Weeks 22 and 23: Programming Renaissance Man

Two men in renaissance fair outfits

The term renaissance man refers to someone whose expertise spans multiple areas.

True renaissance men and women are rare because it doesn’t just require a variety of knowledge. It requires expertise.

Much more common is the jack of all trades, master of none person.

If a renaissance man is someone who is an expert in multiple areas, then a jack of all trades is someone who is competent in multiple areas.

But there is a problem

Being competent usually isn’t enough to separate you from the crowd.

In most cases, it is better to be very good at one thing than to be average at many.

This is definitely true when it comes to being a new programmer.

While common sense might tell you that you should start by developing a wide base of knowledge, I would suggest you avoid that temptation.

I say that because I went the wide base route and I regret it.

A look back

When I first decided to learn to program, I was pretty sure I wanted to work on the back-end and with databases.

That hasn’t changed, but now I am almost six months into learning to program and most of my time has been spent learning about the front-end.

That is because I decided to start by building a broad foundation of knowledge rather than specialize.

It makes sense that learning about the front-end would be helpful, and it is to an extent, but in hindsight, I think it would have been better to specialize from the start.

I have mistakenly fallen into the jack of all trades category.

I am competent across a wide range of front-ends skills, but I am not an expert in any of them.

It is time to change that.

Where to now?

I am ready to specialize and I am debating between Python and JavaScript.

I am considering Python because it has been a language that has interested me since I started learning to program and it ties in perfectly with back-end and database work.

On the other hand, JavaScript is widely considered to be one of the most in-demand languages and I already have a solid foundation with it.

Two jesters drinking

Starting on Monday, I plan to commit to one of these two paths but I am still not entirely sure which one I will pick.

I am about 90% sure I’ll choose Python but I have read so many articles praising the future of JavaScript that a small part of me is still unsure.

I guess you’ll have to come back next week to see what I decide but feel free to learn from my journey and don’t wait six months to specialize.

Over the course of your career, you may become a renaissance programmer but start by picking one aspect of programming and become an expert in it.

In other news

When I wasn’t pondering my programming future, I continued to work on freeCodeCamp’s intermediate algorithms. You can check out all my solutions in this CodePen collection.

I also continued working on the Front End Web Development track at Treehouse. I finished up the Bootstrap course, as well as courses in Front End Optimization, HTML Tables, HTML Video and Audio, AJAX, and Object-Oriented JavaScript.

In the real world, I attended a prep meeting for a local hackathon. It was very interesting and one of the challenges really grabbed me but the hackathon is the same weekend as our next Demo Day so I decided to attend that instead.

Don’t forget to come back next week and find out whether I gave my rose to Python or JavaScript.

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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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