Teaching Myself to Code

Violet Beau
5 min readOct 8, 2020


My experience with coding was usually sitting beside a senior developer friend watching slack-jawed as they navigate multiple screens, switching manically through tabs swearing and talking to themselves without touching the mouse. There were many things that made me think I would like to code:

  • Self Taught — I like the ability to teach myself stuff and the idea that the more time I spend on this the more I could understand it.
  • Access — I also know how many resources there are online and the more I learn the easier it would be to learn how to learn.
  • Upskill — Even though I see myself in more of a people-facing role I knew understanding the code would be vital and also make me better at my future jobs. So often I heard developer friends complain that their manager had no idea about the scope of their project and knew nothing about the tech stack. This left an impression on me of an ineffective team structure that I have no interest in being a part of in the future.

I started by googling — “how to teach myself to code”. I knew that one big part of coding is problem solving and using the web to find the answers you need. So I opted to start from scratch and spend 30 mins a day doing something towards furthering this goal. I came across a post that said Ruby on Rails is good for first timers. I then looked up tutorials on YouTube. I skipped into the middle of them to check the person’s teaching style and their set up — to give myself an idea of what I could be getting into. Some of these 2+ hour videos showed how to download all the apps I would need and that they would use in the video. This was very useful and when I got frustrated that a big part of the first 2 days of coding was downloads and changing settings on my laptop I reminded myself to stay with it and that this is what coding is — problem solving.

I managed to complete a few of the first YouTube tasks before I started to encounter problems. I asked my partner — a senior developer to support me and he noticed that some settings needed to be changed within the applications I was using and that I needed to download extra add-ons etc. This was irritating. The app I was writing the code in was very intimidating and learning the content and how to use this thing was a lot to think about.

During more conversations with people in the tech world over the next week I got the impression that Ruby wasn’t a good place to start. So after another simple google search “Good first languages for learning to code” I picked JavaScript. I found another YouTube video and prepared for another onslaught of having to download editors and other things I didn’t fully understand. This video was from freeCodeCamp and at the beginning the guy mentioned that this full course could be done on their website. He showed a screenshot of a simple screen split in two — the instructions on one side and the code editor in the other, all within the browser and for free.

My homepage

So I created an account and began my journey learning JavaScript through freeCodeCamp. My first aim was just to try and do it everyday. I would put on some random chill beats soundtrack on YouTube, set a 30 min timer and work through the tasks. They started very simply with an introduction on the thing that would be learned, an example of it working then a task to complete. I particularly like the way they offer support if you get stuck. I could choose to watch a video, get a hint or ask for help.

“Get Help” Options

The video option was what I used largely at the beginning. I found trying to read the explanation text difficult to soak in and hearing someone’s voice talk me through the task was much more accessible at first. The video would pop up on the screen and has this cool feature where you can stop the video and edit the code in the screencap! The hint option opened another tab and would explain the task in steps and offer the option to see the solution. Scrolling down in this page there are comments from others who point out possible other answers, possible mistakes or changes in the question. These comments were often very useful. I always got my answer from at least one of these three sources, I didn’t use the ask for help function ever. But on the site there was a comment that said something along the lines of “The best way to learn is to teach” I believe in that idea and think it’s very cool that they notice this and promote it.

It really feels like a learning environment where they want you to actually learn and not just pass the tests. I could feel there was a gamification aspect to the site which kept me interested and excited to come back and do more. There are little encouraging messages on the pop ups when you complete a task correctly that tell you what percentage of the way through the course I was. I didn’t often notice the little messages but when I was stuck on a task for a long time and finally this window popped up it was a nice feeling to see “Hell yeah!” or “You’re doing it!”. They were often genuine, varied and informal so they didn’t feel false to me like other messages of the same kind do.

They offer certifications for completing whole curriculums and I’m working towards my beginners in JavaScript. When I completed the first section “Basics in JavaScript” I felt that I hadn’t really ingested much of the course and was using the videos in almost every question. So I decided to go back through the first section as a refresher. I am very glad I did this as it really solidified the learnings and I flew through it hardly using the help options. It was very gratifying to see how much I had learned. Now as I am working through the rest of the courses I find YouTube videos and other resources that help me along the way.

I am really enjoying the journey so far and appreciate freeCodeCamp as a free resource.