We get asked a lot of questions, so we thought the easiest thing to do would be to compile them in a quick and easy FAQ. Click the links below to jump to a relevant section.
Can't find the answer you need? Feel free to contact us. Alternatively, Laurence will sometimes do ask me anything sessions ($). If you'd be interested in this, please email email@example.com with the subject line “Ask me anything”.
Table of Contents
- How do I figure out what to learn?
- Which programming language is the best to learn?
- Is it possible to do both graphic design and coding?
- Should I learn Python 2 or Python 3?
- Should learn skills in several areas, or focus on thing in particular? (+ some ideas on what to learn)
- Where should I learn to code?
- Where can I learn to code for free?
- Which Udemy courses do you recommend?
- Can you mentor me?
- How can I learn to build a mobile app?
- Which bootcamp should I pick?
- What’s the fastest way/shortcuts to learn to code?
- How can children learn to code?
- Where can you learn the basics of computer science?
- Where are the best places to learn front-end and back-end development?
- How can I learn tech skills as a woman?
- Are you aware of any bootcamps or companies that discount or pay for women to become trained?
- I find it hard to move past copying and pasting sections of code to get out of tutorials. How do I progress past this?
- What is the best way for me to learn about cybersecurity?
- How do you choose between two courses?
- Are bootcamps worth doing / should I do this course/bootcamp I found?
What to Learn
Q: How do I figure out what to learn?
The most important thing is that you want to learn something that interests you, because once you start learning, you’ll be with this topic for a while. Choosing something just because it’s popular or what others are doing isn’t the way to go because if you don’t have a true interest in it, you’ll lose the motivation to learn! Spend some time seriously looking into the different tech career paths before choosing one to go down.
As far as what will be in demand in the future—really, all tech careers will be. But in particular I'd say those relating to data science, AI, and cybersecurity will have a notable labor shortage in years to come, so if you have an interest in any of those, definitely go for it.
If you want to find out more about the various career paths available, head over and listen to the Learn to Code With Me podcast. This episode in particular covers this exact topic (and you might also want to check out his book!).
Q: Which programming language is the best to learn?
When it comes to deciding which language or technologies to learn, it all comes down to your end goals. I suggest you check out my interview with David Clinton to help you decide.
If you want to get into tech professionally, here's another tip: start by looking up dream job listings, see what skills/experience they're looking for, and then use that to reverse-engineer what you should learn.
Q: Is it possible to do both graphic design and coding?
If you have an interest in coding and graphic design, then there’s nothing to say you shouldn’t learn skills in both areas. They often work hand-in-hand, so having knowledge and skills in both areas could be desirable for certain career paths. You could also think about pursuing something in between like UI design, which is a very in-demand career right now!
In general, having design skills along with coding skills is helpful. But it's also okay to do one over the other. My advice would be to just get started! You can always change directions later… as long as you're changing directions to the final destination you're looking for!
Q: Should I learn Python 2 or Python 3?
Now, in 2018, it’s a no-brainer: Python 3 is definitely the way to go. There are still some situations where picking up Python 2 might be advantageous, or you may just want to learn a little of the history and the differences between Python 2 and 3 for curiosity's sake, but job-wise, Python 3 is the clear winner. Here’s a blog post that outlines the reasons why.
Q: Should learn skills in several areas, or focus on thing in particular?
Personally, I'd say choose a path and stick to it! Learning too many things at once will slow you down. Here are a few ideas of things you can choose to focus on, and a little bit about each one.
Data science is a good choice because it's a super lucrative area right now, and there are some great data specific bootcamps out there to help you learn (Metis or Springboard are a couple of examples). You could also consider Coursera specializations as a starting point. To get more hands-on experience once you’ve got some skills built up, you could look for a job where you can put them to good use.
Because data science is such a broad field, the best thing to do would be to spend some time researching it and finding out everything you need to know. Here are a few of my articles on Forbes that might be helpful:
- How to Jumpstart a Lucrative Career in Data Science
- Dr. Deborah Berebichez on Overcoming Barriers to Achievement for Women in STEM
- Everything You Should Know About Data Science: The Century's Hottest Career
If you’re thinking of transitioning into data science from an unrelated area or with no experience, it might be a little harder than with some other tech jobs, but it can be done. You’ll need to know exactly what area you want to go into, so taking online and in-person courses is essential.
As far as work experience goes, it’s a good idea to try to get a job as a data analyst or business analyst or related at first. It is less technical than a data scientist and will be a good starting point. You could even try and get some data-related responsibilities at your current workplace.
Here are a few podcast episodes that will definitely benefit you if you’re looking at starting a career in data science, especially as a complete newbie:
- S4E15: How to Teach Yourself Data Science
- S4E3: Learning Data Science as a Beginner
- S4E9: How to Become a Data Scientist Without a Degree
Data analysis basically involves sorting through massive amounts of information and collecting key insights from it. It’s important to note that data analysis and data science are not the same. Although they belong to the same family, data science is typically more advanced. That said, data analysis is often a great stepping stone if you want a career in data science.
