Sofia Rosa Bianchi

Code, code, code, is all I hear lately.  ‘Coding is the way of the future!  Coding is easy and fun!  Every company values workers who can code!’   With all of this buzz about coding, I decided I would give it a try this summer.   So, I recently set an important goal for myself: Learn how to code, in as many software languages as I can manage by the end of the summer.  Now, if you're unfamiliar with coding, you may be quietly wondering: What is a computer code?  What is a ‘software language?’  If so, never fear!  I was standing in your shoes just a few weeks ago.  Your questions and concerns (which are more common than you think) will be addressed in this article...and your curiosity is a great sign that you're on your way to becoming a successful coder.  

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In the beginning of my coding journey, I had no idea where to begin.  Having had no prior knowledge or experience with code, I was starting completely from scratch.  In the beginning I felt like I was spending more time looking up what certain terms meant (what ‘coding’ meant, for that matter) and what different softwares were, than actually taking the time to practice coding.  I wished there was some sort of guide that could tell me from the get-go which online program to start with, and which programs I could eventually advance to having gained the necessary experience.  Now there is!  Welcome to Sofia B.’s Smart Guide to Coding, Volume I.

Through a series of articles that relay my coding progress this summer, I wish to inspire you to take up coding as well, so that we can weather this journey together.  I am now well-along in my coding journey, and I am happily progressing at a steady pace.  While I am by no means an expert at coding (yet), I hope that my guide serves as a resourceful tool and comforting read, for the curious woman who wishes to embark on this journey alongside me.  You don’t have to do this alone!  In fact, I invite you to reach out to me, so that we may help each other along the way.  (You can reach me on the bSmart connect platform under Sofia Bianchi, or directly at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.… Let’s connect!)  After all, coding can be easy and fun.  When working with code, the opportunities are endless.  You are capable of anything, girl!  So what do you say we get started?

 

Step 1) What is Code?

Ever wonder how your phone makes an app pop up at one tap of a finger?  That’s code.  Or how when all you do is click: File, Save, and then the document saves?  That’s code.  Or how your favorite online shopping website starts showing an active slideshow of new arrivals on its home screen without you even doing anything?  That’s also code.

Coding is the language of computers.  In fact, it is more like a realm of computer languages, divided by different (what I like to call) ‘dialects,’ or, software languages.  It works like this: you write a ‘script’ of commands for your computer, app, or mobile device to follow, using the specific vocabulary that the software you are working in uses.  Then, when you ‘run your code’ you are putting these commands into effect.

You can also write into your ‘script’ a framework of rules for your virtual world to follow.  For instance, whenever I click on this, this will happen.  Whenever I tap this, this will pop up.

 

Step 2) What is a Software?

A software is what I call a ‘dialect’ of code.  Every software has its own ‘dictionary.’  In other words, every software uses slight variations of very specific commands which can be used to make your computer or mobile device do cool things.  When I use the ambiguous term ‘cool things’ it's because it's an umbrella term which represents the endless possibilities of the animations at your fingertips when you become an affluent coder.  For instance, you can make a letter get bigger or turn a different color when you hover your mouse over it, or you can make things ‘pop up’ or ‘disappear’ with the tap of a finger, as if by magic.  That’s right, it’s just like magic.  Learning to code is essentially learning how to be a virtual-magician.

Every software has its own ‘language.’  Here is a list of some common software languages:

  • C Sharp
  • Java
  • JavaScript
  • C++
  • Python
  • SQL (pronounced 'sequel')
  • PHP
  • Ruby on Rails (often referred to as simply, 'Ruby')

Warning: Become familiar with the names on this list now.  When you begin your coding journey, you will start to hear these thrown around left and right.  (When I first started hearing these I was like, Wait what?  C Plus What?  What’s a software again?)

Essentially, the more software languages you learn, the more marketable you become in the professional world.  (However, once you start with one software language, the rest should come easy.  It’s like knowing Latin, and then being able to decipher foreign words with ease.)

A master coder knows their software languages well enough to be able to put commands together in clever ways for a desired aesthetic effect in the same way that a successful poet would combine words with rhythm in order to evoke a certain mood.  Being a master coder is like being a Shakespeare of technology.

 

Step 3) What’s a Good Beginner’s Program?

The great thing about learning to code is that you can teach it to yourself.  Like anything, learning to code will require practice and patience, but it isn’t rocket-science.  Luckily, all you’ll need to begin is your computer and your brain.

I tried and failed multiple times before finding an online code-schooling program that worked for me.

I would highly recommend to start with Codecademy.  It’s easy, fun, and free!  Codecademy assesses your level of understanding before you even begin, making sure you're placed in just the right level.  Then, it guides you through a straightforward, colorful, self-paced program to get you started on your road to coding success.

The software that Codecademy suggested I learned first was JavaScript.  I followed the easy-to-follow prompts, and was hooked right away.  One of the first things the program had me do was type in a few simple commands to watch some colorful letters come to life on the screen.  My initial reaction was: Did I just do that by typing in a few simple words?  I can do anything!  (Follow up on next week’s article to learn the definitions of basic terms that I learned, which may help you to get ahead before you begin.)

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Being a master coder is like being a Shakespeare of technology.

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Step 4) What is Coding Used For?

Companies actively recruit workers to code their systems for them, and they highly value any employees who come in knowing how to code.  On the front-end, coding is used for marketing: drawing in consumers by creating virtual visual magic to represent the company or brand.  Every company wants to have a visual edge; especially through any form of streamlined virtual media.  On the back-end, coding is used for managing databases and servers.  Every company wants their systems to work smoothly and soundly in order to operate with maximum efficiency.  To learn more about the difference between front-end and back-end development, click on this link.

Coding is used to articulate databases, general purpose programming, computer system support, computer engineering, and web/app-development.*

*(Be prepared, some people/sites use the acronym ‘web-dev’, or just ‘dev.”’  When I first saw the word ‘dev’ I was like, What? What does ‘dev’ mean?  It generally refers to: developer, whether that be a web or software developer.)  

 

Step 5) How Valuable is it to Know How to Code?

Short answer: Very.

Every company values a person who can articulate their web/device systems.  Not only that, but it's imperative that workers are hired to improve upon these systems in order to keep up with competing businesses.  In other words, every company in every field requires people who code, and values their coders tremendously.

Lydia Dishman published a study for Fast Company in 2016 which stated that seven million job openings in 2015 were in occupations which required coding skills.  In 2011 that the top 25% of computer programmers make nearly $80,000 annually,  while senior software engineers average a salary of $121,348, not including bonuses (to learn more, click here.)  According to a study published by The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for computer programmers in May of 2017 was $82,240.

Perhaps the best part about code is that you can do it from anywhere you are in the world, as long as you have stable internet connection.  Better yet, companies all around the globe will hire you, so long as you possess the skill.  Thinking about relocating to a tropical island for the rest of your life?  (Hey girl, that’s so funny, so was I.)  As long as you bring your laptop, no problem!

 

On Your Mark, Get Set, Code!

Being a person who codes is essentially being a person who possesses the skills to design for the virtual world.  Animating a virtual world is just as dynamic as animating the physical world: It’s like a dance, and you, the coder, are the choreographer.  

 

Sofia Bianchi is currently a student at Fordham University and a fresh alum of the School of American Ballet, the premiere training grounds for young dancers in America.  Sofia is currently exploring different facets of her creativity and hopes to become successful as a publisher, editor, or novelist.

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