The biggest surprise for me when I started learning to code was the the community of learners and developers that I found in NYC. Not only do programmers spend a lot of time communicating with one another to write code––they genuinely enjoy collaborating and sharing what they know.
Programmers are a passionate group of people who love what they do. People who love what they do also love sharing what they do. This characterizes the community of people just learning to code too. If you look around, you'll find so many people who are working hard to learn to code, who you can struggle with and learn from and even just enjoy hanging out with.
Why Do You Need People?
Linking up with this community will accelerate your learning. Why? So many reasons!
- More people equals more answers. You might be struggling with a topic or a bug that another developer with fresh eyes can figure out and explain to you.
- Ever have those days when you just can't figure something out and you feel like giving up? Your support system of fellow learners and developers can get you through it. Not just by giving you the answer to your problem but by lending an understanding ear to your frustrations or stress.
- Seeing and learning from what other people are doing as they learn to code will push you and inspire you to build more cool things and keep learning.
- It's fun! You'll make new friends, I promise.
Where Do I Find My People?
There are lots of resources to help you build your coding community, both online and IRL.
Find a meetup for people learning to code. Visit meetup.com and search for things like "programming study groups", "learn to code", "beginner coding". In most major cities you'll find lots of offerings.
If you're in NYC, I recommend checking out Hacker Hours--an all levels study group where you'll find beginners and more advanced developers who are just there to help.
Code Academy, a great free online coding resource, has "Learn to Code" meetups that are full of beginners learning together.
Flatiron School runs a beginner study session meetup on their Manhattan campus that is also a great way to meet other learners. You can check it out here.
In-Person Beginner Coding Classes
Even if you're not ready to commit to a full-time bootcamp, you can sign up for an in-person coding class to start learning and meeting people right away.
The Flatiron School offers some in-person evening classes to get your started. (Full disclosure, I teach this class. Flatiron has created a robut educational community and offers lots of different meetups and events that I definitely recommend checking out.
If you're in NYC, the New York Public Library is offering a free 10-week intro course that you can register for here.
First Step Coding provides part-time coding classes in person and online. Their classes give you an in-depth introduction into web development and they partner with a number of bootcamps to help you make your career change after you finish the course.
Resources for Women
There are some great resources out there to help women break into the tech world. Check out Women Who Code for resources, meetups and more. Girl Develop It is another great resource for coding programs and meetups with chapters in 63 U.S. cities.
Forums like Stack Overflow provide robust and dynamic online communities of learners and more experienced developers. If you've begun learning to code, you've probably Googled a question and ended up reading a Stack Overflow answer. You can make a free account and starting asking your own questions to engage in the community there.
Ask a Human
Coders love to talk about code. And lots of programmers out there want to help you level-up. If you meet someone at a meetup, have a friend in the coding world or even if you're aware of someone on Twitter or GitHub whose work you admire, reach out to them! Send an email or a tweet or ask a question by opening an issue on their GitHub repo. More often than not, you'll hear back from that person. As developers, we want our work to have an impact on other engineers. We love it when people have questions or ideas and are usually happy to talk. Over the course of my coding career, I've received a number of emails, tweets and Linked In messages from junior devs or people just learning to code. I'm always really happy to hear from people who have learned something from a blog post I've written or a presentation I've made and I'm even happier to help. I've often learned something myself from the people who have reached out to me with questions and ideas!
Go Make Friends!
If you're not quite convinced of the merits of developing your learning community, go out and try it! Pick a meetup in your city and just go check it out. Chances are, you'll learn something and maybe even make a friend. And maybe, just maybe, there will be pizza.