To give yourself a good chance of landing a data analysis job, I suggest learning SQL and statistical techniques, as well as brushing up on your math (being great at math will help a lot.) To take it further, you could learn Python and/or R.
Ruby on Rails
UX is an interesting area because it can encompass a whole range of skills—all of which can be a career in themselves! It can include user research and usability testing, information architecture, interface design, and more. These areas can play a lot into other tech careers too, like product management, UI design and development, and of course UX-specific careers.
A big thing you should consider, though, is that UX-specific careers are hard to break into as a beginner. There aren’t a lot of companies looking for junior UX designers, or junior UI designers. Nonetheless, these skills could help you as a front-end developer, web designer, product manager, and more, so it really is a great area to pursue. Even if you don’t launch a career in UX specifically, having a background in it can make you a more credible candidate for other roles.
Where & How to Learn
Q: Where should I learn to code?
Check out my page about where you can learn.
You can also see some of my favorite tech tools here.
Q: Where can I learn to code for free?
One of my favorite resources is freeCodeCamp. They have thousands of videos, articles, and interactive coding lessons that are all freely available, so they’re definitely worth checking out.
You can also check out my article highlighting a bunch of places to learn to code for free.
Q: Which Udemy courses do you recommend?
See this article about the top Udemy courses to level up your web dev skills.
Q: Can you mentor me?
Unfortunately, I just don't have time to be a mentor to anyone at the moment, but you should look into Codementor.io and RookieUp, and check out this blog post on how to find a coding mentor at any stage in your career.
You might also like to try Learn to Code With Me Community, formerly Newbie Coder Warehouse, my Facebook group. It's a great community of people learning to code, where you can ask questions and get help with your projects and learning.
Q: How can I learn to build a mobile app?
Take a look at this article about app development courses.
Q: What’s the fastest way/shortcuts to learn to code?
To be a good programmer, there are no shortcuts. That is not the right way to think about it :)
Instead, you should take time mastering the fundamentals. This will help you in the long run. I recommend listening to this episode of the podcast about why it’s important to focus on the fundamentals first.
Learning to code isn’t something that can be rushed. It’s exactly the same as learning a new language. It takes time to master, but it’ll be worth it once you do.
Q: How can children learn to code?
Q: Where can you learn the basics of computer science?
Launch School has a prep course that teaches programming fundamentals. I highly suggest looking into it. It’ll give you a good insight into what there is to learn, and it’s completely free! Aside from that, MIT has some wonderful free intro-to-CS courses, and freeCodeCamp has great content on algorithms as well.
Q: Where are the best places to learn front-end and back-end development?
There are tons of online courses and useful resources on front-end and back-end development. Check out this in-depth guide about what it takes to be a front-end developer, the skills you’ll need, and the best places to learn. For back-end development, I recommend reading this one.
Q: How can I learn tech skills as a woman?
Meetup groups are one of the best places to go when you’re a woman learning tech skills. If you’re based in a city with meetup groups like Girl Develop It, definitely look into their workshops. I took a bunch of them early on when I first started learning and I loved them.
A couple more resources you can look at:
Q: Are you aware of any bootcamps or companies that give discounts or pay for women to become trained?
I’ve put together a list of a few places you can look at in this post. I am sure if you scour Google results, you’ll find other opportunities too that I didn’t include. Also, don’t be afraid to directly email a program that you’re interested in and ask if they offer any financial assistance. You might be missing out if you don’t ask!
Here are a few more resources that might help:
- 21 Places Where Women Can Learn How to Code
- The Most Epic Guide to Online Coding Bootcamps, Ever
- Is a Coding Bootcamp Worth It? 12 Questions You Need to Ask Yourself
Q: I find it hard to move past copying and pasting sections of code to get out of tutorials. How do I progress past this?
I know exactly what you mean. Honestly, the only thing you can do is keep practicing! Go off on your own (i.e. no copying and pasting but doing what you can from memory) slowly—everyone learns and remembers things at their own pace, so there’s no rush. Also, make sure you’re starting with very small projects rather than trying to dive into big ones.
These are some of the most common languages, and the ones that are most recommended as a starting point for people completely new to coding, so there’s a bunch of courses online to help you out.
What really matters most, though, is simply building things with your coding skills. Putting your skills into practice is the best way to learn “on the job”, so to speak. Check out my podcast interview with Alexander Kallaway, creator of #100daysofcode, where we talk about the best ways for beginners to learn how to code.
Q: What is the best way for me to learn about cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity is an in-demand and lucrative field, making it a great area to get into. I wrote all about how to pursue a career in cybersecurity in this guide, so that’s a good place to start. You should also this check out this Forbes article and my podcast interview about the various careers in security with Chris Wysopal.
Q: How do you choose between two courses?
It can be tough to choose between courses when they all look great! When looking at several courses, I would consider the “joblearn” approach—which course teaches the skills needed to get the jobs (or clients) you want?
If you’re not sure, think about what you want to do and the kind of work you want to pursue. Maybe try some free courses on the same subject to see if they pique your interest. Then, when you’re sure, you'll be more equipped to decide which course offers the right modules that you need to scale up your knowledge.
