Paths to programming

Logical lessons: Coding helps learners to have a proper train of thought.

There are many ways of learning how to code for beginners, young and old.

ASK a person on the street how to become a programmer and you’re likely to be told that you should study computer science. However, this isn’t entirely true.

Even children as young as seven, have shown an incredible ability to learn programming, says NEXT Academy founder Josh Teng, 27. “I’m amazed by these kids!” he adds.

“It goes to demonstrate that programming isn’t rocket science. It’s intuitive. It’s about writing instructions your computer can execute,” he says.

Since the rise of tech giants like Google and Facebook, as well as the increasing use of technology in every industry, learning to code has become more popular, with even school students starting to pick it up.

Teng says that programming can be picked up at any age.

“Programming is not just for the young. It’s for those in the mid-20s and 30s, as well as those who are passionate and willing to learn the skills to build companies and change lives.”

There are many resources available and different individuals would have different preferences as to how to start learning.

“A computer science degree is a great means to understand how computers work and how systems function,” says Teng.

“But to be a programmer, you can get started without knowing these things and if you have an interest to learn more, you can easily learn all these for free.

“The best way to learn is highly subjective and dependent on the demographics.

“For young adults and college students, I recommend, which is a free website to learn some code interactively.

“For younger people, buy a Lego Mindstorm robotic set and build whatever robots conceivable,” adds Teng.

“And for those who want to really learn to build apps, games, software and Internet startups,” he suggests that it is best to go to an academy that teaches these things.

“There are academies like those in the United States (US) where participants pay a fee of US$9,000 (RM38,300) or more to learn full stack web development.

“NEXT Academy’s Full Stack Coding Bootcamp is the first in Southeast Asia,” adds Teng.

“A full stack web developer is able to build the back-end of an application (what makes the application work), as well as the front-end (how the application looks to a user).

“In just nine weeks, our graduates are able to build apps like AirBnB, Shopify, Twitter, Instagram and more,” says Teng.

There are many reasons for children to start learning coding, one of which is that it improves logical thinking. It also trains them to have problem-solving skills.

However, most older learners with no coding background pick it up because they wanted to accomplish a specific task.

Muhammad Syafiq Faiz Md Noor, 26, says that he loves programming because “it is the closest thing to a superpower”.

“We can build things. We can turn ideas into a product.” He first started learning programming while preparing to continue his studies in mechanical engineering.

“I was introduced to C++ and I instantly fell in love with programming and I continued to teach myself programming afterwards.

“When I decided to seriously get involved in it, I learnt Ruby, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery and Ruby on Rails through a bootcamp at NEXT Academy.

“Since then, I have continued my learning by reading and following tutorials that are widely and freely available on the Internet, as well as other paid sites such as Codeschool and Railscast,” he says.

For those who are just starting out, Faiz recommends finding friends or mentors who can help.

“It can be very intimidating at first. Having friends and mentors would definitely help ease the learning process. And don’t be afraid to ask for help when you are stuck,” he adds

Faiz now runs his own startup called Dobybox, a laundry service that uses an Internet gateway.

Jeremy Ong, 24, first started programming because he was looking for a way to automate mundane tasks.

“I’ve always been intrigued by the way programmers think,” says Ong, who was a brand executive at a fast-moving consumer goods company.

“I did an extensive online search to figure out a way to automate some of my processes and managed to write a script using iMacros,” says Ong.

“I also knew that the businesses that were booming were all tech-related. I found out about NEXT Academy’s full stack coding bootcamp that was being held at the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity (MaGIC) Centre and signed up for it.

“It was one of the most eye-opening experiences that I’ve had. If you have time to spare, attend a bootcamp like that to learn programming.

“If you don’t have the time, there are a lot of resources online that you can use like Codecademy, Udemy and others,” he said.

Ong is now a partner at a web development agency and has built his own app to support his new business, a vape juice subscription service.

Teng adds that developers in Malaysia have the same capabilities as those in the United States.

“I’ve been to Silicon Valley and met engineers at Google, Facebook and Square, and I dare say that we are just as brilliant.

“We should have faith in ourselves and be confident always. Our graduates are truly world-class.”

This is the second in a series of monthly articles on programming. The writer is a coder at NEXT Academy.

NEXT Academy helps its students develop coding, marketing, design and data science skills that are usable at their places of work or in individual endeavours. Its graduates have gone on to start their own businesses, or have found employment at multinational organisations, as well as startups.

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