Taking tutorials doesn't make you a noob

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Here's a word of encouragement. You aren't a noob if you take coding tutorials.

It is generally agreed that programmers become better at what they do when they take on projects. But here's something no one says

The projects you build while developing yourself consist of things other people have done. So if you need to take some tutorials to get part A to work, that's totally fine.

Let's see a real-life case-study.

Task

Build a school management system

Frontend Task breakdown

  1. Get some existing designs from dribble
  2. Set up React project
  3. Create the basic UI
  4. Use graphql as the data layer
  5. Use Auth0 for identity management

Now, you only know how to execute 1, 2 and 3. To get 4 and 5 to work, you look through the docs and start trying to get it into your existing project. But you fail at it because you have no idea of what you are doing.

There's nothing wrong if you set up a new project and take tutorials on Graphql and Auth0, totally unrelated to your school management system. After completing those tutorials, you can immediately apply the knowledge you attained to your school management system. That's an efficient way to learn and grow.

How great engineers learn

Great engineers take the business problem presented to them. They then analyse this problem and chose the best tools for the job. If the job requires them to learn a new skill/technology, they quickly find a means to learn that skill/technology.

No one will pay you to figure out your way around a technology entirely from the tech's docs. If you combine tutorials, StackOverflow and docs to get the job done, then you have done well.

So, what's the general approach to learning new things?

Referencing this tweet on how software developers approach learning new things, we can see that most people combine tutorials, documentation and StackOverflow.

When you're just starting out, docs may not be ideal. As you grow, you'd learn how to read docs. Docs usually contain info you won't find in tutorials.

When is calling yourself a noob justifiable

Calling yourself a noob largely depends on your standards and situation. In my humble opinion, you are doing what a noob does if you blindly take tutorials for the sake of taking tutorials. When you don't have any clear goal for taking the tutorials you are taking.

Some people do it for the joy of learning. Others do it to have a bigger picture of how products are built. It's your life. Don't allow anyone (or your internal voice) to call you a noob for no reason. Thanks for reading.

Oliver Earl's photo

Great post, you're absolutely right. I hear a lot from upcoming developers (and as an educator I sometimes hear it from my students also) that they often feel guilty for depending on tutorials, guides, and learning resources such as Coursera or something more specialised like Laracasts as the bulk of their learning. I always encourage people to learn however they feel works for them!

Experienced developers still watch and consume tutorials because they don't know everything, and the best developers know there's still always new things to learn. Reading the technical documentation for said language, framework, etc. is probably the best place to start in most cases, but it's not the end all or be all.

That being said, there is a danger in being trapped in 'tutorial hell', or as you've rightly pointed out, taking tutorials and perhaps courses for the mere sake of it. My advice is people who feel that they've hit a plateau in their learning should consider starting a project, building something of their own, and applying all the great things that they've learned by following tutorials or reading / watching guides.

Osinachi Chukwujama 's photo

Thank you for your opinion, Oliver. I often wish that documentation are simple enough that they can be easily read by 5-year-olds.

Chris Bongers's photo

100%, Dude I'm telling you I've been a developer the bigger part of my entire life and up to this date I love and enjoy Tutorials.

I'm considered a senior developer, but it doesn't mean I know something all of a sudden, meaning; I know an awful lot about PHP/JavaScript and HTML/CSS but throw me at a Rails project and I have no idea what I'm looking at.

That being said, I do feel with experience you pick these new things up so quickly, with the use of tutorials, videos and blog posts.

Hence there is no bad tutorial or article out there! Someone is looking for that content.