Q: Are bootcamps worth doing / how do I choose a good bootcamp?
The first thing I always suggest is to do your research and think about what you want from the experience. Bootcamps are a large investment of your time and money, so you need to make sure it’ll be worth it—and the only way you can know is if you do enough research. Here are a few things to get you started:
- Connect with previous students and ask questions. They’ll have first-hand experience, so they’re the best people to ask. Most people will be more than happy to help you out.
- If you’re looking at an in-person bootcamp, go to events hosted at the campus. This will give you a good opportunity to network and ask any questions you have.
- Research the instructors to find out who will be teaching you.
- Check that the bootcamp is legit. If it’s a scam, some quick Google research will easily reveal it.
It’s important to note that if you’re brand-new to coding (i.e. less than 3 months into your journey), you should take advantage of free/cheap resources before making such a big financial and time commitment, because what if you don’t like coding? Bootcamps tend to be for those who are set on that specific area becoming their career, so it’s best to try it on your own first and decide if it’s right for you. (If you need some help deciding if tech is right for you, listen to this podcast episode.)
Finally, check out these two articles:
- The Most Epic Guide to Online Coding Bootcamps, Ever
- Is a Coding Bootcamp Worth It? 12 Questions You Need to Ask Yourself
Q: I’m struggling. How do you stay motivated?
Remember everyone has to start somewhere. Oftentimes, people can be very hard on themselves when starting to learn anything new, especially coding. Just know that everyone has been in the same boat at some point, and you’re not alone.
Here are some articles and podcast episodes that might benefit you:
- How I stay motivated and fight self-doubt
- How to Stay Motivated as You Learn to Code (S5E4)
- How to Push Through a Coding Rut And Begin Loving Learning Again
Q: Am I too old to learn to code or consider a career in tech?
You’re not too old. I speak to people all the time learning in their 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond. If you need some encouragement, listen to my podcast interview with Kanika Tolver where we discussed tips for transitioning into tech later in life.
Need some more inspiration? Check out this article.
Q: Am I too young to learn to code or to consider a career in tech?
You’re never too young to start picking up new skills, but when it comes to picking something to learn full-time (like which classes to take at school, for instance), what's important is choosing projects that align with your career goals (if you have them already).
When I was 18, I had no clue what I wanted to do—and that is totally fine. If you’re in this position, you should begin to explore different industries and see if something stands out as enjoyable. You’ve got plenty of time to find something you’re passionate about, and getting hands-on experience in different areas is the best way to find out what that is. It took me multiple internships and related experience to find out that tech is what I really liked, so don't be overwhelmed or nervous. As long as you keep moving forward and don't stay stagnant, you're in good shape :)
Q: How can I build my confidence?
Learning to code can be quite a lonely thing if you’re doing it on your own, and if you don’t have someone there for pep talks, your confidence might fall. We’ve all experienced moments of doubts, and that’s OK. But there are a couple of things you can do to build your confidence back up again.
Something I do that really helps my confidence is my 5-minute journal. It's an exercise that encourages you to reflect on all you have to be grateful for, list what you’ll accomplish that day, and affirmations that help get you through the day.
Depending on what kind of person you are, you might find your own personal self-care routine to make yourself feel great. Positive self-talk is hugely important; other friends of mine find meditation really helps; others enjoy to write. Play around with different things and see what helps you!
Finally, you should watch this TED Talk on Power Posing if you haven’t already.
Q: I’m worried about picking the right path. How can I make sure I don’t?
You don’t have to stop learning when you finish college! There are many more opportunities for growth, taking courses, learning through a job, and more, so even if you do decide to follow a different path at first, the option to change it up and try something new is always there if you’re willing to put the work in.
Just go with what you enjoy right now and you can switch careers later. Don't stress out about picking a career right now if you’re worried you’ll focus on the wrong thing. Explore, discover what you love, and follow that route.
Q: How do I change my career?
If you’re worried that changing careers won’t be possible, think again. So many people have done it successfully and haven’t looked back! One tip is to leverage the skills you already have and combine them with your new tech skills, or as I like to call it, ‘passion mashing’. For example, if you have sales experience, or customer care experience, or basically any experience in any field that can be combined with your tech skills, you can search for careers that use both of them.
I’ve spoken with a lot of people who have transitioned from other careers into tech, and done it well. Here’s a huge list for you to work through…
- How to Get a Great Job in Tech Without a Background In Tech
- How to Keep Going When Transitioning Into Tech Gets Hard
- How to Make a Midlife Career Change Into Tech
- Getting Into Tech After a Career in Finance With Ventrice Lam
- Switching From Public Health to Web Development With Jade Applegate
- Librarian to Web Developer With Lisa Smith
- Violinist to Instructor Apprentice at Dev Bootcamp With Debbie Milburn
- Real Estate Agent to Software Engineer With Bryan Knight
- Teaching English in Korea to Fullstack Developer With Stephen Mayeux
- From Teacher to Github Employee With Briana Swift