Learning to code - Why and how?

We are frequently approached by people who are interested in learning to code, often with the goal of kickstarting a new career. It's not difficult to see why - it's one of the most in demand skills in Scotland (and globally) right now, and this isn't set to change any time soon. Aside from the obvious benefits of great career progression and competitive salaries, perks such as Administrate's 4 day week are becoming increasingly common as companies try to attract and retain the best talent.


There are many avenues to learning to code. Traditional routes such as Undergraduate degrees or transfer Masters are still one of the most popular ways to learn, and in Scotland we're blessed with world class universities teaching quality courses. But there's more than one way to skin a cat.

In Stack Overflow's 2016 survey, completed by over 50,000 software engineers, nearly 70% consider themselves partly self taught, with only 43% having completed undergrad degrees in Computer Science (or a related field). With the increasing availability and quality of online courses, many are choosing to teach themselves. Our current favourites to start learning web development are:

  • General Assembly's Dash: If you've never coded before and are looking to dip your first toe, this is for you. Browser based, it'll give you a quick understanding of the basics of HTML, CSS and JavaScript.
  • Codecademy: This is a great next step - still browser based, it delves deeper into front end development and will introduce jQuery, Python, Ruby, and APIs.
  • Treehouse: Treehouse steps it up by getting you to use actual text editors to build websites, as well as teaching you practical skills like using version control software, design basics and how to actually host a website. It's free for 2 weeks, then well worth the $25 a month after.

These are a great way to learn the basics, but the best thing you can do once you're getting to grips with things is start building your own projects. Instead of following tutorials, decide on something you want to build (could be something daft - why not a social network for cats?) and build it. If you're struggling, Stack Overflow is a great resource, as is browsing other folks' projects on Github or CodePen.

If all this seems daunting and you want to throw your cap over the wall into the world of coding, CodeClan may be the choice for you. They offer a 16 week industry focused course that will level you up to a junior developer, and help you find employment at the end of it. They also run evening classes in particular topics, as well as doing free taster sessions. So check out their prospectus!


Lastly, you shouldn't have to do this in a bubble - there's an amazing community of supportive techies across Scotland, running meetups where you can learn and get help from others (they frequently come with free beer and pizza too). Not sure where to begin? Tech Meetup is a good place to start, then check out Open Tech Calendar for local specialised meetups near you.

Happy coding!