Earlier this year, back when I first came up with the fantastic idea to start learning how to code – the right way – I stumbled upon a very inspirational website called “Learn to Code With Me.” I believe I was searching for reviews that covered sources of online learning and just as luck would have it, the site I referred to above had a few posts that went into some fine detail on the specific topics I was after. I browsed through a few pages, read what was written and decided to add the website to my list of favorites. I also signed up to receive an email any time a new post was released.
Over the past three months, I’ve received emails from “Learn to Code With Me” that contained some valuable nuggets of information. The creator and author, Laurence Bradford, writes about a variety of topics, from employment in the tech industry to freelancing to getting down with raw code. It’s fitting to my current situation.
Learning to code isn’t for everyone – that’s for sure. The process is long and it often includes many ups and downs. And in today’s world, it seems that there’s confusion at every corner. What used to be a “language” that required learning has somehow morphed into a “language” that requires learning, plus more than two handfuls of complementary tools that are supposed to make life easier. It’s tough sifting through what’s critical and what can wait until you get the critical down pat. If learning something is the ultimate goal, is there an efficient and productive way to make your way to that goal?
With all this in mind, I began thinking that I couldn’t possibly be alone. With the technology sector booming and hundreds of thousands of folks sitting behind computer screens at this very moment, attempting to do exactly the same thing I’m attempting to do, it would be helpful to hear about someone else’s experience with being a self-taught coder.
Enter Laurence Bradford.
Laurence is a continuous learner who, at one point, lived overseas and worked in economics. After deciding that her current path wasn’t her calling in life, she turned to, and almost instantly fell in love with, coding and web development. With over a year and a half experience under her belt, but still feeling like there’s a lot left to learn, Laurence’s perspective on becoming a self-taught web developer could prove invaluable. That’s why I decided to send her an email asking her for an interview. I’d like to find out what makes Laurence tick and what keeps her motivated. I’d also like to learn about some of her experiences since she’s begun her coding journey. And with that said…
1. I read that you used to work in Bangkok for a Thai think tank when you first began looking into the tech industry. Do remember what part of the industry it was that really caught your eye? Was it the industry as a whole or one particular area within it?
What first caught my attention was all the job opportunities. I was working in economic development, which isn’t exactly ripe with them. I was always more interested in web development. But at first, I tried and experimented with many different things. I am much more focused nowadays: mostly front end, and mostly WordPress sites.
2. Once you decided that you needed to change paths professionally, how did you go about making the transition from what you used to do to what you do now?
Step 1 – I left Thailand.
Step 2 – I came back to the US.
Step 3 – I got first part time job “in tech.”
As I worked in that role, I took online and in-person courses on various topics. Again, predominantly related to web development.
3. Are you satisfied with your decision to make a change? Do you have any regrets?
Oh, yes! Very much satisfied. The only thing I wish I did differently was focus in on web development sooner, namely front end. At first I was a little scattered. I learned Python and RoR and even Arduino. My sense of direction wasn’t clear. I think that happens a lot with beginners. It’s tough to know what to learn.
4. When it comes to your professional life, what are the first three things you do daily?
1) Turn off alarm.
2) Check phone…usually Twitter. I try to stay out of my inbox in the AM. But can’t always help it.
3) Make my bed. I try to do it right away. I always do before I leave house.
5. What’s your favorite part of your day? What do you really enjoy working on or learning about and where do you excel the most?
My two favorite things are writing and, of course, building sites. I prefer to write in the AM and to code at night. I really dislike coding in the AM. Sometimes I write at night…but rarely. Usually only if I am building a site, and want to add text to it.
As far as where I excel: when I combine the two. I like to think I have become quite good at writing about learning to code.
6. We all have areas of development we just don’t like to do or to learn about. What are yours?
These are things I dislike:
– Video editing
– Anything with managing finances / bookkeeping
Typically I have problems with liking too many things. 🙂 It’s rare for me to dislike something.
7. I’ve heard that there are definite mental ups and downs when it comes to learning how to code. Have you experienced these highs and lows and if so, how do you deal with the lows and capitalize on the highs?
Haha…Basically every time I code it can be an emotional roller coaster!
Whenever I get stuck, I try to set the problem aside and come back to it later. If I am really stuck, I either post my issue in a forum, on Reddit, or use Code Mentor.
I hate feeling stuck. I am a huge proponent of asking for help. I think some people struggle with that (asking for help), but I never did. Whether it’s work for a client or on my own stuff, I always look for outside help if I am stuck.
8. Are there designers or developers out there who motivate you? If so, who are they and what is it you like so much about them?
Hmmm… This may be shocking but the people I look up to most aren’t in web dev space. More so in the business realm. Like Pat Flynn. I love Pat Flynn.
9. I see that you recently redesigned your website. I’d call that a success (looks great!). What other successes have you recently experienced?
10. I remember reading one of your posts about a freelancing job that you wish you weren’t involved with. Have there been other situations since you began coding that, looking back, make you cringe?
My entire first and second website version of learntocodewith.me. Other old sites I built…especially ones more than a few months old.
11. Are there any languages or tools that you have yet to pick up on that you’d like to learn?
12. What do you think the future holds for you? Where do you see yourself in five years?
Yikes! Five years is far ahead…But basically I want to keep doing what I’m doing now. Just bigger and better. I want to reach more people. Write for bigger sites. Create better content. Build better websites. Ultimately, help people on a larger scale and make a bigger impact.
I’d like to thank Laurence for taking the time out of her day to answer a few questions for me. Hopefully, this may offer some insight for those who are either thinking about learning how to code or who have recently begun the process. If you’d like to follow Laurence on Twitter, you can do so at @lebdev.