By Phil Alves
As a result of the isolation measures that have taken place over the last few months, millions of people have taken up a new hobby or revisited old ones to pass the time spent in quarantine, whether that’s learning how to bake bread, starting up yoga, or learning a musical instrument.
However, as workplaces slowly open up again and those hobbyists are left with fewer hours on their hands, one question will remain: Is my newfound hobby worth sticking to now I have less free time?
One hobby that’s worth investing your time in—no matter how busy you might be—is learning how to code. Even without holding yourself to professional standards or seeing it as a career opportunity, learning the basics of software development holds numerous benefits across multiple areas of your life. And contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to have a mathematical or IT background to learn to code. Here’s why it’s one of the best hobbies out there—and how you can get started.
It develops the analytical part of your brain
Learning how to code enhances problem-solving skills and helps you develop in areas such as logical and critical thinking. While many people are prone to solving problems emotionally, gaining skills in software development helps you to take a step back and approach challenges in a rational manner.
Coding is, essentially, assigning a computer to do a task based on parameters and guidelines that you have set. More complex coding tasks require you to divide them into smaller operations in order to complete them. This helps you look at problems from a big-picture standpoint and adapt to working through individual frustrations in order to solve bigger problems.
Ultimately, software development requires you take a methodological and logic-heavy approach — this can spill over into countless areas of your life to offer unexpected benefits.
While physical and creative activities like woodwork, gardening, and cooking provide an immense award to the hobbyist by allowing them to see something that they created, the same is true of building digital components or products.
Putting in the work to learn and write the code to create something even as simple as a webpage or blog site provides huge satisfaction for the coder hobbyist, as they can visibly see and experience the fruits of their labor.
In addition to this, you can also bring other fun ideas you have to life as your knowledge and expertise grows. Maybe you want to build a tool that supports another hobby such as organizing band practice or a team sports leaderboard—by learning to code, you can make this a reality.
It has a strong community
While it might not spring to mind as a fun group activity, learning how to program can actually provide many newfound opportunities for socializing. Coding with others and working together on open source (OS) projects not only lets you learn from your peers in the field, but it can also lead to friendships based on a common interest.
I’ve met up with online coding friends multiple times, and I am always delighted to find out how many of them are not developers in their day jobs. If you’re looking for a place to start building this social base, some impressive developer communities (for developers of all levels!) include Women Who Code, Hashnode, StackOverflow, and freeCodeCamp
It gives you knowledge that’s important in today’s world
Digital transformation efforts are accelerating across industries, especially in the aftermath of COVID-19 as many companies are forced to adapt to an online-only model. A deeper knowledge of what it takes to build and run the solutions that are powering much of the innovation and progress that’s taking place right now is invaluable.
Not to mention, you simply look more switched on and are more informed to comment on important issues. Remember the cluelessness of the senators questioning Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook’s behavior? Never fear that will be you once you understand the ins and outs of today’s technologies.
Learning to code can also provide additional benefits in your day job that you wouldn’t have had before. For example, a CEO in my network that comes from a non-technical background codes in his spare time. This has allowed him to come up with new feature ideas and even build some of them himself for his company’s app.
These days, tech is everywhere, so having a knowledge of how it works and what’s possible—no matter your field—is bound to help.
How should I get started?
If you’re convinced that learning to code is going to be your next big hobby, there are a number of avenues you can follow to get started. I advise leveraging free internet tutorials as a first step, or signing up to online courses such as those by Treehouse and CodeAcademy. If you’re keen to get stuck into the action straight away, it could also be worth signing up for a project-based coding course like this one by Udemy, so you get to create as you learn.
In terms of beginner projects, many developer hobbyists that are just starting out build their own blog, forum, or simply practice writing the code to get something up on a webpage. It’s important not to set big lofty goals while in the initial stages — coding as a hobby should be treated as exactly that: a hobby. The main point is to enjoy the process, rather than enforce strict deadlines and requirements on yourself.
While many in the tech industry have no issue drilling home how fruitful software development can be as a career choice, what is often left unsaid are the numerous benefits that can be gained on a more personal level too. Learning to code not only boosts your reputation and skillset in the professional sphere but getting a grasp of the basics can also be a source of social interaction, cognitive development, and fun!
Phil Alves is CEO of DevSquad.