We took a moment to ask Matt Strumbly, one of the senior developers from Patriot’s software development team, his opinion on where to start if you’re in high school and want to learn how to code.
What’s a good starting point while figuring out how to get into coding?
I recommend that you go to college. Ironically, I don’t think that you’ll learn a ton of what you’ll actually use in college. In coding, much of the useful stuff is learned early. Coding is constantly applying the building blocks of the craft in dynamic ways to create new and compelling solutions. You’ll focus and specialize as you get further into your degree program, which, in technology, can be a mixed blessing considering how fast things update or become obsolete. The coding building blocks can and should be mastered early on, because you’ll use them over and over again.
College is expensive, it really is, but if you want to do some of the bigger, farther-reaching stuff, like operating system development, or using password hashing algorithms to protect applications from IT security threats, then college is a solid investment. Plus, there are still a lot of managers and companies that look at coding on a resume and, without a four-year degree in computer science or some other applicable field, don’t trust it. For some software professionals, college is a necessary evil.
To get hired by the millions of companies that need software developers, however, just figuring out how to get into coding and jumping in can give you useful skills. There are so many coding tutorials out there for all the various programming languages. A lot of them are open source and free, and you can learn a lot of things that you could use in software development right now. Microsoft puts them out, Google has stuff, and there is no shortage of blogs out there that can teach or help you with anything from simple CSS tips to object oriented programming. Plus, this type of self-taught, can-do attitude is one of the qualities of software developers that a company seeks.
One tutorial that I think is really great is a model view controller (MVC) tutorial called Nerd Dinner. It’s a pretty simple project, a couple pages long, that teaches you what you need to know to set up a fully functional MVC website like we have here … well, not just like we have here. The accounting and payroll application that we have is WAY more complex, but you get enough working knowledge to understand the principles. Once you do, you can layer information and scale up.
Are bootcamps a good way to learn how to code?
I’m curious to see how bootcamps do. I think that coding is similar to the old guilds or trades, and I think you can learn it very well by working under a master. In that sense, I think you can learn a lot in a bootcamp. I do worry, because they crunch so much information into such a small amount of time, that you will learn how to do something but you won’t exactly learn why you do what you just did—like using the most efficient practices to avoid bad memory management. Knowing how to do something means you can get a job doing that specific set of things. However, if you know why you’re doing it, you can use what you learn to do many unique and varied things.
Still I think that the speed in which you can learn is fantastic, and if bootcamps are comprehensive and teach you some of the programming theory and coding logic behind what you’re doing, they could be a great route if you’re trying to determine how to get into coding.
What do you like to develop in?
I like Microsoft stuff. I just find that the free stuff isn’t as comprehensive or good. I know that fan boys will scream that you can do everything in free stuff that you can do in .NET, and I respect their preference, but in my experience, the really well-built frameworks have a lot more to offer, for now.