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10 Tips for Getting into Software Development

Man coding on a laptop.

Learn Software Development

In celebration of National Coding Week for Adults, we asked one of our Software Development Trainees, Josh, to give us his top 10 tips for those considering to start coding.

Article updated 4 June 2020

1. Getting into software development

The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago, the second best time is now - Chinese proverb. If you are anything like how I used to be, you have always been curious about how programming works. You might have even googled it a few times but never taken the next step into finding out how to code and how it works. Perhaps, you’ve never imagined yourself as a coder but possess some of the skills you need to start a career in software development, such as creativity, logical thinking and problem solving. The truth is, you don't need a background in technology or to do lots of research before you begin the basics. If you’re passionate about tech, my advice is to stop stalling and get started!

2. Choose a technology

It’s not uncommon for people to struggle deciding which programming language to learn when first getting into software development. Just remember, when it comes to choosing a technology, there are no right answers, no superior programming languages and nothing is permanent. Once you’ve mastered one language, it’s not so difficult to transition to a new one. Admittedly, some languages will be easier to learn than others and, likewise, you’ll be able to find solutions for some more easily since they are more common (Java, C#, Python and JavaScript, for example). Personally, I think the most important factor to consider when choosing a speciality is why you want to code. At the end of the day, if you genuinely find a language or technology that you are passionate about, then you are going to code better so go with whatever works best for you. This will make getting into software development much easier. I’d say the easiest language to start with is Python; it is the most commonly used language nowadays and great for beginners because of its readability.

3. Build an environment

Once you start coding, you’ll begin spending your time looking at different integrated coding environments (IDE’s). An IDE enables coders to write computer programs in a single application . IDE’s make coding easier and tell you where you are going wrong.  I recommend you download a few different options, play around with them and see which one sticks. Then, what I find helps is to customise and personalise them: change the colour, layout, design, until you love your setup.

4. Keep it simple

When learning to code, it’s so important that you don’t just stick to the books. Put what you have learned into practice in order to put your skills to the test. Not only will this help you develop your skills but will make a great impression on future employers. When you first start out, it’s always best to keep it simple. It’s best to look up some easy projects first, to keep it light and stress free while you’re still learning, and this will keep you motivated- walk before you can run!

5. Finding a coding course

You can find many online coding resources and apps to help teach yourself coding skills and see if coding is the right thing for you. There are loads of free options such as Code Academy, HackerRank or SoloLearn. Using these, it’s super easy to get to grips with the basics. The best part is you can rewind it, pause it, start over and take learning software development at your own pace.

6. The internet is your friend

As a software developer, you need creative problem solving skills however, you’ll soon find that it is highly likely someone else has come across the same issues or made the same mistakes as you, and found the solution. Sometimes, all you need to do is ask a question on a forum, like Stack Overflow, to find the answers. These online communities are all brilliant resources where you can make the most of everyone else’s experience and learn from each other. When becoming a software developer, it is important to learn how to read other people’s code. The internet is a great place to do this. Check out GitHub repositories, where a large community of developers share their work; it’s a  great learning resource for newbies. I don’t mean have a skim; you need to select a few and study them at length to really understand how the programme works and put it into practice for yourself.

7. Figure out what you want to build and how you want to do it

So, you need to put your learnings into practice but how do you begin? It doesn’t matter what kind of software you want to build, it can be anything, but you should always start by working out what needs to be included in the project to make it work. Perhaps, create a list of everything you need to learn and prioritise it as it will make it easier to break your project up than trying to do everything at once! Some common beginner programming projects include: making your own chess game, building your own calculator, a weight conversion tool or a basic HTML5 Website. Why not give one of these a go?

8. Stay positive when you make a mistake

Just like anything else, you’re not going to be an expert when you start. You will make mistakes but they are crucial to learning. Don’t let mistakes get you down or get in the way of your progress. One of the hardest parts to getting into software development is overcoming problems but if you keep going then you will do great!

9. Find a couple of free books online

One of the best ways to expand your coding knowledge and gain a few nifty skills and habits to help you in your career is to read around the subject. Why not take some learnings from some of the world's programming experts and check out 97 Things every programmer should know or Zero Bugs and Program Faster? If these don't take your fancy, have a search online because there is so much useful material out there for you to explore.

10. Speak to other programmers – it’s always more fun with friends

As with anything, it is always more fun when you speak to people who are as passionate about something as you are. One of the most valuable things I experienced when I started software development is that the developer community is crazy-friendly! You can easily find like-minded people, those who can be your mentors, be your support system, that you want to code with and who you can get really nerdy with about all things code!

So, what do you say? Is coding for you? Apply to FDM's software development programme online today and you can turn your passion into a career.

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