitty products. But I'm ready for the challenge. And if you know me, you know that I always do what I say I'm going to do. Stay tuned for my first web tool in May!