in learning programming

How to Switch from “Exercise Coder” to Software Developer

I can do all the exercises, and I understand all the code, but I don’t know how to make a real project.

I cannot start any project, I cannot “build” anything. I feel so helpless. Maybe I’m not supposed to be a developer?

It’s not uncommon for new programmers to reach a point where they master the basics and are left wondering “What next?”

They feel despair or confusion. They look around and realize that taking another course or reading another blog article is going to make the answer appear.

The frustrated “exercise coder” wants to make the next great leap in their skills. They want to learn how to make real contributions and get something working.

An Easy Solution!

Fortunately there’s an excellent source of project work waiting for attention: open source software projects.

You can contribute to any number of software projects as a novice developer. How to Contribute to Open Source is an excellent source for finding and contributing to open source projects.

You’ll gain experience and learn from others while helping out with open source projects.

And there’s a bonus! You’ll develop a growing portfolio of work you can demonstrate to potential employers.

Here’s what you should do, right now:

    1. Follow @yourfirstpr on Twitter.
    2. Watch the tweets, and pick one of the issues that stands out to you.
    3. Make sure you read the How To Contribute guide.
    4. Approach the project organizers and ask if they’d like some help. Optionally, you can combine this a set of changes as a PR (pull request).

All of this assumes you are familiar with Git (and to some extent Github). If you aren’t yet familiar with Git, Github hosts this short introduction guide that will get you started.