Biggest Myths about Learning Programming

14 Biggest Myths about Learning Programming

steve jobs quote

Technology and software is slowly becoming a part of everything we do and knowing how to program isn’t something just for aspiring software developers anymore. Knowing how to program teaches you computational thinking and heightens your problem solving skills. No matter what career path you’re on, knowing how to code is a valuable skill.

Unfortunately, there are quite a few myths and misconceptions about learning programming that stop people from ever getting round to actually learn it so I decided it was time for me to bust the 14 biggest myths about learning programming.

1. I can’t learn to code because I am a woman

Why can’t girls code? Oh, you know: Boobs. Menstruation. Being beautiful. They all get in the way. The satirical video below was made by an organisation called Girls Who Code to show how ridiculous it is to think you can’t code because you’re a woman.

Do you ever think, I’ve tried to get into coding but my cleavage is just so distracting¬Ě? Or When I’m not menstruating, I’m ovulating, so there’s no time to code at all”?

Yeah, you’re being silly. Learn to code.

2. I have to be great at Math


OK so I will admit, I used to believe this one myself. Throughout secondary school I was a math guru and I figured if I was great at math I would definitely ace programming. Boy was I wrong.

Don’t get me wrong, a mathematical mindset is useful, maybe even necessary, but chances are you won’t ever need to write your own algorithm as a programmer. Programmers write code not math formulas.

3. I have to go to university to code

This one depends on what you want to get out of programming so it is only half true. If you want to get a job as a software engineer, employers are more likely to be interested in candidates who have a Computer Science degree.

If, on the other hand, you are learning so that you can give your CV an edge or because you plan to freelance in an area where your portfolio can speak for itself or out of pure curiosity then trust me, you don’t need to go to university to learn.

There are so many great resources online from places like CodeAcademy or FreeCodeCamp, with success stories that prove that you don’t need a degree to learn how to code.

4. Learning to program means learning to hack


Thanks to the media hype, being a computer hacker is cool and criminal and it’s nearly every young persons motivation to learn programming. But just because you learn how to program, you won’t automatically know how to hack.

In fact, you don’t actually need to learn how to program to learn how to hack. There are many already developed scripts out there just waiting to be exploited so knowing a programming language is more of an advantage than a necessity. Its kind of like how you can build a website thanks to software like WordPress without ever writing a word of code in your life.

On the other hand, to be an effective black-hat hacker, learning to program is an important step but even then you need an in depth knowledge of various technologies, a curious mind and lots and lots of practice. Learning to program in that case is only a necessary step of learning how to hack. They are not the same thing.

5. You can learn to code in a weekend

If you think you can learn to code in a weekend, you’re being a bit over-ambitious. Coding is not like studying for a test. Memorizing won’t do much for you. And knowing how to output a “Hello World” with a few if-else statements doesn’t make you a programmer.

It takes commitment, practice and way longer than a weekend to become comfortable with programming. I come across too many learning platforms that promise coding courses that are nothing more than a day long.

You will probably learn the basics and maybe even write a simple program and call yourself as a programmer but believe me you are nowhere near to being an even average programmer. Don’t be in such a rush to learn. Be patient. Research. Practice. You’ll get there.

6. Relying on tools is a bad thing

This is yet another myth even I fell for. I used to think using IDE’s when learning was terrible because they auto-complete your API calls. I used a freaking text editor when I was learning!

The truth is, relying on an IDE doesn’t make you a bad programmer. But if you are a bad programmer, you don’t just rely on an IDE, you depend on it.

Being a good programmer isn’t about memorizing the language specific calls so cheating is completely acceptable. So many programmers use Google and StackOverflow when they are stuck or can’t remember something. There are so many different open source libraries, tools, and frameworks at your disposal. Understand them. Use them.

7. One language is the best programming language

There is no such thing as the “best” programming language. They all serve a different purpose. So if you’re trying to learn how to program, instead of researching for the best programming language, try to look for the best programming language for your specific goals.

But maybe don’t learn Visual Basic first.

8. I need 5 computer monitors


Contrary to what Hollywood might tell you, you don’t need an insane external monitor setup to be a programmer. The computer that you own right now is probably good enough to use to start programming. Don’t waste your money.

9. You can finish “learning” programming

Programmers never stop learning. New technologies come out all the time, so the programmers that succeed are the ones who continue to learn and develop their craft on an ongoing basis. If you want to learn programming, be prepared to never stop learning.

10. You have to be a genius to know how to code


When people find out that I code for a living, they start to look at me like I’m a goddess. Partly because I’m a woman and I guess that’s impressive because of how rare that is in Zambia, but mostly because they think I’m a super genius with an IQ of 160.

The truth? Programming is not that difficult. Like any trade, it will take time and practice to become an expert but still it is really straightforward. You don’t have to be top of your class to learn programming.

11. There is a best resource or learning style

The internet has a million resources to teach you how to code, but a billion more opinions on how to learn it. Do your research, but don’t waste too much time on the research because reviews are biased and you will just end up confused by all the opinions.

There are some people that learn by googling ‘how do you do this’¬Ě, others by watching video tutorials and then starting to code, whereas others use written, step-by-step tutorials. You need to find what learning style works for you and just start learning without focusing too much on the best way to learn or the best resource to use.

12. You can monetize your basic programming skills very early

You hear stories about people who created a simple program, maybe for fun, then sold it to became millionaires and you think OMG that could be me! But hold your horses and don’t quit your day job.

Turning your basic skills into cash is not an overnight thing. Just because you have a great idea and the basic programming skills to implement it doesn’t mean you will immediately start to make money. If becoming a billionaire is the only reason you want to learn how to program then I suggest you take your efforts elsewhere because it’s a competitive market and you will be very disappointed.

Chances are you will end up making a substandard, bug-heavy product with low demand and a more experienced developer will see your idea, steal it, and produce an efficient, high-demand product. Be patient.

13. Code is hard to understand and read

Coding appears difficult because of the seemingly random symbols and words that make a program run. But its not magic. Just like Chinese symbols can look like a bunch of scribbles to someone who doesn’t understand them, code can appear more complex than it is.

But learning programming is like learning any other language except it’s easier because you never have to speak it or hear it. You just write it.

14. You have to start to learn when you’re 12

some kid

Its never too late to learn how to code. People who are older think because they can’t keep up to date with all the modern technology trends, then they can’t learn to program. It’s a “young people’s” gig. But it isn’t.

Just like you can learn to speak Spanish at any age, you can learn to program at any age and it will still be fun and useful. Code is not hard to understand.

Similarly, it is never too early to learn how to code. Teaching kids to code just for fun, teaches them how to think analytically and will be useful in their future.

What are some of the myths you’ve heard about learning programming? Comment below…

Seda Kunda is a web designer and developer with a degree in Computer Science and a great passion for code. Besides code, she enjoys pepperoni pizza, watching the bachelor and sleeping in on Saturdays.
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