Coding is a massively in-demand skill, and more people are starting to learn coding in all its different forms. As more people consider learning to code, they are naturally asking whether they’re cut out for a career as a programmer, especially if they are considering a career change or don’t have a natural aptitude for technology.
We see people from a huge variety of backgrounds at our bootcamps, and we know what it takes to be a successful coder. With enough effort and focus, yes, anyone can learn to code. However simply knowing how to code is not enough to become a successful software engineer or web developer. Personality traits and soft skills are also important, and people who have a natural ability will make amazing coders. Don’t worry if you don’t yet possess these qualities – just like any programming language, they can be learned over time!
You see forests, not trees
A big part of being a good coder is what is known as systems thinking. The ability to look past the immediate problem you’re solving and foresee how the changes you make might create other problems elsewhere in the codebase.
Of course problem solving is an important part of coding – all code is written to solve problems! – but systems thinking is about solving problems before they’re created. This requires a good understanding of logic. How does A impact B, and how will the changes to B impact C, D and E?
Think of your code like a Rube Goldberg machine. If you change one of the elements right at the start, how will the rest of the machine have to change to accommodate those changes?
You have a dash of creativity
Historically coding has been considered a very functional job – you take an input and provide an output – however as it’s become an increasingly vital part of the modern economy that remit has broadened massively. Twenty years ago a brief might look like this:
At the end of every day, take the value of every Dollar amount in this database and convert it into Yen using the most recent exchange rate.
Simple, right? You’re probably thinking about the functions you’d need to build to make that happen right now. But today, a brief might look more like this:
I have 500,000 photographs stored online. I want to know which photographs contain cars, and if they do, what brand and color of car.
You can see how the second request will take a lot more research and analysis to fulfil. This is a large part of a modern coder’s job; defining a problem and envisioning an entire architecture to solve it can take a considerable amount of time, and all of that needs to happen before you write a single line of code.
Don’t forget you’ll also need to think about how people will use the systems you build. You don’t have to be a maestro at User Experience, but having a good nose for design will make you a much more attractive package to potential employers.
You’re naturally curious
One of the most effective ways developers learn is by reverse-engineering existing apps, or tinkering with open source projects to understand how they are built. Good coders are the digital equivalent of the people who take apart their washing machine to see how it works.
A career in coding is one of constant learning, so staying curious is the best way to keep your skills fresh and your prospects good.
You thrive in flexible work environments
Successful coders need to be great collaborators. This is true in day-to-day work where they may be pair programming, as well as at a higher level where their work may feed into larger projects. In large enough organizations, they may even be building products that are used by other coders, and collaborating with those end users will make their creations all the more successful.
You probably know the stereotype of a coder working alone in the dark, wearing a hoodie and huge headphones. Although it’s a well-worn caricature of how software engineers and web developers work, there is some truth to it. Being a highly productive coder can mean being comfortable working alone for long periods of time, and enjoying tackling intellectual challenges by yourself.
But very few people can have successful careers in technology working in isolation – in fact the technology industry as a whole has recognised the need to move away from the theory of individual brilliance and embrace more teamwork in technological fields.
You know when to ask for help
Every coder, no matter how insanely talented, will hit a wall now and then. It could be while trying to solve a complex problem, dealing with irritating technical issues, or due to a lack of motivation. At a Hackaton we hosted, one team was able to make a huge breakthrough and finish their app in a matter of hours just by asking the right person for help.
Having a support network around you of friends and colleagues is invaluable when you hit the wall. They’ll get you thinking about challenges in different ways, help you work around problems, or just listen to you vent for a few minutes.
A support network is particularly important when you’re learning to code, for a few big reasons.
They provide structure
Structure and repetition is the best way to learn coding, so being in a job or bootcamp which gives you those things will speed up your learning incredibly.
They know how to solve problems
More experienced coders will know the best way to squash bugs and work through problems. They’ll help you work out the kinks, and at the same time show you how to fix things yourself next time.
Without support, 99% of people will give up when they hit a wall. A support network will get you unstuck.
They’ll get you there faster
Learning to code is a means to an end. It could be to start a new career, to launch a business, or to solve a specific problem. A support network will help you reach your goal much, much faster.
In three months the support network offered by a coding bootcamp will get your coding skills to a level that might take 12 months to achieve on your own. Imagine what you could do with that extra nine months!
They’ll teach you the unwritten rules
Solo learning can teach you a craft, but it can’t teach you how to get on in the professional world. There’s no documentation for how to make it in the world of work; it’s something you have to learn from others.
It isn’t just junior coders who rely on a support network – it’s something you’ll build and lean on your entire career. Communities like Stack Overflow and Github are invaluable resources for coders of all skill levels.
Yes, anyone can learn to code
There are no age, gender or geographic limits on who can learn to code.
We welcome all kinds of people from all around the world to our bootcamp, and the only factor that influences their level of success is their determination and attitude. Meet a few of our graduates.