Zach Cardais, February 24, 2015 | 3 min read

The Ultimate Guide to Learn to Code (Tech Talent South Edition)

In a full-immersion “learn to code” program like the one offered by Tech Talent South, it’s ultimately up to you to get the most out of it. The program is fantastic and the resources you need to succeed are provided by Tech Talent South. Having said that, you have to put the work in. In a nutshell: You get out what you put in. If you coast for even a day, the risk of falling behind is looming. And once you fall behind, it’s almost impossible to catch up. As I’m currently in Charlotte’s Winter 2015 full-immersion program, I created the guide below to help coding students make the most of the program. Follow this guide and you’ll be coding in 8 weeks and ready to do BIG things.

Don’t Take On Technical Debt

Don’t miss class.

I applied the week before the program started. When I reviewed my calendar for the first week of classes, I had three meetings scheduled with clients that conflicted with class. In all, I missed half of the class time in that first week. If you can at all prevent it, DO NOT MISS CLASS. The course is designed to teach you a year’s worth of coding in just eight weeks. Class moves too fast to play catch up. Yes, it can be done—I was able to catch up. Sort of. Only miss class if it’s unavoidable. Otherwise, be there.

Office hours are your friend.

Here’s a tip: stay for office hours. Class runs for three hours immediately followed by office hours for 90 minutes. Stay. Don’t go.

Do your homework and do it on time.

When you get stuck, keep going. Google the answer. Re-read your class notes. Ask a classmate for help. Do a tutorial on Treehouse. Do everything in your power to work through roadblocks. And when the time comes when frustration overcomes willpower, ask a classmate or teacher for help the next morning and finish your work. The hard work you put in now will pay dividends later.


Ask questions, even if they are stupid.

I know, I know, there’s no such thing as a stupid question. But let’s be real…if *you* think your question is stupid, it’ll be hard to convince yourself otherwise and you probably won’t ask it as a result. Instead, I find that it’s much more productive to simply be OK with asking stupid questions. In other words: don’t think, just ask. The chances are high that it’s not a stupid question and you’re not the only one who wants to ask it.

Take notes.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but class moves fast. You’re not being lectured to, you’re coding and trying to follow along with the rest of class. But, when there’s a break in the action, make sure you take notes, especially for “simple” tasks like uploading to Git. Like many things you’ll do in coding, uploading to Git involves four or five commands that have to be entered in the correct sequential order and the correct syntax. Trust me, the things you think you will easily remember will be forgotten by the end of lunch.

Write daily recaps.

At the end of every class, type or write a recap of everything you learned that day. This reinforcement will help you retain more of the subject matter.

Do Treehouse tutorials.

This is a critical success factor. Make it part of your daily or weekly routine by scheduling “Treehouse” in your calendar.

Recreate classroom projects.

You’ll make several web apps in class, music or movie databases, for example. Recreate web apps similar to the ones you make in class. Instead of a music database web app, make a recipe database, or a car database.

Do your homework and do it on time.

Yes, this is a repeat. Get it? Do. Your. Homework.


Ask your classmates.

It’s really easy to resort to asking the teachers for help when you’re stumped. Ask a classmate or two for help before you turn to a teacher. Remember that you all share a common goal and similar aspirations, so don’t be shy about asking them for help. When your course is over, the teachers won’t be there to help but your classmates will.

Attend the extracurricular events outside of class.

Learning to code isn’t enough. You need to know the people in the coding community and make a contribution if you want to go on and do bigger things.

Teach kids to code.

It’s amazing how much you learn when you’re forced to teach it to someone else, especially kids.