How to learn to code while working a day job

What are some of the solutions when time is in short supply?

Learning a new skill can be hugely rewarding, but also difficult when you’re fitting it in around work and family.

We spoke to some of our students to find out how they overcame the stumbling block of learning to code while holding down a job.

Start small

For Adam, a Marketing Executive in a leading Scottish Fintech company, the decision to start coding was inspired by the “endless possibilities” the skill offered him.

His first stop was the free online tool, Codecademy, which he used to attempt some basic coding. “I then tried CodeSchool, which was tougher and more niche. I also tried to create a website to practice HTML & CSS and to help me understand databases and hosting.”

Realising after a while that he wanted to make coding his new career, Adam spent more and more time studying in the evening and weekends, before finally quitting his job to prepare for a full time course at CodeClan.

Adam has a few suggestions for anyone considering taking up coding while working. “Stack Overflow [an online community for developers to share​ programming ​knowledge] is your friend, but try and think of your own solution before you find an answer online, or ask an experienced programmer.”

“Second, find a project to keep you passionate; creating snakes and ladders is fun but having your own app or website will force you to think more like an entrepreneur.”

Practice makes perfect

Claire planning Intro to Programming

As a Communications Manager for a national charity, coding wasn’t part of Claire’s day job. This meant her need for a new challenge, alongside an interest in digital and technology, was met by her first attempts at learning to code.

Although she attended a few workshops in Edinburgh, Claire decided to try to learn to code online, turning to Codecademy and spending an hour or so most evenings working through problems on the site. “The results were limited because I wasn’t disciplined and there was no opportunity to ask questions,” she says.

Claire ultimately signed-up to a short evening course at CodeClan as “the weekly evening classes with a teacher suit my learning style and lifestyle in full-time employment.” For the first time in her coding journey, she felt she’d grasped the basics of coding.

Her main tip for anyone learning in their own time? “Try to schedule in an hour or two every evening or pencil in a specific night to practice. If you don’t practice you don’t get better. Try to find a mentor or person to help you if you get stuck!”

Be persistent

Man coding on laptop

The opportunity to “build something innovative that would be used by people in everyday situations,” plus the job security of being in a future-proof industry is what attracted David to coding.

While working as a Wholesale Account Executive for an e-cigarette manufacturer, Codecademy was David’s first introduction to the new skill. “It’s a big confidence boost being able to understand a concept and make it work. If I was ever stuck on something (which was a lot), I’d be surprised about how easily it came the next day or after a break.”

Useful books included ‘Learn to Program‘ by Chris Pine and ‘Learn Ruby the Hard Way‘ by Zed Shaw.

Unfortunately, studying while working proved near-impossible for David. “Working up to 10 hours a day, having other commitments and general chores made it hard to balance.”

In the end, he made the decision to take the plunge and sign-up for our immersive coding course, confident that “time spent in classes, bouncing ideas off people and general discussion, pair programming and getting help from instructors,” was going to help him change career faster than learning online.

David’s advice for anyone starting to code at home is that “it’s not as intimidating as it initially seems. Everyone will have been stuck on the same thing at one point, and with learning and dedication it will definitely come, you get out what you put in. Also, take breaks and treat yourself.”

Find out more about our 16-week Professional Software Development course or come along to our next info session in Edinburgh or Glasgow.


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