How To Get into Competitive Coding
If you love technology and think you might have an interest in programming, then competitive coding might be for you. It doesn’t matter your age; it’s never too late to get into coding.
Coding is a great mind sport and is an excellent way to showcase your problem-solving skills in a quick moment.
In competitive programming, you’ll understand and learn how to approach a problem and find out the best possible outcomes and how to think analytically and solve a problem. But, before you get those skills, you need to learn the basics. Here’s how!
Is It Hard to Learn Coding?
It’s not difficult to get started in competitive coding. To get involved in competitive coding, start by learning a basic coding language, have patience join a coding boot camp, and always practice. It can seem intimidating at first, but once you get comfortable with the understandings of programming, you’ll be right on track.
Getting involved in competitive programming opens the door for so many other things you could apply to your life. It can turn into a job, a side gig, or a new hobby to keep you busy if you find yourself bored a lot.
Begin By Learning a Basic Coding Language
To begin your coding career, you need to learn all about the fundamentals and have plenty of patience. A programming language is a formal language used to implement algorithms in very rigid and defined ways. It’s simply about how you can communicate to the computer what you want it to do.
Now, this isn’t the same as learning Spanish back in grade school; it’s completely different. The description of coding language is split into two components syntax (form) and semantics (meaning).
But don’t worry, learning a coding language isn’t as tough as it sounds. And don’t look at it as learning a new language. You’re just figuring out how to give your computer instructions. It’s basically a conversation between a human and a computer.
Learning this will lay the groundwork for your competitive coding career. It’ll help you understand how coding works so you won’t be confused or always asking why you have to type out certain things.
There are thousands of different coding languages, and new languages get created every year, some harder to learn than others.
Here’s some popular and easy to learn coding languages that are great to start with:
● Visual Basic (VB)
Picking a Coding Language
Research which coding language would be best for you and easiest to understand. Figure out what pace you’d like to learn to code and decide which one works with your pace.
Some languages are harder to learn than others. CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) is a very common programming language and can be easy to learn. With CSS, you’re able to edit text color or background elements on your webpage.
Python is another relatively easy coding language to learn for beginners, and it has a lot of use cases. Python is often given to college students as their first introduction to computer science and coding. It’s mainly used for starting back-end functionality for websites and analyzing data.
Another language that isn’t difficult to learn is Ruby. This language focuses on simplicity and productivity. It’s often compared to Python because it’s a capable scripting language and is frequently used for data analytics, also. However, it’s mainly used for web development, and while the language is simple, the actual implementation can be more difficult than some other languages.
If those three languages don’t fit your interest, then look into Java. It’s another general programming language and is also an introductory course for college students. You’ll learn the basics of design patterns and software engineering.
It’s a little bit tougher to learn because it’s more straightforward, which can be a little harder to learn but don’t fret or let that deter you from learning the language. You don’t have to learn code one specific way; you have multiple avenues to figure out how to code.
Find a Learning Resource
When it comes to learning to code, there are many different options. You can join an online course, purchase a textbook that explains the ins and out of coding or join a boot camp. All of these options depend on what pace you want to learn.
Coding boot camps are great for learning programming. However, it’s more intense, and you’re not able to control your own pace if you decide to take classes in person. You can pick between a full-time or a part-time coding boot camp. Part-time can usually take 34 weeks, and full-time boot camps last about 17 weeks.
Picking an online course or picking up coding through a textbook allows you to learn coding at your own pace. Online courses offer you the traditional way of learning. Websites such as Coursera, Codecademy, or Udemy offer courses that you can complete in as little as three months.
Most of these courses usually have an instructor giving lessons through recorded videos and interactive activities that let you test your skills. If you decide to go this route, it will cost you.
These sites offer courses that you’ll have to pay for monthly. If you wanted to save some money, buying a textbook and watching instructional videos through YouTube would be cost-efficient.
There are tons of videos on YouTube breaking down how to learn to code. CS Dojo is a popular YouTube streamer with over a million subscribers. He has multiple videos breaking down how to write scripts in different languages, what to do if you run into issues in coding, and algorithm breakdowns.
Practice Makes Perfect: Sites to Test Your Skills
After feeling like you have a good grasp of your coding skills, it’s time to test what you know. Get out of your comfort zone and get ready to compete.
