Student Question: Where do I go from here?

I’m often asked the where do I go from here question by students that are about to complete a class that I teach. When I answer with wherever you want to go I get a frown and an assumption that I’m being sarcastic.

The funny part is that I’m being quite serious with my response. Every student has different interests and different desires. When I clarify my answer I find that the student still desires some sort of guideance. In this post I go over some general and specific approaches. The disclaimer of course is that you should take everything I say with a grain of salt. If it helps you great, if it doesn’t then web search is your friend thought it tends to be a very chatty friends spouting too many suggestions.

General Guidelines

I think that after learning the fundamental concepts and usage of a language (both programming and otherwise), it is best to go out there and practice it. Some things to keep in mind.

Pick a project that interests you

Programming takes dedicated time. It’s like piano practice – you need to practice at it a little at a time to become better at it. So what interests you? Are there some web applications that you use where you think “I could do better than this”? Or perhaps there’s some mundane thing you do that a program could do for you?

The key is to be honest with yourself and find something that really resonates with you not something that other people think you should do. If you’re true to yourself then you’ll persevere through the ups and downs of your project, otherwise you won’t.

Make a plan to work on your project every day

Plan on coding every day for 30 minutes. It could be shorter or longer but 30 minutes is a pretty good guideline. Read through John Resig’s excellent article about this. John created the jQuery JavaScript library so he knows a little bit about programming.

Start with pen and paper and think your project out. Mock it out on paper.

  • what does it look like?
  • how do you interact with it?
  • how do others interact with it?

Now what is the bare minimum functionality that will provide the solution to your problem? Sketch this out.

You have now completed the first iteration of your project (congrats!).

Just Do It

Set a timer each day for the amount of time that you decided for yourself and work on your project and stick to it. Write at least 1 line of code. Even it’s a “Hello World” line and get going.

Some Inspiration for the Road

A while back a woman named Jennifer Dewalt decided to build 180 websites in 180 days so that she could learn to code. She did this and so can you!

Some last thoughts about this

Some tools that might be useful to learn: