Anna Akullian is the Program Manager of Part-Time Education at Hackbright Academy in San Francisco. Prior to working at Hackbright, she was an engineer at Schoolzilla, a teacher, a researcher at Children’s Hospital, Oakland, and a Hackbright fellow herself. When she’s not at Hackbright, you can find her hiking in the Berkeley Hills or biking around the city.
Coding is powerful. It should be in the hands of smart and critically thinking people like you! It’s a super-useful skill these days, whether you want to become a software engineer, or are just living in the world today and want to understand the jargon and how things work. So many things that we have and use today are based on code. People and policy, not technology, are the solution to the world’s systematic problems. But smart people who learn and understand coding can go out into the world to create and do important things.
If you know you want to code, but aren’t sure where to start, here are three steps to get rolling on a sure-to-succeed path.
Step 1: Watch this video
The Secret Rules of Modern Living: Algorithms is a 50-minute BBC documentary from 2015. It shows all the myriad ways, all the surprising places, that code now serves and influences our personal lives and society at large. Movies, travel, medicine — all these and more have been empowered by computerized math and logic we may not recognize when we look right at it.
You’ll come away much more aware of all the potential for understanding and building the world we are moving into.
Step 2: Spend 60 minutes with Python
Sign up for free at Codecademy, which hosts a free hands-on Python course that takes an estimated 13 hours to complete. (Look for the link to the course catalog to find the Python course, and to see the many paths a coding career can take. You don’t need to upgrade to the paid Pro membership.)
Why Python? Because it’s one of the most in-demand languages today in many areas of computing, from recreational websites to serious data science. That’s why it’s also the highest-paying language to know for new engineers. Once you’ve learned one programming language, learning others is much easier. So you might as well start with the one that currently maximizes your opportunities.
To avoid feeling overwhelmed, start with just one hour of the tutorial. You’ll get an overview of concepts, and you’ll write and run your first simple Python program. That will give you a basic idea of how code works, and what a software development environment looks like.
Slow and steady learning will get you where you want to be. You’ll be spending a lot more time playing with Python — a lot, because coding is addictive rather than a chore. But before you do, there are some people you should meet.
Step 3: Meet your local community
Don’t go it alone! Get out and meet local fellow coders, especially Python coders to start. For one thing, a support group will encourage you, reward you, guide you, and make you feel you are part of something real, rather than just sitting alone at your keyboard.
Second, personal networks are how most jobs of any kind are found today. The people clicking through resumes and applications won’t know and recognize your skills and potential. Real-life colleagues with whom you frequently interact will ignore the keywords on your LinkedIn profile and recruit you for your actual skills and personal traits they’ve come to know.
There are PyLadies meetings in cities around the world. There, women who work and play with Python gather to share ideas, questions, and work opportunities. Don’t worry about being seen as a novice at your first meeting. It’s OK. Everyone was on Day One once. Tell them you’ve done an hour of Codecademy and will be going home to do more after the meeting — unless they invite you for coffee first!
If there isn’t a PyLadies meeting you can get to, google “python meetup” for cities and towns near you. There are Python people everywhere.
Congrats, you’re coding!
That’s it! You’ve taken your first steps into a new life, and already have new friends with whom to make the journey. You’ll also find them — and others — online. Stack Overflow is where you can talk about coding. GitHub is the go-to place to peruse and share working Python (and every other language) examples with other programmers. Both are also places where managers looking to hire new engineers look for promising candidates.
Bookmark our list 7 Online Coding Resources For Beginners for more tutorial and help sites.
As you progress, you may want some classroom education. Hackbright offers a part-time Intro to Programming night course in San Francisco that runs five hours per week, for 12 weeks. You may find similar courses in your area.
Whatever you do, keep coding, whenever you have even a few minutes. Once you get rolling, it’s as addictive as Facebook. The more time you spend editing, running and debugging algorithms on your screen, the better — and better — you’ll get. Welcome to the club!
Hackbright Academy is the leading engineering school for women in San Francisco dedicated to closing the gender gap in the tech industry offering 12-week software engineering programs and night courses for women.