My Coding Journey (Week 4)

I’m halfway through my coding journey! Today marks the fourth week of my 8-week Coding Kickstarter course with Code First Girls. I’m also halfway through my Codecademy Beginner Python course.

I’m so pleased to have got this far! It hasn’t been easy balancing study with work and family life but I’m surprised by how much I’m enjoying the journey. I expected to find coding interesting but I hadn’t expected to love it!

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At this halfway point, I’m reflecting on the reasons why I chose to learn to code. One of the reasons I noted in my first article was:

I feel that learning to code would help me in my job so that I can be better at listening to, understanding, conversing with, and empathising with people.

I hoped that learning to code would help me in my job at Durham University, where I help to manage the University’s TechUP Skills Bootcamps in Software Development and Data Engineering. The people who are studying on the bootcamps are learning to code in Python as part of the intensive programmes that are helping them prepare for a career in tech.

From the very start of my learning to code, I’ve felt better able to understand and support our Skills Bootcamp students. While I’m not enrolled on such an intensive course, I do feel that my experience of learning to code has helped me to support those people who are struggling to make progress.

In particular, my experience of learning to code has helped me become more aware of the following:

Starting is hard

Just because a course is described as “beginner”, that does not necessarily mean it is easy. The word “beginner” suggests that everyone is starting at the same point. But each of us approaches new learning with our own unique set of educational and life experiences. We are not all starting at the same point, and we are not all travelling along the exact same path. What one “beginner” finds easy, another finds challenging. Struggling with parts of a “beginner” course is not a sign of inadequacy or failure.

Starting something new can be difficult. It’s easy to fall at the first hurdle. As educators, we need to offer additional support to those who need it. As learners, we need to feel comfortable and confident to request and access support when we need it.

We might not be travelling along the exact same path, but we are not making the journey alone. Whether you are part of a cohort of learners, or studying independently online, there are so many people and communities who will want to cheer you on.

Learning to learn

My experience of learning to code has reminded me that we shouldn’t underestimate the mental work of “learning to learn” again. This is especially true when we’ve been out of education for a while.

We need to be patient with ourselves if we don’t understand concepts immediately, and we need to have humility and bravery to ask questions when (we suppose that) everyone else knows the answers.

There is a lot of emotional work and identity work involved in learning something new. There are highs and lows. One wise woman advised me that we need to remember our feelings of pride and excitement so that this can spur us on when we feel overwhelmed.

Delivery matters

Coding is taught in different ways on different courses. Some delivery methods will work for you, others won’t. If you struggle with pace, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are unable to keep up; it just means that you might benefit from another (or additional) delivery method that suits you better, or another course that is less intensive and provides more time for you to process and understand information.

Time flies

Learning to code will probably take more time than you expect. Getting stuck drains time. And you will get stuck. Trying to get unstuck is frustrating. But the moment you spot the issue, correct the code, and run the code successfully, the feeling of achievement is amazing!

If you have a set timeframe for learning to code, make sure you block out enough time to learn (ideally with a buffer period), factoring in the time you’ll need to process complex concepts, get unstuck, and take regular breaks.


Connections with real people are so important. There is such power in somebody saying “Well done!”, “You’ve got this!”, “Have faith in yourself!”, or “I’m struggling too!”. That might be a course instructor, a fellow learner on your course, someone you follow on Twitter, a LinkedIn connection, or somebody who is working in tech already.

Exchanging a few kind words can have a huge impact on your confidence, motivation and progress. In no time at all, you will be able to give back to your community and help other people who are learning to code.

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Course Progress

This week I’ve started to learn about dictionaries, and I’ve been learning more about lists and strings. I understand all the course content this week, but I don’t have the memory recall just yet. I feel that I would benefit from a bank of very, very simple and repetitive challenges that would allow me to consolidate my knowledge.

The highlight of my week was when my code was selected as an example during the Code First Girls live session. I hadn’t produced anything out of the ordinary, but it was a huge confidence boost to see our brilliant course instructor working through my example!

Highlight of my week: photo shows course instructor's screen with some of my code on it. The code relates to an exercise set using random choices.

Goals for Week 5

My goals for the coming week are:

  • Start the Modules lessons in Codecademy (incomplete goal from last week!)
  • Continue the Dictionaries lessons in Codecademy
  • Watch YouTube videos on Modules (incomplete goal from last week!)
  • Complete the Code First Girls homework
  • Try to find very, very easy Python challenges

Key Takeaways

This week, the personal lessons I have learnt are:

  • Progress isn’t measured only by the number of weeks past, or the percentage of work you’ve completed. Learning to learn again involves emotional work and identity work. Try to notice and celebrate your successes given your own particular context.
  • Finding something difficult is not a sign of inadequacy or failure. Learning to code is difficult. Beginner courses can be difficult. Certain topics are more difficult than others. Persistence, patience, and self-belief will triumph!
  • Try to find a course that suits you and your learning style. Consider course intensity, duration, pace, delivery methods, and learning community. There are lots of free resources online; explore them, and consider creating a mix-and-match combination that works for you.
  • Set realistic goals that take account of external commitments (e.g. childcare), your energy levels, challenging new topics, and your need to have some downtime.

That’s all for now. Let’s see what Week 5 brings!

Code First Girls post from Instagram. Coding is a skill. Keep going. You are great!

About the Author

Dr Elena Gorman is the Digital Talent Engine Manager for Dynamo North East, and the Assistant Project Manager for the TechUP Programme at Durham University. She has worked in a number of tech-related roles, including for The Alan Turing Institute at Newcastle University, and the Creative Fuse North East project at Northumbria University. Elena has a PhD in Theology from Durham University and has published research on female martyrdom in early Christianity.

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