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3 things to do in 2020 to get better at coding

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Another decade in the books and as we close out the year, we are all hopefully looking for ways to improve our skills in the year to come.If you are just getting into coding, then the following are a few tips that you should follow in 2020 to learn better, faster and more efficiently.

1. Sticking to one tech stack

You don't normally learn German, French and Italian all at once. You can spend years on each language learning the subtle nuances. And only move ahead to another once you have a need for it. The same is true with working with various tech stacks. The idea that learning every single stack under the sun will make you a coding powerhouse (while cool sounding) isn't very realistic.

For one, most companies, websites, applications out there today are build using a single stack. The current trending ones seem to revolve around Full-stack JavaScript such as the MERN stack or the MEAN stack. I myself use the .NET stack as my primary and that is mainly because I have been working with .NET for over a decade now.

Once you decide on a stack that you have the equipment for and are comfortable with learning, stick with that stack and that stack alone. Sure, in your free time maybe you want to read about some other similar technology, but make that more of a reference assignment for yourself. I meet way too many young programmers who spend 1-2 months working with React and Express and then decide (with limited knowledge) that there is some better alternative. 

The truth is there isn't a better alternative. There is only your current skill level at what you are learning. And 2 months working with React does not warrant your ability to judge that stack in any way.

2. Practical vs theoretical

The only real way to experience anything is to dive in and become a part of it. You can spend 365 days reading about JavaScript and copy/pasting code only to be paralyzed by a simple task such as reading JSON from an API and creating a table. In which case, did you really learn anything?

This is why I always promote the idea of building something hand in hand with learning. Something as simple as a basic portfolio page with a hero section, multiple pages and contact form has a wealth of knowledge. And not only do you get to be hands on and really learn how the concepts that you are learning work in the real world, but you get to have a product at the end.

This is true for any field of course. Work experience is always more valuable than book experience, because you have been there and done that. Whereas the book knowledge may or may not work or be valid, depending on the year of the book and whether it was accurate or not.

And if you are a theory kind of person, then just be sure to intersperse your research with some form of practical application, even if it's just coding drills that you perform daily in order to build muscle memory.

3. Participate in a community

There has never been as much content (most of it free) at our disposal as there is today. Billions of webpages of knowledge can be accessed through various means that cost us cents per day.  And more and more are getting created daily.

This blog in a sense is its own community. Thousands of people visit this website monthly and leave a like, a comment or ask me a question directly which I am more than happy to answer. Some questions even become future blog posts that can help out other folks with similar questions.

And if the virtual world isn't to your liking in 2020 and you want to spend more time in the 4D realm that is our reality, there are usually plenty of in-person tech meetups happening throughout most cities each and every month. I know as I used to host a JavaScript meetup once a week for several months.

And it really is that easy to join a community. It can start with a single comment, but who knows where it can lead you and your education. You might meet other programmers at your skill level with similar interests or you might be inspired to create your own community as well.

So there you have it. These are 3 basic action items that anyone can (and should) follow in 2020 in order to strengthen their coding muscle. They were chosen by me purposefully to not have any type of restrictions to them. You can follow any of these at any point in time and I assure you that they will help you to reduce distractions in your learning, to retain more concepts and to get you to interact more with a community.

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