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Self-studying 101: advice from a self-taught dev

Embarking on a learning journey on your own is extremely exciting, but can also be very overwhelming. I wanted to share my 2¢ based on my own experience on how to go about this and hopefully put you in the starting blocks equipped with the right mindset in order to reach your most ambitious developer goals. 👇

Find a learning method that works for you

This is the first and most valuable tip I can share with you. It’s something that took me the longest time to realise, and which has helped me the most on my developer journey. If you only take away 1 thing from this article, let it be this.

When you are new to the world of code, it makes sense to tread in the footsteps of others. At the time of writing, a quick “learning how to code” Google search brings up more than 10.6 billion results! It's safe to say that coding is gaining popularity and there are tons of platforms and resources, but with that also come millions of opinions on how to get started. Before you buy a handful of recommended books and courses, first answer this: What is the most effective way for you to learn new concepts?

Do you prefer to learn through books or documentation? Video tutorials? Interactive tutorials? Or perhaps you prefer to immediately get your hands dirty by building small projects and to solve problems as you go.

If you’re unsure about which way is best for you, feel free to experiment with this and to try out different methods. Learning a new topic on your own offers the luxury of being able to fully personalise and customise your journey and curriculum — use this to your advantage and find something that works for you!

Don’t be afraid to drop (popular) resources

If you’re like me and don’t like to leave things unfinished, this can be a hard thing to do. I lost count of how many resources (books, online courses, etc.) I tried just because they were heavily recommended. Ultimately, I only ended up sticking with a handful of resources because many others did not suit my skill level (or preferred way of learning), or because the explanation was insufficient for me.

Are you not enjoying or learning much from a course that seems to be loved by everyone else? Don’t get discouraged or doubt your competence, or get stuck on a resource that you dislike. Drop it or save it for later if you feel like it’s only introducing more questions rather than answering them. There are always plenty of alternatives!

Slow down and start with the basics

It's no secret that the tech industry moves fast. Blink twice and someone is suddenly mentioning a brand new framework, website generator or CMS; libraries and packages are continuously being released left and right.

This can be daunting and truth be told, it's hard to keep up. If you're self-studying, make sure you grasp the basics first. Don't worry about not knowing React, and focus on understanding JavaScript first. There's no need to look at Tailwind or Styled Components just yet—instead, prioritise becoming comfortable with writing CSS. Everything else will come in due time (spoiler alert: you don't always need to work with the latest and greatest technologies!).

Apply your growth mindset and know your motivation

Apply a growth mindset (“I can’t do this” vs. “I can’t do this yet”) and find the real reason(s) you want to learn how to code. What is it that you enjoy about it the most? What would you like to use your new skills for? Having your motivation clear will not only make learning more fun, but it will also make you more resilient in frustrating times when your code is not working as expected.

Try not to compare yourself to other learners as everyone has their own timeline and techniques. Keep an eye on your goals, but don’t forget to look back sometimes and see how far you have already come. This may sound straightforward and obvious, but progress is not always immediately visible. Don’t be too harsh on yourself and enjoy the ride! Good luck!

I hope this was helpful 💚 If you’re a self-taught developer, what are some things you find yourself struggling with? What do you wish you knew before you started?

If you enjoyed reading this post or if it was helpful to you, you can support me by buying me a coffee — I'd really appreciate it! 🙏

Latest comments (4)

maureento8888 profile image
maureen_to (she/her)

Totally agree with this! Hence, I’ve pulled away from reading articles like “10 Tips to become X developer quickly” or “20 Best resources for web development” only to find these resource lists are A) Too long to parse through and see which ones stick with you, and B) learning isn’t linear: You don’t learn the 10 resources and immediately become the next best developer for hire. It’s a process and from my personal experience, going slow and figuring out how you learn best is the BEST tip than anything - I totally agree with the main points! ❤️🙌🏼

mccurcio profile image
Matt C

Don’t be afraid to drop (popular) resources...

  1. I usually tell 'peeps if something does not 'work' for you then find something that works OR keep looking 'til you find it.

  2. I also tell people that in the beginning try free resources. There are a ton out there. When you find a style you prefer (or have specific questions) THEN buy the book.

arvindsridharan profile image

Pauline, thanks for the post. I am finding loops in java script a little tough to grasp. Especially I see lot of algorithm using loops.

Your suggestion.

brendamichellle profile image
Brenda Michelle

You provide very important points thank you Pauline 🙂 Even after months of studying and making progress I still compare myself to other's progress and accomplishments. It is something I am trying to work on.