This is a guest post from Daniel Chae, an experienced programmer and data analyst in Los Angeles, CA that is also passionate about helping people learn to code.
Learning to code isn’t easy. Many learners struggle to stay motivated. Others don’t know if they’re headed in the right direction. How do you apply what you’re learning to side projects? How do you overcome not having enough experience? You may have peers that help motivate you to keep coding. You may have found a helpful tutorial that explained a programming concept in a new way. Finding a coding mentor is also one solution to help you overcome learning obstacles.
Coding mentors are great because they can help you simplify your learning process. They can guide your learning path, and provide additional learning resources that come from experience. I’ll share how my coding mentors did all these things for me when I was learning how to code.
Coding mentors simplify your learning process
Learning to code can be difficult because you’re not quite sure how you should go about learning. Should you start with data types or variables first? Which language should you learn? The number of programming concepts you need to learn can be overwhelming. Which one do you start with? Coding mentors are great because they can help you drown out all the noise. They can remove all the distractions that come with the overwhelming number of concepts.
When I first met with my coding mentor I came to him in a frenzy. I didn’t know if I should learn front end or back end first. I encountered tons of tutorials about both, but couldn’t commit to one or the other. They all looked as if they could help me become a programmer. After I vented to him, my coding mentor simplified the entire learning process for me. He suggested I pick one coding resource that I could commit to finishing. He assessed my background and told me which programming concepts I should focus on. By the end of the meeting I felt zero anxiety. I felt confident I was heading in the right direction and distraction-free.
Coding mentors guide your learning path
If you’ve started a course, chances are there are dozens of lessons and concepts you need to work through. The early concepts, such as data types and variables, may seem boring and monotonous. The jump to control flow and functions can seem huge. You may feel uncertain which concepts will help you learn the fastest.
One of the most helpful things my coding mentor did for me was provide context for why I should learn certain programming concepts. When I was learning how to code I knew I had a lot of programming concepts to tackle. I felt overwhelmed by the task of working through each one. My coding mentor suggested I spend extra time on data structures and algorithms. I didn't know this at the time, but he was preparing me for interviews. Most technical interviews involved data structures and algorithms. Even though I was light years away from being ready, he was guiding my learning path. When I was ready to interview, I felt prepared and ready to go.
Coding mentors provide real-world context
When you dive into a coding resource you may not understand a concept the first time around. If you don’t understand the concept a second time around, it might feel like it will never click. Coding mentors are great because they’ve been in your shoes and can help you overcome the hurdles they overcame by providing advice and resources. They can help you understand any programming concept you’re struggling with. They’ll point you to books that focus on specific programming concepts. They’ll also explain programming concepts in new ways to help you understand.
I remember when I was learning how to code and how much I struggled with functions. I didn’t understand how function inputs worked. I couldn’t grasp why variables inside a function didn’t exist in a computer’s memory outside of the function. The first thing my coding mentor did was suggest a book on functions. Then he walked me through how computer memory worked and why I couldn’t call variables inside of a function. He dissected several examples of input functions, line by line. He did so until I understood how inputs worked in tandem with the rest of the functions. By the end of our session, I had a clear understanding of functions and how I could use them in my future projects. I read through the book he suggested and felt better about my comprehension of functions.
Finding a coding mentor
Coding mentors help you cut out all the noise and point you towards success. They’ll get you going in the right direction and provide custom feedback for you. The number of learning resources can be overwhelming. When you’re feeling uncertain, a coding mentor can point you in the right direction.
If you’re curious as to where you might find a coding mentor, there are many ways to do so. Twitter and LinkedIn are full of experienced developers who want to invest in other programmers. You’ll also want to check out the different programming-oriented subreddits like r/learnprogramming or r/learnpython. There are a ton of programmers there who regularly give feedback to aspiring programmers. Either way, be bold and clear about what you’re looking for. If you build solid relationships and add value to others’ lives whenever you can, you’ll find a coding mentor in no time.