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9 Tips to Advance from Beginner to Intermediate Coding

What to do after finishing your introductory coding class

Made your way past Codecademy or other online introductory programming courses? Lost on what to do next?

Although this is for applicants preparing for the Code Chrysalis Immersive technical interview, it has useful information for anyone looking to take their next steps as a new developer!

For more information on our admissions process, check out our How to Get Into Code Chrysalis article.

Let’s get right into it. Here’s some advice to help you take your skills to the next level.

1. CodeWars and Coderbyte are fun, but be careful.

Do not pay attention to the top scorers…for now.

Oftentimes, the code solutions that gets the top scores on websites like CodeWars and Coderbyte are not examples of good code.

The websites are games, and part of the game for developers is to see how short they can get their solutions. While the solutions work, they are not necessarily what would be recommended in a professional setting.

We write code for people, and it is run by computers. Not the other way around. Short code does not always mean clear code.

They can also involve techniques or concepts that are a few levels above what you should be focusing on.

We write code for people, and it is run by computers. Not the other way around. Short code does not always mean clear code.


2. Passing tests are useless if you do not know why

It can be easy to throw a bunch of ideas against a wall and see what sticks. But it would be even better if you knew why it sticks.

For beginners, we want you to also understand the why’s. If you do not understand “why” for basic topics, how will you understand “why” for advanced topics?


3. Be careful of copy-pasting code from StackOverflow or blogs

Make sure you know why something works (or does not work). Invest the time to understand the fundamentals.

Another problem with StackOverflow or blogs is that they can be wrong, whether intentional or not. They can also be outdated.

Stay vigilant about the material or answers you are looking at.


4. Familiarize yourself with reading documentation

Reading documentation (on-line manuals) is an important skill. Frankly, it is a skill that many working developers lack, so building up this skill early will set you apart.

You can find JavaScript documentation on MDN. It can be intimidating to read and you will not be able to understand everything you read for quite a while. But that’s ok.

If you can learn just one new thing every time you try to read something in the documentation, you are making solid progress.

If you can learn just one new thing every time you try to read something in the documentation, you are making solid progress.


5. Learn to do things without native methods first

If you are using .forEach and .map for everything, I suggest you try solving problems without using any of those.

We want to be able to understand how these built-in methods work before using them. If you do not know how to do things without them, you will always be coding half-blind. Make sure you have 20/20 vision. Your career will thank you for it.

If you do not know how to do things without [native methods], you will always be coding half-blind.


6. Build a habit to check your assumptions by running and checking your code often.

  1. Do not be afraid to use console.log to print things out.
  2. Always double check.
  3. Be aware of what data you have access to at any given point in your code.

Make sure that you test your assumptions — are you sure that variable is a function? A string? A number?

Sometimes, what you think is a 2 is instead a '2'and that can make a big difference in code. Use console.log and also typeof to double-check that what you think is true.

This will also protect you from bugs. It can be frustrating to write a bunch of code, only to run it at the end and realize that there is something wrong. Protect yourself from making these mistakes before you reach the end.


7. Error messages are your friends.

Familiarize yourself with common error messages and what they mean — do not ignore them. Learn to read them so you can use them to your advantage.

Error messages will also give you a line number in your code where the error originated from. Pay attention to them and do not be afraid to Google what your error message is telling you.

As you get more advanced, you will come across silent errors. The evil twin of error messages. These are situations where something is not working, but you do not have a handy error message telling you where it is going wrong. They are the worst.

So, next time you see an error message pop up, give them a big hug and thank you. And then listen to them.

Common error messages for beginner coders:

Uncaught ReferenceError: ______ is not defined

This usually happens because a variable or function name is missing; the JavaScript engine is not sure what you are referring to. Are you sure you spelled everything correctly? Are all of your variables declared? Did you copy/paste code? (Please don’t copy-paste code without understanding it.)

Uncaught SyntaxError: Function statements require a function name
Uncaught SyntaxError: Unexpected identifier

Did you forget a closing or opening bracket or parentheses? That is usually the case.

Uncaught TypeError: Cannot read property

This often happens when you are trying to read a property or call a method on an undefined object. Are you using a method that does not exist on an object? Is your object defined?

Resources:


8. Go slow and review often

It feels a little counter-intuitive, right?

Review concepts that you think you are already familiar with often. You will probably always come across something new. Try seeing if you can understand more MDN documentation each time.

You are learning the fundamental building blocks that will support your career. Spend time making sure it is as strong as possible. Do not be ashamed of going back to review strings and numbers, even if you think you already know how to use them. There is always more to learn.

So while React can seem really sexy and attractive, if you do not have a good grasp of the basics, it will be a struggle and waste of effort.


9. Make it work, then make it pretty

Do not stress about making your code look elegant. First, get it working. Then, we can go back and clean it up.

Working and ugly is better than broken and…still broken!


Happy coding!

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