Getting started in the tech industry is a little like trying to eat an elephant. Landing your first professional job will require taking bite after bite until you have consumed enough knowledge to be valuable to an employer. Knowing what technologies to learn, when to learn them and how to learn them will help you get off on the right foot in your IT journey. Even though this effort may appear as large as an elephant, there are certain steps you can take to make getting started less daunting.
There are many ways to get from point A to point B when it comes to learning how to program or code. By avoiding these five pitfalls, you can speed up your learning curve.
1 - You Don’t Know if You Like Coding
Have you ever heard someone say, “I should get into programming, that’s where all the money is”? It’s true that you can make a decent salary as a software developer. However, there’s a reason developers command good pay because programming is a specialized skill that is developed over time and quite frankly can be difficult. You need to know if you like to program or not before jumping into the field.
There are so many resources available on the internet now, that all it takes is about an hour and you can do some sample coding. If at the end of an hour you are excited and like watching simple programs run based off of code you’ve written, software development might be a great option for you. If you hated every second of it, you might not want to change careers and code for forty hours a week.
2 - You Think You Have to Have Formal Education
Almost all universities and colleges have a software or IT program now. This is certainly one way you can gain some knowledge and experience to get your foot in the door as a developer. However, don’t make the mistake of thinking that this is the only way.
There are more options than ever to learn how to code. You can learn to code from eight week intensive boot camps, online courses and online universities. Maybe you simply have what it takes to sit down on your own every night and work through tutorials and sample projects until it clicks and you’re a pretty proficient coder. Pick something that fits with your style of learning, your schedule and your budget. In the end if you “know your stuff”, does it really matter how you learned it?
3 - You Don’t Find a Mentor
No matter how much you know or how good of a developer you think you are, you always have room to improve. One of the best ways to help guide you along the path of being a better developer is to have a mentor or role model you can work with. Mentor’s can give you advice on what technologies to learn, what companies would be a good fit to work at and overall general career advice.
4 - You Don’t Build Up a Coding Portfolio
Ask any artist to show you their portfolio and you will soon be looking through sketches, paintings, drawings and anything else that showcases their talent. Ask most developers the same question and you might get a blank stare. You can showcase your coding talent just like an artist by creating a coding portfolio.
A coding portfolio typically consists of sample projects, schoolwork and other code related snippets held in a GIT repository like github.com or bitbucket.com. You can then send potential employers a link to your account and they can take a look at what you’ve done. Showing up to a job interview with several projects and code samples on your GIT account goes a long way. Especially if you’re competing against others for a job placement. Who would you hire? Someone with sample code you could look at or someone without any coding samples?
5 - You Don’t Layout a Career Map
The classic example of getting on an airplane, taking off and not knowing where you are going, also applies to your career. You need to have a destination in mind so you know where you’re going. You can then setup the best route to get you there.
Take the time early on to think about where you want to be in five or ten years. Then write down what you think it will take to get you there. Even if your goals change over time, that’s ok. You can alway re-adjust your end destination on the way and set up new goals. Always have a destination in mind so you’re not flying blindly.
Finally, Get Started!
Whether you want to be a database engineer, a front end developer or a server side expert, take the time to create a plan and start working on it today. Learning to work with software can be a large elephant standing in your path. By doing a little bit of planning followed by focused work, you can get that elephant eaten and move on to the next challenge.