If you want to become an exceptional programmer, be ready to spend your time for the next few years doing programming daily. Any experienced programmer knows that it’s always important to search for ways to improve your skills. Here a few tips to help you push your programming skills to the next level.
1.Taking the initiative to become an active learner instead of being a passive learner
Instead of taking online courses and classes that will teach what you hope to learn, start actively researching for other means to teach yourself. If you have no experience to make a game, for example, google “how to program a game in A”, where “A” is the programming language you want to utilize. If you encounter an error message that you are not familiar with, try googling it, find a textbook, tutorial or online course to overcome the challenges you face.
Oftentimes, you can find tutorials describing what exactly it is you want to do, or at least relevant articles that provide you with an overview and tips on how to compose more specific search queries. More broadly, there’s no shame in researching to learn new things. Googling and researching is something that everyone in the programming field, both beginners and intermediates constantly spend time looking at.
Working on programming is similar to doing physical exercise, in that the main way to improve yourself is through constant practice. Start with simple coding, and try programming a basic game, for example, “rock-paper-scissors” on the command line. Once you are done, try looking into more ambitious tasks, and work through that. Alternatively, you can look into various programming exercises, if you want to mix things up. Programming is essentially about applied problem-solving and the best approach to learning how to problem-solve is to keep solving problems, regardless if they are big or small. If you are not sure where to find practice exercises and project ideas, here is a list of ideas you can reference for inspiration:
3. Learn how to manage problems
When you’re attempting to tackle huge projects, it’s easy to feel discouraged by just how big or daunting the task seems. Instead of feeling intimidated by it, try to work on breaking up the problem into smaller sections, until each issue can become manageable by yourself. Take, for example, you want to develop a rock-paper-scissor game. If you want to break it down, this would comprise o several subproblems: how to gather input from the users, how to make the program pick a random option, how to distinguish who will be the winner, and how to repeat the entire sequence( if you want to play the game multiple times).
If you’re unsure how to figure out each of these subproblems, try segmenting it apart from more. For example, if you’re not sure how to identify who has won, you could segment it up into more sub-problems: how to determine if you’ve tied and how to determine if you have won. Here is a simple exercise that can you try out to build you your skill on problem-solving:
- Choose an activity that you do daily, like making a meal or a similar activity. It should not be too straightforward, but also not too complex.
- List down the steps that you should do for the activity, but do it out of memory in a different time to when you work on it.
- The next time you work on the activity take your notes and try to follow the steps frequently. Try not to deviate from your written down steps and if you have to, make sure you note down the changes.
- Improve your steps until you are satisfied.
- Try this method with different activities and the tasks will gradually become easier.
4. Learn how to be systematic
When you are doing coding, take a short break and plan out a rough idea by sketching some diagrams, or taking notes of pseudocode. If you are thinking of changing something, think about why you want to make that change and what is your new plan. On the side doing debugging, try to narrow down what causes the issues/bugs and record the results. If your hypothesis turns out to be incorrect, or if there is something that works when you didn’t think it would, stop, pause and figure out why. Consider monitoring your tests and in a notebook, if it helps you keep on track. Bugs will always appear if something does not work as intended, trace that down until you can pin down what the issue is/what incorrect assumptions you made.
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