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The good, the bad and the ugly of learning how to code

If you are thinking about learning how to code, this is for you. There is no question that having coding skills is a plus. However, you probably have many questions regarding if it is worth your time. So here is my experience having spent the last 12 weeks at General Assembly in a front-end web development course that combines HTML, CSS, Javascript and Jquery.  I did it while working full time. I am also the father of a 2 year-old boy with a lot of energy. Yes, I am exhausted.

My reason for taking the class was to realize a couple of pet projects that I have been working on for a while. I also wanted a better understanding of how the web works at the technical level. I felt that as a marketer, I not only needed to understand the communication side, but I also need to know how to make stuff.

The good
Learning to code not only gives you new technical skills but also teaches you a new mindset. Yes, you are going to learn a new language, but you are also going to learn a different way of thinking. I found this more valuable than the technical skills alone. 

By that, I mean you become more logical and methodical on your approach to solving problems.  As a developer, you have to think through and map out every single scenario of the program before starting to code.

You also become more efficient as you need to do more with less code. The name of the game is on how much you can do as quickly as possible.  Therefore, you are always paying attention to how to structure your code to make it less repetitive.

Finally, you become more agile in your approach to solving problems and a big advocate of open source and communities (if you are not an advocate already).  As a developer, you don’t want to start from scratch––that is too time consuming.  You are always leveraging and improving upon what other people have done.  You also don’t want to memorize all the code syntaxes. You just want to google them so you can move faster.

The bad
Time. Learning how to code is not hard, but it is extremely time consuming. You can easily spend a few hours just trying to figure out why a few lines of code are not working.  Even with great support. I can only say great things about the people at GA. They are awesome and they will go the extra mile to help you out. I totally recommend them. Front-end web development was my second GA class.

That said, it comes down to how much time you are willing to invest. In addition to 6 hours of weekly classes, I spent about 8 more hours practicing, just to have a good foundation. This can put a lot pressure on your family if you have a full time job.

The ugly
Like everything in life, if you don’t use it, you lose it.  Classes give you a good starting point so you can go code on your own. To maintain and get better, you need to keep practicing. My recommendation is to pick a project you are passion about and work on your own so you always have a reason to code.

In the end, I don’t regret for a second having taken the course. It not only gave me new “ninja” technical skills, but also provided me with a new way of thinking. My wife and son have forgiven me, too. I believe that it is totally worth the time and sacrifice, even if I decide not to code anymore.  Coding is a mindset that can be applied in everything you do.


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