How to start coding without any experience

Young muslim coder using computer and laptop when testing new program whe wrote
‘At a time where job uncertainty is at an all-time high, coding is a skill that continues to be more in demand than ever before,’ say experts. Photo: Getty

If learning to code has been on your to-do list for a while, then now is the time. With many areas of the country still facing social restrictions, we’ve got more time at home — which means more time to learn a new skill.

Coding isn’t just a nice skill to have or something to occupy your time, though. It’s now a valuable asset in pretty much any business environment. And the good news is, learning to code doesn’t require an expensive and lengthy qualification.

“Coding is how we communicate with computers. Writing code is like producing a set of instructions, which tell a computer what to do or how to behave,” says Anna Brailsford, CEO at Code First Girl.

Essentially, coding is what allows us to create computer software like programs, operating systems and mobile apps. Coders write the instructions using a programming language, which translates human code into computer code known as software.

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“You do not need a computer science degree to learn to code — anyone can do it,” Brailsford says. With so many different coding languages to choose from, it can be daunting to get into coding. Think about what made you interested in coding and what you want to do as a coder.

“If you’re interested in linking together the world of design and technology, consider learning HTML, CSS or JavaScript — the core elements of front-end development. If you are interested in the behind the scenes of a website or application, the server, database and application, consider Python or Data/SQL.”

While there are plenty of resources available to teach yourself, you may want to consider doing a course. Courses provide training, help boost your confidence and provide a community to help you change or accelerate your career. If you don’t understand something or need clarification, you’ll have people to ask and explain things to you.

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There are many short online courses to fit around a full-time job, including at Code First Girls. “We offer a variety of courses for women who are looking to kick start their careers in technology,” Brailsford says. They also offer 12-week “nano degrees” which specifically train women for careers in tech, including software development or data science.

“At a time where job uncertainty is at an all-time high, coding is a skill that continues to be more in demand than ever before,” adds Brailsford. “The number of tech job vacancies rose by 36% between early June and early August 2020.

“Meanwhile, the pandemic has accelerated appetite for coding education. At the beginning of lockdown, we saw an unprecedented 800% growth in registrations for our virtual classes. Coding education is important, now more than ever.”

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Coding can open the doors to an abundance of opportunities, as there is more appetite than ever for data scientists and engineers to help organisations navigate this new, uncertain normal — where everything is digital.

It can feel overwhelming and daunting to learn a new skill, particularly if you’re planning to embark on a career in technology. Brailsford advises finding a mentor who can provide support and advice.

“While remote working has made it even harder to find a mentor, take a look into technology webinars, virtual conferences and LinkedIn to scope out inspirational mentors,” she says. “Don’t be afraid to say hello or drop someone you look up to a note on LinkedIn to see if they’d be up for a virtual coffee.”

Mentorship programmes aren’t just fundamental to building confidence and facilitating career paths, they also help tackle imposter syndrome.

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According to a study involving more than 2,000 A-Level and university students by PwC, the gender gap in technology starts at school and carries on through every stage of girls’ and women’s lives. Only 27% of female students we surveyed say they would consider a career in technology, compared to 61% of males — and only 3% say it is their first choice.

Therefore, promoting women in tech is crucial when it comes to supporting people beyond the hiring stage. “In a Zoom world, where we have fewer touchpoints, mentorship empowers women, while ensuring their roles and ability to focus on them are protected,” Brailsford adds.