Your First Year in Code
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Your First Year in Code

A complete guide for new & aspiring developers

About the Book

The goal of this book is to help you start your programming journey a year or two ahead of where we were when we started. There's a lot of how-to, a splash of career advice, and a bit of pep talk. It's a good read for Computer Science majors, dev bootcamp students, beginning devs on a self-learning path, or anyone who wants to figure out if programming is for them.

More importantly, this is stuff you won't easily find elsewhere. You won't get it in a college course or a bootcamp. It won't be in the company manual for your first job. Most software books are extremely technical; this one is different. It will apply to you regardless of what sector or programming language you want to get into. It's mostly about the squishy stuff: what happens around and outside the code. This is important because writing code is only a small part of a programmer's job—researchers have found that the average programmer only writes about 25 lines of code per day. Code is really just the beginning.

So what do programmers actually do? They go to meetings. They draw diagrams. They learn. They get stuck. They bang their heads on their desks. They help their teammates solve problems. They wade through an ocean of self-doubt. They field messages from tech recruiters. They update their resumes and negotiate for remote work options. They balance their three-month-old baby on one knee and a book about C++ on the other. They think methodically and ask questions nobody else has thought about.

These things aren't code, and in many ways they're more important than code. They're what this book is about. And it's about you: your career, your journey, all the amazing options that will open up to you as you learn to code.

Whoever you are, we're excited that you're here. We have the highest of hopes for you. And we hope you enjoy Your First Year in Code.

About the Author

Isaac Lyman
Isaac Lyman

Isaac is a senior software engineer with a B.A. in English. His writing, which addresses several introductory and advanced topics in software engineering, can be found on Medium,, and, and regularly draws audiences in the tens of thousands. He enjoys mentoring junior developers, spending time with his family, and reading.

Reader Testimonials

Ben Halpern
Ben Halpern

If you are in your first year of code, you're lucky to have discovered material like this. I wish I had. It's still a tremendous read years into my career.

Glenn Carremans
Glenn Carremans

A must read for anyone interested in programming, starting with it or in their junior years.

Junhong Kim
Junhong Kim

I want to say to me in 2009 (when I started coding): 'Please find Isaac and ask him to write this.'

Doug Jenkinson
Doug Jenkinson

I wish I had this book when I first became a leader - to help remind me what my peers and team members were thinking when they started.

Adrian Skar
Adrian Skar

Very welcoming guide into coding from different perspectives that you can read at your own pace and in any order.

Scot Marvin
Scot Marvin

I wish I could put your book into the hands of all new technical writers.

Table of Contents

  • Foreword
  • About the editor
  • About this book
  • Introduction: Code is the best, code is the worst
  • Different learning pathways into tech
  • How (not) to learn
  • How to code (in one chapter)
  • Steps to better code
  • Programming tools
  • You are an interpreter
  • What to learn first
  • Learning to learn
  • Make the most of side projects
  • Getting your first job
  • My first job
  • I got my dream job. Now what?
  • Burnout, part 1
  • Burnout, part 2
  • Do I fit in?
  • Women in code
  • What to do when you’re stuck
  • Choosing a job title
  • The DevOps introduction I wish I had
  • A coder’s code of ethics
  • Software development beyond the keyboard
  • Code reviews
  • Appendix A: A coder’s vocabulary
  • Appendix B: To make this, learn that
  • Appendix C: Recommended reading
  • Acknowledgments

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