/ Developing Stories_

The Power of Persistence When Learning to Code

What’s the longest you’ve ever spent looking for a bug in your code? Have you spent 30 minutes hunting down errant semicolons? An hour staring down curly brackets and variable names?

Robert Bausmert told me he once spent 4 hours attempting to fix a single bug, and he enjoyed it so much that he barely noticed the time that had passed.

His persistence and ability to find the fun in each step of the coding process are the reasons he's transitioned from a marketer who wanted to do more on WordPress, to a budding full-stack developer hoping to code his own language-learning app. His advice for anyone stuck on a project: just keep coding.

Read on for Robert's thoughts on his learning journey so far, how he found the time to practice, and the backstory of the app he's currently building.

  1. Introduce yourself.
  2. What motivated you to learn how to code?
  3. What were your goals?
  4. Did you ever feel stuck?
  5. Was it difficult to find time to learn?
  6. When did everything start to click?
  7. What have you enjoyed most about learning to code?
  8. What do you want to learn next?
  9. Describe the app you're building.
  10. Any advice for our audience?

To start off, I'm wondering if you could just introduce yourself

I'm Robert, I'm 27, from Germany, but I've been living in Tokyo for about five years now. I started working in IT about three years ago, in IT startups to be exact, where I've been doing marketing.

What motivated the decision to learn how to code? Was it something you were already familiar with before Codecademy?

Yeah, I did know a little bit of HTML and CSS before I started learning with Codecademy, so I wasn't a complete beginner, but I didn't know much. I could build a basic website, but that's about it. Learning to code was something that has been on my list for a while. I always wanted to learn it someday, but there's always other priorities, or I just wasn't motivated to learn, or whatever it is. I never got around to it for one reason or another.

I wasn't very happy with what I was doing, and I didn't feel like I was growing professionally. So I thought to myself, I guess it's time to try something new.

Was any part of your motivation to apply your coding knowledge to your marketing career, or was your goal to switch careers?

At first, I didn't sign up for switching careers at all. I'm working in marketing, I manage a blog, so the blog is obviously online. We use WordPress. While I did know some HTML, I actually relied on development resources to change things up, make new design changes, add features and so on.

If you've ever worked with someone who's not on your team, you probably know it's really tough. Since there was no developer on my team, I'm still doing it mostly alone. I had a really tough time getting development resources to get the blog going.

What kinds of tasks would you have wanted those developers to accomplish?

Very basic stuff. So when I started out, the blog was basically new, nothing on it, just a couple of random posts. As it grew, I thought, okay, it's about time to convert more visitors to our email list, let's add a sidebar with an email opt-in, things like that.

At first, I just wanted to be able to do those things myself, I figured I don't have to bother developers anymore.

That's my original motivation, just basically get things done quicker for myself.

Were there any moments when you sort of felt stuck, or you felt like you were losing motivation, and if so, how did you overcome that?

I took two of the Intensive courses, Build Websites
from Scratch
and Build Front-End Web Apps. So basically HTML, CSS, and React courses.

I didn't get stuck very much in the HTML CSS course, because I had some experience writing basic HTML. Basic CSS I knew, so that wasn't that hard. It got a little harder when I started with flexbox, which I had heard of but never learned.

Where I did get stuck was the last week of the course, which was jQuery and Javascript. I didn't have much experience with Javascript in general, and it was quite a bit more difficult than the rest of the course.

What did I do to get unstuck? Basically, I just kept going. I don't even know how to describe it, but I kind of just got into the mood to code while doing it, and I never felt like stopping. Okay, I'm trying to build this, but there's this bug. I've been trying to fix it for two hours. I didn't even check the time or anything. At some point okay, now I've fixed it, and then I looked at the time, "Oh it's been four hours since I've tried to fix this bug."

I just got so into it that time flew.

Yeah, definitely. I know that feeling.

In psychology, it's called flow, and I feel like when I code I can really get into this flow state.

Projects Robert built in "Build Websites from Scratch" and "Build Front-End Web Apps," respectively.

Did you ever find it difficult to find the time to take the courses? How did you schedule out your time to work through these courses.

I didn't find it difficult to find time.

Many people have a very strange concept of having time or time in general. I think it's not really about time, it's about priorities. If I make something a priority, I always find time to do it. Since I really enjoyed it, I just made time to code every day as much as I can.

For me it was a priority, and it still is.

Was there a moment when everything started to click for you? Like an "a-ha" moment when you realized, not only can I do this on the Codecademy platform, this is something I'll be able to use off of Codecademy.

I think it wasn't really a moment for me, it was more like an "a-ha" process?

I was coding on a daily basis in an Intensive program, and I was just enjoying myself. It was just a lot of fun to learn these new concepts about React, and coding, and logic and all this kind of stuff. At some point I just thought I have something here that I enjoy, and I can make my career.

I didn't immediately consider just switching to front-end development positions, but yeah, it came rather quickly.

Which part of the learning process have you enjoyed most?

I think really the thing that I like about coding is that I get instant feedback. I write code, I save it, and I can see it in a browser in a matter of seconds, not even seconds. I know when there's an error, I know when things worked the way I wanted them to. I get feedback for whatever I do immediately.

Now, having finished these courses, what comes next in your learning process?

First I did HTML and CSS, then React, so I had some content knowledge, and from there I learned Express.js, so basically a back-end technology. So the next step is to not really go full-stack, but be able to at least build basic full-stack apps and be able to interact with a database and that kind of thing.

So continuing to learn Express.js, and then I actually started building a full stack app, which, I'm not sure if I'll pursue it yet, but it might have potential. We'll see where things go.

Awesome. Is it something you would feel comfortable describing?

Yeah sure, so, as I mentioned I've been living in Japan for about five years and I know a lot of people in Japan, and also outside of Japan who have learned or are still learning Japanese. I've also seen a lot of them struggle with learning Japanese, and they never actually get very far. I learned Japanese myself and I'm fluent in it, so I've been through it and I kind of feel like I have a very deep understanding of what people do wrong when they try to learn Japanese or language in general.

Basically what I'm trying to build is a learning Japanese app, more or less.

A prototype of GakuMei, Robert's learn Japanese app.

Any words of wisdom or advice you'd like to share with our audience?

Yeah, I think the first thing I realized is not everything is for everyone.

Some people like myself, I really got into coding. I think the first thing people have to understand is, it's really overwhelming, and I don't know what exactly it takes to really get into something. I guess it's just this feeling you have. I think it's not a shame to try coding, or even something else, and come to the conclusion that it's not for you. But I think it's important to give it an actual try.

That's the first thing, and then the second thing was might be very cliché, I think the key really just is to keep going. That's literally not any percent of the work. If you don't give up, you'll get there eventually.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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