If You’re a Shy Bee, You Might Want To Ignore This Newbie Coder Advice

Attending as many in-person workshops, events, and meetups as possible is not always the best approach to learning how to code.

Toddler touching the Apple mouse, looking up at a computer screen. The young one barely reaches over the tabletop.
Toddler touching the Apple mouse, looking up at a computer screen. The young one barely reaches over the tabletop.
Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

The magic of the Black Box

She pulled the door closed behind her. Awoken from his afternoon nap, he met her in the hallway. “I got us some Club Mates”, she tells him and hands him one of the bottles. He stares at it and recognizes his favorite flavor. “Nice.” Still lethargic, he slouches toward his ergonomic chair and drops himself on it. Here complex queries are crafted to exist in harmony like the chords of a catchy song. Just a few test runs in, and all bugs from the day before have ceased to exist. He exterminated them. Because that’s what programmers do.

Hello World

Mystery attracted me to coding. If you did well, I knew it could lead to a fat paycheck too, as in any profession. The allure of controlling your computer (and if you’re crafty, your neighbor’s computer too) from a Matrix-like black box with lines of code was too strong to ignore. They call the box the command line, and for good reason. You are the commander.

Past-me who witnessed this sorcery at first hand decided that I too had to learn this black magic. I started from zero. I thought it would be easy. I was delusional and dead wrong.

But where does one start without a wand, brewing pot, and a pointy hat? Industry veterans advised me to go to as many meetups, events, workshops, and otherwise in-person gatherings as I could to:

  • Show my face
  • See what others are working on
  • Learn how they approach problems
  • Practice coding myself
  • And to build up a network in this new playing field.

Also, if you’re just starting out: you only need one company to give you a chance at that first developer job, no matter if the title is junior or intern.

Following the Path of the Workshops

From his ergo chair, the wizard, also a weathered programmer, lifted his arm. It pointed to the Path of the Workshops. I thanked him for his wisdom and started walking. And so the journey began.

I visited one workshop where you built a Ruby on Rails project in a day. Friendly and patient volunteers answered all of the attendees’ questions. And not to forget: there were free snacks. I liked what I tasted, both in terms of brain and normal food. I indulged in these events like PMS’ing women indulge in potato chips and chocolate bars. I know they do because I am one of them. The atmosphere at events always was open, welcoming, and pleasant. Yet, I remained tense.

Oh, I learned, for sure. By the end of these workshops, I was usually exhausted. The topics I touched were often brand new. There was one ever-reoccurring problem, no matter where I went: I was never able to relax to the extent where I didn’t worry about how clueless I looked, how silly, dumb or ridiculous my code was, or why I wasn’t getting to a solution faster.

The problem was never being perceived as too silly, dumb or ridiculous.

Social anxiety was keeping me from performing at my best. Wherever I went, it was there with me.

Attending more events didn’t help. This constant fear of judgment was there. And this was all in my head. I never acknowledged this until much later. I would love to tell you how I overcame that, but that story is being written as we speak.

What I should’ve done differently

I’ve stopped coding since, but looking back, it would have been more effective for me to lock myself in the house, find a coding buddy or two who shared my goals, and learn alongside each other, either online or in-person. Like you can today on Focusmate. How the world has changed. Exposing myself to people in event groups felt like too much of a hurdle to overcome at the time.

Going to events scattered my attention, as I was touching new technologies in each workshop or meetup. I tried to do everything at once and eventually got nowhere. I didn’t realize I was stretching myself thin.

I am not trying to crap on these events. They can be the starting point you need. And if you religiously attend and continue to learn at weekly meetups, you might actually get somewhere.

I would also recommend sticking to one stack, and not try to get into every single technology you touch. That’s Shiny Object Syndrome at its best. You can expand upon your tech stack later, once you’ve mastered your first few.

Above all, keep your eyes open to what is working well for you and what isn’t, and change course if the current approach isn’t reaping the benefits you seek.

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Writing my way to progress. Topics: personal growth, life lessons, tooling & (failed) ventures.

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