Want to learn coding in 2016? Here are 5 ways to do it

January 4, 2016

Although one should generally exercise care in predicting the future, we’re going to go out on a limb and guess that developers will continue being in high demand in 2016. So, whether you’re already part of the Chicago startup community and looking for new opportunities, or hoping to get into the startup game, learning how to code remains one of the biggest door openers out there.

According to Matt Baker, software engineer and lead instructor at , the most important thing to keep in mind when just getting started is not to get too fixated on language trends and flashy new techniques, but rather to focus on the basics.

“Being aware of the tools available is important,” said Baker. “But trying to learn the latest-and-greatest language or framework often distracts people from fostering more critical software engineering skills, like the ability to problem-solve independently, learn new technologies relevant to the task at hand, and communicate effectively with one's team."

In the past few years, countless free online resources have been made available to aspiring programmers. And, for those who like structure, guidance, and follow up, bootcamps provide a more rounded option to break into the field. Regardless of which option you choose, the most important thing to know is that programming is a skill best learned by doing. So dust off your keyboard and get to building.

If you want to test the waters

Codecademy offers interactive game-like tutorials in a number of different programming languages including Python, Ruby, HTML, and CSS. If you’re curious about whether programming is for you, this is one of the lowest-barrier options out there. Grab a Red Bull, put on some headphones, and see how it feels. If you like it, there’s nothing to stop you from moving on to the next step. For first time programmers, the Python and web design tutorials are good starting points.

If you want to learn more about how computers work

Stanford University computer science professor Nick Parlante’s online Computer Science 101 class is one of the best resources out there if you’re looking to get a better understanding of how computers work. Alongside an introduction to hardware and computer science jargon, Parlante will introduce you to programming in Java. This course is available through Coursera as a self-study, so you can move along at your own pace.

If you want to learn by making games

Rice University’s Introduction to Interactive Programming in Python teaches programming fundamentals through building simple games including Pong, Blackjack and Asteroids. The next session is starting on January 9, and students are expected to spend between 7 and 10 hours a week over 5 weeks to keep up. Certificates are available, and the course is part of a 26 week long certified specialization offered by Rice.

If you want to become a full-stack developer

Dev Bootcamp offers immersive 19-week programming bootcamps for people who want to get into the developer game as full-stack web developers. In addition to a number of languages for user interfaces and backend management, Dev Bootcamp has a substantial teamwork component that helps aspiring developers get both the technical and the interpersonal skills they need to be successful in the field.

If you want to build iOS apps

The Mobile Makers Academy takes you from having zero programming experience to building iOS apps in eight weeks. Built on an apprenticeship model, this bootcamp thrusts you right into the action with your first programming project assigned on day two. At the beginning of your sixth week, you’ll pitch and vote on app ideas that you and your fellow bootcampers will spend the next three weeks developing. During the bootcamp’s final days, you’ll submit your app to the App Store and show your completed project to members of the Chicago tech community.

Photos via Shutterstock, Codecademy Coursera, Dev Bootcamp, and Mobile Makers.

Good luck with your coding, and be sure to send us an email via [email protected] if you know of anything exciting going on in the Chicago startup scene.