In your community, online and in the classroom: Learn to code with these resources

Start your coding journey

I started my coding journey at the beginning of 2015 with no idea where to start. Two years into my first job out of college, I found myself looking for the next step in my career. I was using some HTML and CSS skills that I learned from my MySpace days (seriously!) as part of my web producer job when I was approached to put together a website. The assignment was a quick drag-and-drop site, no coding necessary. But, I thought it was a good excuse to learn to code and hone my web development skills.

Learning something new is hard, especially when you’re trying to break into a highly technical and oftentimes male-dominated industry. I started with a Skillcrush blueprint, and my curiosity turned into a hobby, which became an obsession, which became a career.

Along the way, I’ve gathered some resources and bits of advice for women interested in web development. Here’s my roundup of communities and resources that you can use to start your coding journey.

Learn to code in your local community

For anybody looking to learn something new, it’s important to have a support system in place to help you when you hit bumps along the road. Boot camps and college classes have this system built in, but it’s just as important for a self-taught programmer.

Consider activity levels, meeting regularity, cost, commute and level of programming when choosing groups to participate in.

 

You might find a local Meetup, but you should also check out these organizations:

1. Women Who Code

Learn To Code Women Who Code
Women Who Code  is a global network of community workshops.

Women Who Code  has connected more than 80,000 women all over the world. They have networks on every continent except Antarctica. The events are either free or priced by the event, and you get both community and knowledge — online and in-person.

In my experience, I’ve gained technical knowledge and an entire community of women who have my back while we navigate the tech world together.

2. Girls Who Code

Girls Who Code is specifically targeted for girls in middle and high school to encourage their interest in programming. Girls Who Code wants to capture the interest early and nurture it through college. Like Women Who Code, events are either free or priced per event, and they run clubs and a Summer Immersion Program in-person.

3. CodeNewbie

CodeNewbie is “the most supportive community of programmers and people learning to code.” It’s made up of Twitter chats, a Slack team, weekly podcasts and meetups in major cities. Events are either free or priced per event.

Learn to code online with fundamental lessons

Whether you’re majoring in computer science, enrolling in a bootcamp, or learning on your own, you should start with a solid foundation. Online courses are a great place to start, and there are tons of resources out there to get you started.

1. Code School

Learn To Code Code School
Try courses at Code School to further your web development skills.

The “Try” courses at Code School are great for beginners. They’re free, self-paced, cover the basics, and only take about an hour. They also have excellent advanced courses if you want to purchase a subscription. Keep an eye out for limited-time offers on free courses.

2. Codecademy

With free courses like “Make a Website,” “Deploy a Website” and “Learn the Command Line,” Codecademy picks up where Code School’s “Try” courses leave off. Codecademy also has a pro tier that includes a learning plan, projects, quizzes and a live advisor.

3. The Coding Train

The Coding Train has great coding challenge and intro subject videos. Check out their YouTube channel and see if their tutorials are right for you.

4. Skillcrush

Skillcrush is an excellent introduction to web development or design. I started with the Skillcrush Web Development Blueprint and highly recommend it for beginners. It’s completely self-paced and can be completed in one to three months, but you have a syllabus which gives you structure, and weekly office hours via Hangouts with a teacher’s assistant (TA). The majority of their TA’s and students are women.

5. Free Code Camp

Learn To Code Free Code Camp
Free Code Camp provides coding lessons & challenges that support nonprofits.

Free Code Camp is an open-source community driven by self-paced coding challenges and projects, culminating in an impressive certification.

6. Lynda

Lynda has self-paced courses, tutorials and walkthroughs for everything from Adobe Photoshop to Ruby on Rails — and for every level. Make sure to check whether your library card or student ID gets you a free account!

Learn to code in the classroom

Tried the self-taught route, but found you prefer an instructor? You’re certainly not alone. Boot camps and colleges are the most expensive ways to learn how to code, but you also have the advantage of a built-in community, experts and instructors.

Pro tip: Be sure to ask about placement rates for graduates, scholarships and stipends.

1. Boot camps

Learn To Code Hackbright
Hackbright Academy in San Francisco is exclusively for women.

Boot camps are semi-formal education, either in-person or online, and they typically last from three to nine months. They’re a great alternative to the four-year university, and there are dozens of options to choose from.

Evaluate boot camps based on location, price and what course subject and type of community and support they offer.

 

Reach out to graduates directly. A quick LinkedIn search might turn up program graduates. Here are a few options to consider:

This is by no means an exhaustive list — do your research and select on option that best suits your specific needs.

2. College and/or university

Going to a four-year university and majoring in Computer Science is the “formal” route to a job in software engineering, and many employers still value this educational path. Just remember, that while the world of academia is changing, you’ll still likely have to take some intro courses that aren’t specifically related to your degree choice.

Additional resources to bookmark

Free Programming Books Github Repo

Learn To Code Github
Learn to code with help from Github.

Free books! They haven’t gone out of style yet. This repository on Github provides free, online texts in multiple languages (both spoken and coding) and the repository is constantly being updated so check back often.

DevDocs.io

DevDocs.io is my hidden gem of a resource. They fold in documentation from every language and major framework into one easy place – with the added bonus of a search bar. Truly a developer’s best friend.

These resources are just the tip of the iceberg

Getting started in coding can seem daunting at first. The wonderful thing about tech is that it’s always changing. That means you’ll always be learning. Having some go-to resources in your back pocket and learning how to learn early is important. Find a combination that works for you, stick with it, and you’ll be coding up a storm in no time.

Mary-Katherine McKenzie
Mary-Katherine is a self-taught programmer and a software engineer at WeddingWire. She stays active in the D.C. Tech community by being involved in Women Who Code DC and organizing the local branch of CodeNewbie meetups. Mary-Katherine is from North Carolina and, like any good North Carolinian, attended UNC-Chapel Hill.