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  • Writer's pictureTim Buchalka

Programming Tips for Self-Taught Software Developers

Updated: Aug 2, 2019

Today, I've got three tips for self-taught programmers: those who haven't gone through to get a formal degree or some sort of training from a university or college. Let's go ahead and talk about that.

I've got three tips for you today and it's relating to people who have been self-taught or are in the process of teaching themselves how to program.

The reason I'm bringing this up, is because there are two types of people: (1) people who go through a university degree or a college and get training that way and learn how to program and (2) people who come through the ranks and have learned to program by themselves, perhaps going through a course or an eBook or just learning basically at their own pace in some way, shape or form.

So three tips that I've got for you if you're actually of the type who is self-taught or going through that process: Number one, best practices. Make sure that you've learned, or are learning best practices when it comes to code.

What do I mean by best practices? Well, there's a right and a wrong way to approach problems, but also to solve them with programs and the right courses, the right textbooks, the right eBooks etc., the right training in general teaches you best practices. This is one of the things that universities are hot on. With some of their training and material, they go through a lot of those concepts so that you actually understand how to approach things, you've got the right mindset and so forth.

If you haven't gone through that type of training because you've actually self-taught, it's important to try and make sure that you've learning these best practices. The reason why it's important is when you start a job, it'll be assumed or they will want you to have those best practices.

So, how do you get these best practices? Well, number one, make sure the study material that you're going through is created from someone who is actually an expert programmer or has a lot of experience as a programmer and have been through that process. So, in other words, vet the instructor or the author of the material that you're looking at to make sure they do actually know what best practices are because if they don't know that, but they haven't got the experience, if they have just gotten a little commercial experience, how can they possibly know what real world industry best practices are? So, make sure you vet your instructor, and make sure that the material you're going through is actually teaching you best practices, and that's really essential if you're going to obtain those best practices and be able to implement them and basically fit in with a team when you do actually get your first job.

Number two, in light of that, and this will help you with future employment possibilities, is to actually get yourself a project. Create a project of something and start putting your code on GitHub. It's really important to make sure that you've got something to show prospective employers.

Now, the reason that's important is because down the track, when you actually start applying for jobs or looking for a promotion, is that you've got something to show them. What's probably gonna happen if you're applying for a job, and there's two people, there's yourself who is going through the self-taught method and someone else whose perhaps got a formal qualification like a university degree, college or whatever it is, you're gonna be compared so you need to find a way to differentiate yourself from this other person. Because all these being equal, you may well find that the employer will choose the person with the university degree. Rightly or wrongly they'll assume that they are better qualified.

So, if you've actually created a project (it doesn't need to be the next Facebook app or the next Instagram app or anything like that) but if you've shown that you understand the concepts of programming, and you've put together some form of project and you've published it on GitHub, that's a way for the employer to then check your code, check that you actually are someone who knows what they're talking about, and has put a project together. That'll give you enormous credibility in the minds of an employer because you've actually created something. Again, it doesn't need to be a really complex or huge application or anything of that nature, but really important for you to do that. The process of you actually going through and creating a project, you'll learn a lot in the process as well.

Number three relates to a large degree to the first one, with best practices, and this is to study other people's code and you can do that again on GitHub. GitHub's really a great resource for finding code. The more material that you study and understand, the better those practices, if you're actually finding code that actually is employing best practices and you start applying some of those concepts, you're basically telling them that to the code that you're actually writing yourself.

Basically, checking other people's code is really important as well because that's what you're gonna be doing. If you think about it, when you actually start a project or start working for an employer, you're going to be given a code base to work with, and you'll need to come up to speed with that. So the more time you're spending looking through other code and understanding it and figuring out bits and pieces, is you're gonna be a more productive member of a team as well and that's just another important skill that you can have as a self-taught developer.

In summary, the three things or the three tips for people who learnt self-taught programmers: number one is best practices. Learn best practices. Make sure that the material you're studying, the instructor, the author or whoever, is teaching you the best practices. Number two, make sure you get a project. Create a project for yourself, put it up on GitHub. GitHub is probably the site I recommend most but basically any version control type site, and going through that process will make you a better programmer. Number three is make sure you learn to study other people's code, and use that code and go through it and understand it and that sort of links in to a degree with best practices because you're basically understanding that process better and that's making you more of a person who will fit in more as a team member when it comes time to actually get your first programming job.

All right, so I hope that helped. If you've got any questions feel free to leave a comment and I'll get back to you.

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