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Advice for a Beginning Coder

By: Trevor Steele, IT Web Developer at Wabash International

This month marks the year and a half mark of my computer programming journey. It’s a little overwhelming to reflect the growth I’ve experienced as a developer during that time.

The first day of my new job, a coworker of mine came by and put a book on my desk. It was called Soft Skills: The Software Developer’s Life Manual by John Sonmez. There’s one particular chapter that I come back to repeatedly; especially as someone who has had to learn five different programming languages during my 18 months as a coder.

80-20

The best possible way to go about learning a new technology is to “find your 20%.” This means that you find a small portion of the new technology that will cover 80% of your daily usage, and focus on that. Of course, this is much easier said than done, and it’s not always obvious what that 20% is. When I began learning Swift, I was so enamored by all of the awesome capabilities of iOS, I overwhelmed myself quite a bit. In my mind, if I couldn’t write an app with the design, animations, and subtle nuances of Snapchat or Instagram, I wasn’t doing it right.

I began looking at apps and websites differently after six months of programming. What was the 20% that each of the apps I used daily had in common? What were the essentials all of these programs couldn’t function without? Those areas are where I invest my time whenever I have to learn a new technology!

Making network calls, displaying data, and making content easy to navigate are just a few of the many things programmers have to do regardless of coding language or platform. In Swift, this meant familiarizing myself with Alamofire, practicing with tableviews, and learning auto layout. With web development, it was AJAX calls, HTML, and implementing Bootstrap so that my content looked crisp on a variety of screen sizes.

Apps, websites, databases, servers, no matter what you’re interested in learning more about, try to find that 20% and jump into the code! Find enjoyment in being outside your comfort zone and tinkering with new technology.

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