Reflections on Learning to Code

Posted May 29, 2013 by Virginia Traweek

I’ve been working now as a coding intern at OrgSync for about two months. I really enjoy my job. My coworkers are super cool. I’m challenged on a daily basis. I like what I’m doing.

I’m a bit different from other folks on the development team because I come from a non-computer science background, so I’ve been doing a lot of learning over the past several weeks. I’ve got some observations about the process:

Every day is a challenge. I’d like to say that it’s easy to learn to code, but that’s simply not true. It’s hard, sometimes grueling work. Although it’s gotten much easier due to the quality of my mentors, it’s still not easy. I spend a good portion of each day tackling concepts that nothing in my educational background has prepared me to tackle. I think everybody considered me a smart, innovative person before I came to work here, but coding is definitely a reminder that I am human after all.

I still don’t know how far I have to go, except to say that I’m closer than I was before. I realize that in programming (as in life), you’re always learning new things. I get it. But, the difference is the size of the learning curve. I’m in the non-development equivalent of childhood. While the other developers are learning things that improve their knowledge, I’m still eons behind them. I know that they’re ahead of me. I know that I’ve got work to do, but I have no way of quantifying it. How long would I need to be in this position to learn enough to be a reasonably self-sufficient Ruby on Rails coder? I don’t know. I just take it one day at a time.

People who say they do it for 18 hours a day are full of it. I read all the time about people who learn to code by “diving in” and coding for 18 hours a day. I’ve got about two daily sessions of three hours of serious, honest-to-goodness concentration on new topics before things start to slip away. I’m actually writing this after a hard-core concentration session. At the end, I have to take a break and do something else. Maybe other new coders are smarter, more motivated, and have better work ethics in me. But, frankly, I think they’re just overestimating their productivity.

Overall, learning to code (and specifically at OrgSync) is a very positive experience. My Facebook and LinkedIn profiles have swelled with new friends and colleagues. I’ve learning tons and tons of things about Rails, programming, and life in general. I’m happy to be here every day, and I’m challenged when I get here. But, it’s not easy, and don’t let anyone ever tell you that it is.

Virginia Traweek

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