Coaching at

Last night I had a chance to coach at a Codebar event for the first time. They offer free basic programming and web development workshops to people who are underrepresented in the tech industry.

For me it was a great reminder of how difficult it is to learn how to code. Even though my student was following a “getting started” tutorial, the amount and complexity of new concepts involved was overwhelming at times. Luckily there were always small rewards (for both of us, mind) when each new concept “clicked” after getting a particular set of commands working.

For example:

basket = {"apple" => 3, "banana" => 1}
cities = ["London", "New York"]

puts basket["apple"]
puts cities[0]

cities.each { |city| puts city }

Looking at this simple piece of code, there are many syntax concepts we just take for granted:

  • The [ and ] can be used to define an Array and to access elements in both Arrays and Hashes.
  • Sometimes { and } are used to define Hashes. Other times those are actually blocks.
  • The |city| is a parameter to that block, but for methods we define parameters using ( and ).

Even the words I’ve just used to describe them (access, element, define, parameter, block etc) are a whole new vocabulary to people new to programming. The tutorials do their best to introduce them gently, but there’s no escape that programming at the beginning will be challenging.

I can’t remember the last time I had a chance to see someone take their first steps in programming but being there to make their path easier was definitely worth it.

Also, thanks to Samir for mentioning it and despo for organising it. I hope to be able to do it again soon.

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2014-10-09 10:00 +0100