(If you haven’t read the previous article in this series, please do so here)
It’s been six months since I’ve started here at IMGN. Those months have flown by so fast it makes my head spin just thinking about it, but that could also be all the knowledge I’ve soaked up. The journey has been equal parts stimulating and hard. It’s also taught me a lot, too. Not just coding, but the skills needed to maintain the level of work ethic required.
I’ve started working on one of our projects (NL Sports), and for someone used to tackling Mickey Mouse tasks one at a time, it’s a mind-blow. Folders within folders. Classes hither and thither. I won’t deny that there have been days where there’s been an element of doubt and disillusionment, but that’s to be expected.
So I’m writing this post in hopes that it will be somewhat informative at the least. And this one I dedicate to the beginners. The ones cut adrift, thrust into a strange world where they don’t know where they’re going or what they’re doing. Everyone’s different, so I can’t guarantee that this will help you, but if it does, then I’m glad.
Above all else, learning to code has made me prove myself to myself. When you’re young, sometimes it’s hard to get a handle on what you’re capable of in life. What skills you possess, how far you’d be willing to go to get somewhere as yet unseen. I used to live each day as if it were my last. My life was a constant gamble. Every day a coin toss. Every decision I made focused on today rather than what was to come, but that’s just me. Hope for the best and worry about the worst if that day came. So it’s been quite a restructure, having to adapt to having something as constant as the idea of a job and the idea that there will be a tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day. Slowly easing into being able to settle down some day and grow as a person. That being said, I wasn’t always like that. I used to think myself lazy and unmotivated. I’d just drift through the days. Float along with the current to see where it would take me. Old habits die hard, but direction makes a whole hell of a lot of difference to one’s lifestyle. It’s like getting married, maybe. Sometimes that loving feeling might fade, but the stable idea that someone is there is enough to keep the marriage going.
Which leads to passion. Passion can change your life, man. You’d better believe it. Doing something you’re passionate about, and not something you feel obligated doing, makes quite a difference in your approach to life in general, and not just the thing you love. It’s quite awesome when you have a purpose, or a guiding star, or whatever you believe in. If you had asked me what I wanted to do last year, I would have told you psychology. Mostly because people interest me, and not solely for the selfless desire to help people. Doesn’t mean I would have liked it, though, it was just something I enjoyed enough to maybe feel obligated to study. But here’s a secret. I hate studying. Eventually I would have come to hate my job, because the theory would have taken the stimulus out of it. Anyone can be a parrot. Anyone could memorise stuff and write an exam and pass with flying colours. All studying proves, really, is how good at cramming you are. And well done for you, because if it gets you anywhere in life, then I can’t really complain. Unless you enjoy studying, of course, which some people actually do, believe it or not. We do what we need to in order to survive this urban jungle.
From a coding perspective, though, if there’s one thing you should learn to be is patient. Not to jump the gun, and to actually do things properly so that you don’t waste time because you wanted to see your app run. Take the time to iron out all the kinks, to make sure the app is working like a dream. Full results are better than half-crippled apps any time of the day. Be mindful of what you do, because one line of code can bring your app to its knees. Time is money, and if you’re working for someone, it’s not fair to bill your client by the hour for your mistakes. Settle for a well-built app, but strive for perfection. Skin that cat the best way you know how.
Learn to chill out. Learn to disconnect when you get home. Find hobbies that keep your mind off coding. A couple of months ago I got that coding fever. I threw myself into it full force to avoid some stuff I was dealing with. I worked late into the night and had a lot of fun doing it. Result? I burnt out hard. Your mind needs rest, and I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that. If your brain goes down for a few days, your body doesn’t hesitate to follow. Learn to keep a fine balance, as with everything you do in life. Go work out at a gym, or whatever works.
And as for staying motivated, well, hard to say. I’ve had a couple of days where I lost motivation, but it wasn’t crippling enough for me to give up. I haven’t yet got to a point where I have said that’s it. I guess that proves that if you don’t like what you do, it’s hard to stay motivated in general. Although, to be honest, necessity does play a big part. Same with survival, really. Eat or get eaten. I am aware that we live in a fallen world, one without much choice as to what part we play in the grand scheme of things, so if you’re in it to survive, sometimes that’s just enough to see you through, and your likes and dislikes be damned. And who knows, one day you might even grow to enjoy the challenge of what you do for a living.
But the biggest thing (and I only realised how important this is recently) is fear. I’m scared of new ventures. Honestly, I procrastinate and admittedly try and avoid meddling with things I don’t yet understand as much as possible. You can see how stupid that is, right? In a job that teaches you something new every day, this can be quite hampering. This is something that I’m still trying to learn to get over, and what’s helped me so far is knowing that someone is there to pull me out of the quicksand. But when that isn’t enough, the only way to move forward is to confront your fear and dive headlong into what you’re doing. The biggest thing I find I have to do is prove myself to myself. No one else matters. If my inner critic isn’t satisfied, it doesn’t matter how satisfied everyone else is, it’s not a job well-done. Fear is a helluva thing.
On the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got confidence and competence. One thing that bolsters both is praise. Learn how to recognise it and take it to heart. When I’m praised I still don’t know how to react, but I will admit that it does quite a lot for my work ethic. The only difference between us adults and children, we think we’ve grown up. Doesn’t mean we’re still not hardwired like a kid. Sometimes the person whom we defer to praising us for good work means the world to us, and your gratitude means the world to them, too. It’s the circle of life.
So, dear readers, all this boils down to is keep your head, stop doubting yourself, do the best work you can, stay motivated and give yourself a break… sometimes. Stay focused. Stay patient. Stay afloat against all odds. Easy as that, right?