Monday, April 22, 2013

Learning to become a developer is just as hard as it has always been

There are many different ways to learn how to become a software developer. One can go to college and learn about computer science for four years. Or, one can learn on their own with books or one of the many great and free online course aggregators and interactive tutorial sites. One can even get intense training in a very specific niche in the field. I would guess there are people working on even more distinctive and new ways to deliver the content a programmer needs to know in order to be effective. This is all great for those of us who love to code and want others to love it too.

However, even though there are new content delivery technologies we have to remember that learning to be a software developer has not gotten easier because of them. Acquiring the content is important, of course, but I don't believe it matters much whether you learned the content from a college professor, read it in a book, or learned it in an online course. What matters is how you grow from an inexperienced developer to an experienced one.

Imagine if you were interested in learning how to paint. You could take some courses at a college, watch online videos about painting, and even use some interactive web apps to hone a technique or two. But none of these will make you a great painter. The only way to become a great painter is to do a lot of painting (and even that doesn't guarantee that you will ever be great).

This is as true with painting as it is with developing software. The only way to become a great software developer is to write a lot of software. You will not be very good at first but then you will get better. It will be hard and frustrating. If you put enough effort into it, however, you will grow as a developer. You will not grow simply by acquiring all the content from these new teaching technologies.

Different people have different preferences for acquiring content. Having different avenues for acquiring knowledge is great but lets not make the mistake of thinking that it is any easier to learn how to become a software developer today than it was ten years ago. I believe programming is one of the purest forms of thoughtful design and creativity. It has always been hard and I believe it will always be hard.

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