How learning to code helped me

By Margarida Medina Costa | Project Manager at Monday

Before joining Monday, I never thought my career would go through learning to code. I’ve always had an interest and a passion for technology, from playing computer games to loving the new features on the latest mobile phone.

Last year, I started working more closely with developers, which made me understand, in a deeper way, some skills I already had — probably built by the passion that led me here.

Whether you want to uncover the secrets of the universe, or you just want to pursue a career in the 21st century, basic computer programming is an essential skill to learn.

Stephen Hawking

Last September, I decided to consolidate this knowledge by joining a coding class, where I was able to build my own weather app (built-in React). In it, you can actually check the weather (live!) for the city you search:

This process taught me that we are always able to fulfill what we commit to. Code or engineering isn’t my background at all but, and with the right mindset, I was able to build a web app from scratch.

Everyone in this country should learn to program a computer because it teaches you to think.

Steve Jobs

I’ll now leave you some tips on how a programmer mindset can help you in your work, even if you do not code for a living.

0. Don’t Panic!

The motto for the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy” (one of my favorite books and movies) applies here: take a deep breath and think how far you have come.

Let’s take a look, another deep breath, [and/or]] if you need to stand up just take a small break and return. Ok, ready? Cool, let’s move on.

1. Understand the issue

Do you remember answering a test in school?

It’s the same logic: read all the questions [and] underline the requested task before you start answering.

To be sure that you’re fully grasping what’s the challenge, try to explain it out loud (or for yourself, if you are shy). Actually, this is why developers have a rubber duck, did you know? They speak out loud to the duck and sometimes the problem gets solved. Know more about this technique, here:

2. Make a plan

To me, making a plan is the best tool to avoid panicking. I start by writing down a list of what I need to do (or try to map my problem) and then the possible solution.

Our brain needs this exercise: if we start tackling the problem without a proper plan, we won’t focus on anything. It’s as if you’d start running in all directions, without knowing where the finish line is. In the end, you’d only get tired, without finding the finish line.

To start my plan, I like to ask myself: do I have a solution to this problem? If I don’t, I need to do some research. In most situations, someone already had the same issue.

3. Divide and conquer

Do you still remember step 0? Exactly: don’t panic.

Don’t try solving everything at the same time, there won’t be enough Kleenexes to wipe your tears.

Take the plan you have made and divide the problem into sub-tasks. No, you won’t end up with endless tiny problems in your life. The purpose of this step is to give you perspective. Instead of having a big problem you can’t solve, you’ll find smaller sub-problems you can actually solve — one by one.

When you look at something from afar, you’ll see the bigger picture: and then your problem won’t look so big after all (trust me in this one, I also made this same mistake in my junior years ;) ).

These are, for me, the 4 main steps (yes, 0 counts!) to problem-solving.

I know you are thinking “this didn’t help at all, now I’m stuck in a sub-problem that I made!”. To that, I tell you: great! That means you have already solved the previous sub-problems! :)

[It’s] Easy: don’t panic. Right now, [it] might be a good time to take a break — if you can, sleep on it and tomorrow it’s going to be clearer. Give your head a rest. Starting anew also helps, save your work and open a new tab to start fresh. As I mentioned before: Google it! Believe me, you aren’t alone and someone already posted a solution or some note/comment that will help you.

Keep on practicing. Do you like crosswords or sudoku? Well, maybe you like video games instead. Those are great tools to train your brain to solve problems.

[I] Hope these steps will help you both in your work and personal life. Remember, no problem is unsolvable: all you need is to take a deep breath, make sure [that] you understood the issue (and even if it’s actually not an issue at all), make a plan, divide and start finding your solution.

Make every solution you find a small victory, again it’s all a matter of perspective.

Thank you for reading

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Monday is a Business Design Consultancy based in sunny Lisbon. We co-create with ambitious leaders to build better businesses. We use strategy & design to transform businesses from within.

This core philosophy stands at the center of everything we create. Clients include: Mercedes, Red Bull, Banco de Portugal, Mars, Imprensa Nacional Casa da Moeda, Philips, Jogos Santa Casa, EDP…

We co-create with ambitious leaders to build better businesses. We use strategy & design to transform businesses from within.