Decoding the soft parts of coding

Published on Sep 30, 2020

When I started on my decoding coding journey, I had the impression that all I needed to do to get better at coding is to just code more. First, take an online course . Then do more tutorials. Make a small side project. Rise and repeat. Basically, just looking at code on a screen, or someone else's code on a screen, and go from there. I did that for kind of the first 1-2 years, but my relationship with coding then kept going on and then off. I'll be super enthusiastic for a couple of months doing courses and Youtube tutorials, and then got busy and it dropped off the radar. 

But this time, on my rebound a couple of months ago, I did something different. Besides the hunkering down on coding screen-time, I also did something that's not usually part of the 'syllabus' - listening to web development podcasts. I would head out for lunch, and during that one hour, I'll be plugged into my Overcast app, listening to the likes of Wes Bos and Scott Tolinski of Syntax.fm, or whatever topic that was a search bar away within the app – JAMstack, Vue, serverless, headless CMS. Initially I just wanted to ramp up on more technical knowledge right from the experts, but over time, especially on the Syntax.fm podcast which I'm loving loads, I began to enjoy listening to the softer aspects of coding – like making your first buck from web dev, freelancing, learning about security, working from home, geeking out on other hardware tech, hearing Wes and Scott riff on when they are reviewing a Javascript framework. Basically, just learning about the identity, culture, lingo, and everything except the code.

And it really helped! I'd stuck around a lot more this time round for much, and it doesn't seem to be faltering at that. I think the key difference was that identity is pretty much part of the learning process as much as the technical learning. I'd always seen myself as a designer, entrepreneur or indie hacker, not a developer, and that lack of sense of belonging did hamper the learning process in ways that I wasn't aware of initially. Especially now that I'm trying to transition to developing products fulltime, I needed to grow into a different identity, a fresh season of life, a new narrative. And you can't get that from just doing technical stuff. I had to truly immerse in web dev culture, and being initiated into these softer aspects of web dev had a significant effect of making me like I belong, I understand the lingo, I can speak to other web devs and understand each other. And as a result, confidence grows, I get more comfortable in my new skin, and that social+identity multiplier seeps across into my technical confidence as well...in some weird black magic way I can't fathom.

So, yeah. Want to be a better developer? Crank up on your geek culture lol!