Programming is not as easy as many people make it sound, at least not when you are a novice.
Here are some tips for you if you are starting your career as a software developer.
1. Start Slow But Sure
Master basic chunks of concepts before moving on to more advanced concepts. Give yourself space and time to implement key ideas. Don’t take more than you can swallow. Many people make the mistake of rushing through things and end up missing the small details that haunt them later on. As a beginner, don’t rush yourself. Take each step at a time.
When you are done mastering the basics of a programming language, it’s now time to embark on advanced topics like data structures and algorithms (DSA). A solid understanding of DSA will help build efficient applications. Efficiency is measured by how little space or time your program requires to operate.
After you have mastered the foundation of programming and DSA, apply these concepts in a project. Personal projects will solidify these concepts in a way classroom lectures won’t. Most things get clearer only after you’ve implemented them in a real-world scenario. Project-based learning is more effective than rote learning as it is centered on building projects instead of just memorizing.
2. Seek Advice and Feedback From Experts
Feedback is any meaningful comment from an expert. Don’t argue or become defensive when somebody suggests a better way to do something. Having an open mind will do you more good than harm. Accept the fact that you may be wrong, and a small correction won’t make you look stupid. On the contrary, considering feedback depicts a willingness to learn and grow.
Also, allow others to share their experiences with you. These experts have been where you are right now. Along the way, they probably made mistakes that cost them or ideas that catapulted their professionalism. Take the time to listen to what they have to advise you, on the best practices and paradigms.
Take caution not to take it to heart. Take their advice as an opinion. Some advice may not always be true, but it’s worth giving it a thought. There is some truth behind what they say even though it may not be clear at the moment.
If it’s possible, find yourself a mentor. A mentor is anybody who perfectly reflects what you want to be in your career. They’ll advise you on what’s worth learning, provide available resources, and a million other things. Mentors can be found in books, podcasts, videos, communities, places of work, learning institutions, and/or instructors.
3. Practice, Practice Makes Perfect
Practice is intentionally absorbing yourself in lines of code over and over again until it feels natural. You can do this by changing the context, trying out the same idea on a different project, or even replicating a project on your own. The goal here is to get comfortable applying key concepts you have learned.
Your confidence will grow with every practice you make. Practice reinforces the belief that you can deliver something. It may not be as good, but it’s something. Soon you’ll find yourself comfortable tackling even harder problems. These sessions will solidify what you’ve learned – which is what we call experience.
As you practice, be patient with yourself. Things take time. Patience is allowing yourself to grow, not in a single day, but with time. It means working hard knowing that things get better as you practice. Again, you can’t have a three years experience in one year.
Leetcode and Hackerrank are popular sites to test and hone your skills. They have tons of programming questions starting with foundational concepts like loops to more advanced concepts like graph theory. They also have a very active forum to discuss questions with other software developers in case you are stuck.
4. Learn From Your Mistake
Along the way, you’ll make mistakes. A lot of mistakes. Don’t let that bring you down in any way. Your code might not run, or your UI may not come as perfectly as you wanted it to. Just remember, you are still learning.
The first step you can make to learn from a mistake is to own it. Admit that you made a mistake. That way, it will be easier for you to apologize and ask for help. See mistakes as opportunities to grow and learn. This is what we call a “growth mindset.”
“A smart man makes a mistake, learns from it, and never makes that mistake again.” – Roy H. Williams
Lastly, make mistakes, but don’t make the same mistake twice. Otherwise, you are probably not learning.