On learning to code

When I was sixteen years old, I wanted to code.

It was that time of year where we chose our year 12 subjects, which would, of course, we were told, define the rest of our lives. I wanted to code, but that involved joining Computer Studies. Our computer studies class was full of those socially awkward boys who could only converse with you about Pokebattles or, on a good day, something more pop-culture centric like The Simpsons. I would have been the only girl in the class, and, more importantly, at 16, none of my friends were doing it. On top of this, I had no idea what careers I could get into outside becoming a programmer: which was something I could barely comprehend in a world pre-MySpace. In fact, most people expected me to become an English teacher. I didn’t know what I wanted to do – but I knew I would be safe in the arts. And, honestly, I didn’t think that I was smart enough to code – so I scratched that secret craving off my to-do list. So I took Society and Culture.

In a small country town, with all my friend on farms, I’d taught myself HTML from websites online, because the only other thing to do was cultivate weed, and gardening was never really my style. I didn’t know anyone else who build websites and a hobby so it kind of fell into the ether as something I did sometimes to relax (like beating that level of Angry Birds that has had you stumped for hours). It was the challenge to create this thing that was in your head into the real world. It, of course, never occurred to me that I was probably doing the exact same thing that those socially awkward kids in Computer Studies were doing.

At the time, I didn’t think it was really acceptable for girls to code. I know it was all “pro gender equality” and all that, but when you’re a teenager, no one really paid attention, especially when then most important thing your friends were concerned about was the dress they were wearing for their deb ball. Its been only a few years on where I’ve realized that, actually, girls can code – and no one cares if a girl wants to code. I’ve discovered that people actually really like a girl who can code – because there isn’t as much as a language barrier as compared with boys who chose to sink into a code-centric world, who discuss the universe is references to Skyrim or, if we’re lucky, The Simpsons.

I’d dabbled in code on and off for a few years , but never really knew how to get back into it – to learn more coding languages that meant I could play with the web 2.0 world. I want to create mashups with twitterbots and google maps and haul information from across the web to create new ways to connect ideas – but I don’t even know where to start. To counter the dusty, unopened l javascript textbooks on my bedroom floor, I’d briefly considered doing a TAFE course on web mashups – but that’s a pretty huge commitment. It only occurred to me how long it’s something I’ve been craving to do when @mikey_pants tweeted: “new years’s resolution to learn to code? Sign up now to free weekly courses.

It was like Christmas. I was so excited. I signed up and I’ve been working through the Codecademy courses like there’s no tomorrow. It’s been incredibly empowering. I can’t wait to fumble though the lessons and write my own code beginning with the dorky “hello world”. As for where to go from here – I don’t know. Maybe I have a base understanding to crack open my textbooks. Or maybe I’ll need to learn another language or two. I guess time will tell – either way, I can’t keep limiting myself from doing something I really enjoy simply because of something that, as a teen, I thought I couldn’t, or shouldn’t, do.

If you have any tips for rad sites to teach programming, hook us up. I’d love to know what else out there.

One Comment on "On learning to code"

  1. Matt says:

    Hi Beaney,

    Great story. I’m a similarly late-bloomer on coding. I learned this year after a lot of time online but not on the tech side. The tools that helped me were:

    Lynda.com – great introductory video tutorials
    Railscast – from more advanced Ruby on Rails tutorials
    StackOverflow – for when I get stuck.


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