Straightforward Advice for Adults Who Want to Learn How to Code

When I first developed an interest in learning software development, I so badly wanted to just pick up the phone and speak with an experienced software developer for twenty minutes. I thought that I could get some clarity about whether it made sense for me to continue down this path and if the plan I had made for myself made any sense if I could just speak directly to someone working in the field.

The problem was that I didn’t really know any software developers.

For those of you who don’t have a software developer friend to just call up, here is the phone conversation I wish I would have had:

Just start with The Odin Project.

Don’t multitask and take any other coursework at the same time. Don’t try learning python simultaneously. Just do the whole foundations course. Finish it. See if you are still interested in software development. Do this before applying to any bootcamp, buying a book, attending a conference, anything. Just do the fundamentals course.

The Odin Project does two important things:

  1. It pulls the best content about web development together into a comprehensive curriculum. People keep spinning up new intro courses on web development just because they are trying to package and sell a course. This creates a walled garden with resources that aren’t maintained and aren’t accessible for you to come back to later. Instead of going down this route, The Odin Project collects the best freely-available text and video learning resources from across the web together into a logical path for you to follow. As much as I love the MDN docs on learning web development, the reality is that some resources do a better job at certain points in clarifying a particular subject. With the Odin Project, you are getting an introduction to the resources you are going to keep turning back to.
  2. Instead of trying to create a simplified browser-based coding environment, you immediately get started with setting up a professional development environment on your computer. Other intro courses will have you coding in a training wheels setup that looks nothing at all like how a professional developer works. If you want to get a sense of whether this is a good path for you, it makes sense to just jump right in. This means you will have several programs running at once and you might have a stressful moment trying to get everything configured just right. This is good. You’re learning how to configure the actual tools you are going to be working with every day.

And that’s it.

It is really tempting right now for me to give a few book suggestions, talk about the way that AI is going to impact the industry, recommend “just building things” but it really isn’t needed at this stage.

When someone is just getting started, they are trying to follow way too many threads. There are far too many people chiming in with “well, it really depends on…” They are taking in too many conflicting opinions. This isn’t actually helpful and just delays getting started.

“Just start with the Odin Project. Don’t worry about anything else. Reach back out to me when you’ve finished with the Foundations Course and I can suggest a few more resources.”