Many different coding sites will allow you to practice and participate in a beginner’s coding contest. This will let you know where you stand among other coders and if you need to reevaluate the way you’ve learned coding.
These sites were made for newbies and beginners, so don’t feel intimidated or nervous. You’ll be competing against beginners just like you and at your skill level.
This site provides challenges for multiple domains, and after each challenge, there’s a discussion and leaderboard for all users. So you can chat and ask for tips on how to solve some coding problems and see where you stand among your peers.
All challenges are solved directly online.
Most challenges also come with a tutorial that explains the challenge and explores different ways that you could go about fixing it. At the end of the competition, take a look at your results and see how you match up with the discussion board.
You can’t view the solutions of other users, so don’t worry about your peers looking at your answers. There are also a few ways to earn some extra money through the site.
HackerRank runs hackathons and company-sponsored competitions with cash prizes, or you could become a paid contributor where you’ll create your challenges, and users in the community will have to solve them.
By competing in these events, HackerRank also submits applications to employers. These competitions can connect you directly to a company that’s looking to hire.
CodeChef is another competitive programming site that offers hundreds of challenges with different levels of difficulty.
It’s a very user-friendly coding website. Most of their users have no problem creating tutorials, participating in forums, and compete in coding competitions.
CodeChef hosts three programming contests every month, a Long challenge, a Lunchtime challenge, and a Cook-off.
- Long challenge is a competition lasting over ten days and beginning on the first Friday of each month. Around 30,000 participants from around the world participate in the competition.
- Lunchtime challenge is held on the last Saturday of every month and is only a three-hour competition.
- Cook-off happens on the third Sunday of every month and is also a shorter competition lasting only two and a half hours.
Depending on your skill level, pick one of those contests and see where you stand.
CodeWars has a long list of coding challenges available and community members submit and edit the challenges. The challenges can also be solved online, and you can view discussions for each challenge as well as useful solutions.
Software developers work and train on programming challenges known as Kata. Their challenges provide exercises in a variety of different programming languages, and the site has a ranking system.
Users get awarded ranks and honor for completing certain challenges, adding quality solutions to discussion boards, and contributing by adding challenges to the community.
Learn Data Structures
As you go through practice and training, you’ll come across data structures. A data structure is a specialized format for organizing, processing, storing, and retrieving data. You’ll come across basic and advanced data structures, but they’re all designed to fit a specific purpose.
Data structures are used to extract data and are essential for composing powerful software. The majority of programming languages have large-scale data structures designed to organize coding information.
Data structures also can be used for storing data, managing resources and services, data exchange, indexing, and searching. There are different types of data structures that are used in particular situations, which are determined by the operations required and different algorithms that’ll be applied.
Data structures can also be classified by their characteristics: linear or nonlinear, homogeneous or heterogeneous, and static or dynamic. They describe order, how a data structure complies and whether all data structures are the same.
These are essential because it’s ultimately what makes your program run more efficiently. They also organize and frame information so that machines and humans can better understand it.
Just think of data structures as building blocks for sophisticated applications.
When it comes to coding, there is a lot of trial and error involved. Some problems or challenges you run into could take you an hour, or it could take you three days. Instant gratification can be hard to come by when coding.
As you go on, you learn from your mistakes and turn them into learning experiences. You have to trust the process and learn how important it is to wait and see the results you‘ve been waiting for.
Learning to code is going to take time no matter what, don’t give up. You’re going to run into problems trying to understand coding, especially if you’re not all that familiar with the programs. To fully grasp how to code, it’s going to take a lot of critical thinking and thinking outside of the box.
It just requires a lot of patience, and over time the material will start to make more and more sense to you. If you find yourself not understanding or struggling, don’t be afraid to reach out to your peers or find someone who was on the same path as you.
Once you find your pace and how you want to learn to code, getting involved in competitive coding shouldn’t be much harder. And when you look back on your journey, you’ll notice some skills you gained or enhanced.
Getting into competitive coding truly takes time. With the way our world continues to embrace technology, it’s not a bad skill or hobby to have. There are hundreds of resources online available for you to get your feet wet in the coding world and start your competitive coding career. So go ahead and join the coding community.