How Do I “Start” Coding?

Remember that Loverboy song from the 80s that had that line “you better start from the start”? I always thought that was a dumb line… Anyway, people often ask me how to “start” coding. There is no “one size fits all” approach to starting to code, but here are a few possible entries into the exciting and rewarding world of searching for hours for a missing comma or an unmatched bracket.

Have fun with a simple app.

Grasshopper and Code Monster are two incredibly satisfying and accessible entries into programming, and are appropriate for any age/experience level. Grasshopper takes a point/click approach as a grasshopper helps you draw colored boxes and encourages you along the way. Code Monster is syntax-based and, while it starts out simple enough, gets into the weeds pretty quick. Both start with basic Javascript commands and introduce basic programming concepts like variables, loops, functions, etc. The thing I really like about this approach is the time investment is very small, and after a few minutes you have a pretty good idea of whether or not you really want to learn how to code.

Take an introduction course or bootcamp.

Some people learn best in a guided course with instructors and explanations and quizzes, tests, resources. The good news is there are a LOT of online schools with pretty robust curriculums (Coursera, DataCamp, Udemy, Udacity, to name a few). The important thing here is to not worry TOO much about which language to start with. Just pick one and get started. This article may be helpful for those people who like the structure of a course and want to try out their code legs (is that a thing? that should be a thing…). Also, almost all of the sites I mentioned above offer free entry-level courses, hoping you’ll enjoy their approach and sign up for paid access to the intermediate courses.

Grab some data and get started.

Find a topic you care about…say…soccer, or types of fish, or movies…whatever. Download the data into an R or Python environment and start doing stuff. Start with simple questions like “what is the min/max/mean/median value of this column?” or “how many missing values do I have?” or other exploratory questions. Then move on to things like “what other data sets can I bring in and join?” or “can I build an app or report that collects all of these insights?”

Watch the experts and follow along (or don’t).

One thing I always enjoy is watching people who are really good at what they do. Whether you’re into R, Python, Java, or any other language/software, there are videos where you can watch and even follow along as the pros code.

No matter how you get started, the most important of getting into programming (or anything) is figuring out what you want to get out of it. Is this a hobby? Or a career? Or a new skillset in your existing career? Knowing how to answer that question (as well as your personal learning style) might help you determine which approach is the best for you. Happy coding!




data whisperer, beach bum, guitar slinger, beer drinker, leo, horse, list maker, uplifting gormandizer, futbol fan, je suis batman, dad jokes, reds, wolfpack

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Nick Pylypiw

Nick Pylypiw

data whisperer, beach bum, guitar slinger, beer drinker, leo, horse, list maker, uplifting gormandizer, futbol fan, je suis batman, dad jokes, reds, wolfpack

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