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The power of learning with others

Published July 24, 2018

My name is Victoria Guerrero, and I'm a junior developer at Ten Forward.

Last fall, I graduated from the sixth cohort of the YWeb Career Academy, a front-end web development bootcamp run by the YWCA. This is my first job in tech. Before I started my journey at Ten Forward, I had no experience pushing live code changes. I never even used git before!

Needless to say, when I told my team members that I was interested in improving my programming skills, I didn't know what that would involve. Six months and many small victories later, I am comfortable making pull requests to our repositories on Github, creating and changing files written in Haml and Sass, and am getting better at reading Ruby code.

Entering the realm of programming can be intimidating and overwhelming. It’s easy to feel alone, and uncertain of what you're even supposed to know. Whether you’re a student in a bootcamp or learning coding at home, here are a few ways to get help when you need it.

See also: "#juniordevlife: Why pairing matters"

Seek help from the community

During YWeb, we were lucky to have a few tutors volunteer regularly to help us with our coding questions. This was an invaluable tool, as it allowed us to take advantage of other developers' experience with similar problems, misunderstandings, or blockers that they'd had in their programming journeys.

If you’re learning at home, try reaching out to local meetups to see if anyone would be willing to meet with you, even just once a week. Many folks are happy to accept a free cup of coffee or tea in exchange for their help. 

It may seem easier to just power through and figure things out on your own. However, not asking for help might keep you stuck instead of moving you forward, costing you time, energy, and patience. 

Pair up

In addition to asking questions of an experienced developer from the community, paired programming is also a great way to learn: this is where you work on the same code, at the same time, with another coder (in-person is typically best, but you could do it remotely via screen-sharing, too).

This is especially helpful if you're reading code you haven’t written; for example, if you want to try your hand at contributing to an open-source project.

When pairing with someone who's worked on a project before (or even just a similar project), they can illustrate the thought process behind their code choices, providing real-time explanation (ie: showing you not only how the code works but why). The more junior pair also gets a chance to pick up tools to write better code on their own. 

You can switch between who is the driver (the person with the keyboard leading the discussion), and who is the passenger (the person learning from the driver) and practice both roles, improving technical skills, comprehension, and communication.

Don't be afraid to ask for help

Overall, learning from - and with - others helps you efficiently use your resources, build your confidence, and improve your communication skills. 

As a coding bootcamp graduate and a current developer here at Ten Forward, I can attest to the effectiveness of asking for help. I pair with developers whenever I get stuck on a problem or when I'm trying something for the first time, and it's been great. 

Ask questions, take notes, and soak in all the information you need to establish confidence in yourself as a programmer. Knowledge is power!

Author details

Victoria Guerrero

(Former junior developer)