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Written by Zahra Waheed

On the 27th May 2020, Makers and Girls In Tech London joined forces for a truly inspiring and honest panel discussion on how to stay motivated when learning to code, especially during these uncertain times. As a thank you to all the amazing 65+ of you who listened in (from across the globe!) we’d like to share some of our key takeaways from the event, to help you keep the momentum going on your coding journey.

Goal setting

“Goal setting is massively individual, it’s about checking in with yourself and being really honest about what you want and what your motivations are” – Katerina Georgiou, Technical Coach @ Maker’s

Kat, Shannon and Kim opened up the discussion by speaking about the importance of setting goals that are personal to you. Goal-setting is also an iterative process, and requires regular reflection about what you’ve achieved and what you are keen to learn.Kat explained how focussing on creating specific, quantifiable goals – those that can actually be measured – rather than a high-level goal such as: ‘I want to learn Ruby’, are more likely to be achieved! This is part of the SMART goal setting framework, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. (For more details on this, see here: https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/smart-goals.htm). Shannon highlighted a brilliant (and free!) online tool called Trello, which allows you to track the progress of your tasks at different stages of your project. See here: https://trello.com/

Accountability is another key aspect of goal setting. Holding yourself responsible for the goals you have set yourself will enhance your ability to achieve them. Kim pointed out a super effective way to do this – setting goals in a group. She explained that this helps your goal go through a refinement process by getting new insights from different perspectives, and it can help to break down the goal into manageable steps. Kim is also currently completing the 100 Days of Code Challenge (https://www.100daysofcode.com/) and using twitter to keep herself accountable – so give her a follow! @thekimmykola

 

What if I fail at my goals?

Not completing your goals is a natural part of setting them in the first place! Instead of being hard on yourself, think of ‘failing’ at a goal as a way to re-strategize and improve your goal-setting. In times of frustration, Kim emphasized switching off from coding for a short while, and not to be afraid of scrapping your goals if you come to realize they won’t benefit you in the long run.

“Work towards doing something you really want to do – not what the world is telling you to do” – Kim Diep, Software Engineer @ M&G Plc

 

How should I reflect on my goals?

Kat, Shannon and Kim unanimously agreed that regular reflection is a vital part of goal-setting. But what should the reflective process look like? Shannon summed up this nicely with a great visual technique:

“You can picture a scenery with a boat and rocks – write down the positive things [those that went well], i.e the wind pushing you forward, what were the rocks that you ran into; was there an anchor holding you back?” – Shannon Farvolden, Software Engineer @ Pace Revenue Management

For some this reflection might be daily/weekly/monthly; for others, the frequency (and duration) of the reflection will often vary. What matters most is whether or not actionable goals can be generated from the retrospection. If you are finding it difficult to come up with these, a valuable piece of advice from Kim is to reflect with another person or reach out to the coding community for extra support. Please also don’t hesitate to get in touch with Makers and Girls in Tech London -we are a friendly bunch! 😊 

 

How to stay motivated when learning something new?

Finally, we asked our panellists what their top tips are to stay motivated when learning something new:

  • Kim: Attend coding events – hearing something first hand from a Software Engineer or Technology Consultant provides a first-hand insight you can’t find from online courses. Check out Maker’s upcoming workshop here
  • Shannon:  Consistency is key – having some sort of checklist, or even a habit tracking app to tick your goals off (see here for a list of recommended ones!: https://time.com/5621109/best-habit-tracking-apps/) helps keep the momentum high
  • Kat: Don’t give up!“you will have good and bad days, but keep going, keep persevering…if you’re starting on this journey, that is the goal that you need”

 

We hope these tips offer some practical advice to help you on your adventure in coding! Tell us how you’ve been getting on with your coding goals by leaving a comment below, or chat to us via social media- you’ll find both Makers and Girls In Tech London on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. 

We’ll close this with one final inspirational quote, this time from the legendary Nelson Mandela:

‘it always seems impossible until it’s done’ 

xx

Makers & Girls in Tech London

Panelists: