Week 1: It’s Go Time!

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With the decision made and a plan in place, it was time to start learning.

I understand myself well enough to know that I am at my best when I have a structured routine. With that in mind, my plan was to be very regimented about how I allocated my time. Each night I would schedule out my time for the next day, blocking out not only time for learning but also time for things like working out, eating lunch, and spending quality time with my wife. I think this is a helpful practice in general, but it takes on an even greater level of importance when you are working from home. When there is no one else to be accountable to, you have to be accountable to yourself.

Happy Programmer's Day

I signed up for Codecademy Pro on September 13th, which unbeknownst to me was the Day of the Programmer. When I found that out a few days later I took it as a good omen.

My original plan was to dive right into learning to work with data by focusing on things like SQL and APIs, but the Codecademy site recommended a more full-stack oriented curriculum. Considering that I was essentially starting from ground zero, I decided it wouldn’t hurt to have a broader understanding of development as a whole before focusing on more specialized areas.

A Codecademy lesson path.

A recommended Codecademy lesson path

The first topic was HTML. I taught myself HTML twenty years ago when I made a few websites on Geocities for fun. I was pleasantly surprised how much I remembered even after all that time. Since the HTML lessons were essentially refreshers, I quickly moved on to CSS. This was new for me but it also clicked fairly easily.

From there I started working on SASS and things became noticeably harder. I think part of the reason I had a more trouble with SASS was that after getting thru HTML and CSS so quickly, I decided to look into freeCodeCamp (fCC) sooner than I had originally intended.

Based on what I had read, I expected fCC to be more project-based and I was itching to actually do something. I was curious if there were any projects that I could work on using what I had learned about HTML and CSS. I didn’t realize that fCC also had a tutorial component. Since the first few lessons were on HTML and CSS I decided to go ahead and work thru them. Little did I know when I started that there would be sixty of those lessons. After the HTML and CSS related lessons, fCC went into Bootstrap and I found myself working on two different topics on two different sites. Not a good way to learn, especially considering that Bootstrap was clicking and SASS wasn’t.

I went ahead and finished my SASS lessons on Codecademy, but then I went back to fCC because I wanted to learn more about Bootstrap. It seemed like a much easier way to do what CSS and SASS did. After about 50 more lessons on fCC I finally reached my first project, which was to build a Tribute page using only HTML and Bootstrap.

That seemed like a good stopping point and considering that I was paying a monthly fee for the Codecademy courses it made sense to start focusing on those lessons again. Remember my original goal was to finish the Codecademy curriculum in one month and I certainly wasn’t going to do that if I was splitting my time between multiple sites.

I finished the week working on JavaScript at Codecademy. I had read comments about how difficult some people found JS to be so I was pleasantly surprised when it seemed to make sense for me right out of the gate. While the exercises were simple, it was fun creating scripts that emulated a Magic 8-Ball or played Rock, Paper, Scissors. There was also a lesson where you had to decode a secret message, which contained this quote that I thought perfectly summed up learning to program.

Codecademy programming quote, "Programming isn't about what you know it's about what you can figure out" Chris Pine.

All in all, I felt like my first week and a half of learning went quite well.

My intention was to spend six days a week working with Sundays as my only day off. Although I did deviate a bit from my original plan of working thru Codecademy courses, I spent at least eight hours each “work day” learning about programming and I even spent a few extra hours on Sunday working on things. The best part is that I had fun doing it.

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Author: Lee

Hi, my name is Lee and I am a 40-something who recently made the decision to become a self-taught programmer. This site was set up to chronicle that journey and my experiences along the way. Feel free to contact me with any comments, questions, or suggestions.

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