On the brink of a new year, many of us run the risk of dedicating ourselves to several goals that may or may not sputter out by mid march. But if you’ve taken on the task of learning to code, be it by Code School, bootcamp, or in your own free time you’ll soon come to learn the value of small, repeatable tasks. Progress comes from habits, but even that can sound ambiguous and misleading. So, we’ve mapped out some practical habits new developers can start now that will maximize your experience and create a paper trail so you can see how far you’ve come!
1. Keep your folder structure organized.
This one’s easy, but will save you headache later. Use thoughtful names and clean things up when they get overwhelming. Rather than deleting old code, create an ‘archive’ folder. It’s helpful when you feel discouraged to look back on old code and see how far you’ve come.
2. Schedule a time each day to practice.
If you’re in Code School, this time should be in addition to classwork. Deliberate, independent practice is key to achieving mastery of anything (Deep Work is a great book on creating space for this). If you’re expecting to learn everything within class, prepare to be disappointed. Whether in the evening or early mornings, set aside a time and place where you invest consistently in your own independent exploration.
3. Setup a waterfall of developer skill levels.
Get to know someone in each of these three categories:
- someone that is more proficient than you,
- another who is at about the same level,
- and a new developer that’s a little further behind.
The first (more proficient) student will be able to provide helpful insight you may be missing. When you get stuck, their assistance can help you overcome barriers. The peer will push you. The benefits of working through things shoulder to shoulder can create an edge over time. For the student who is a little behind, they’ll present an opportunity to teach. Teaching something you’ve learned, regardless of how fresh, will refine your understanding of the material.
Regardless of the experience level, focus not just on what they do, but how they think about the work. Remember, you’re trying to learn how to learn more than just complete the assignments.
4. Keep a simple, every day journal.
This framework is simple and shouldn’t take more than a few minutes each day. It will keep your thoughts organized and can provide great material to share with an employer.
- What did I learn today?
- What do I hope to learn next?
- Where am I getting stuck?
- What am I going to do about it?
One of my favorite interview experiences began with the candidate sitting down and pulling out her laptop and notebook, with matching covers. As we asked questions and assigned tasks, she went to her physical notebook first before proceeding to the keyboard. It was clear she wasn’t putting on an act. Instead, she was constantly processing, documenting, and reevaluating her learnings. That was a valuable habit.
Implementing small but measurable practices will begin to build your personal archive. And that will not only hone your craft but give you the receipts for when Imposter Syndrome strikes.
Have a favorite journal strategy or platform? Share it in the comments!