AMA: What are your most burning questions about learning to code?

This blog was originally published on Substack. Subscribe to ‘Letters to New Coders’ to receive free weekly posts.

Time flies! I have been writing Letters to New Coders for two months.

I sincerely hope you have found value in these letters so far. I will say, writing every week has certainly been a fantastic learning experience for me.

So today, to commemorate the 2-month milestone (and celebrate the hundreds of you who have already subscribed), I want to do two things:

  1. Count down the top three most popular posts so far (and share the background story and inspiration for each)
  2. Invite you to ask any burning questions you have about learning to code!

Most of the newsletters I have written thus far were inspired directly by questions I have personally been asked by new coders. In my opinion, that makes for the most useful and valuable content. Plus, odds are that if you’re thinking it, someone else is too — so I really looking forward to hearing from you.

You are welcome to just respond or comment here, and I will plan on addressing your questions in upcoming newsletters!

Now without further ado, I’ll count down the three most-read letters so far:


How to learn to code with AI in 2024

My daughter just turned 12 and will learn to drive in a few years. When I picture her getting behind the wheel, I can’t help but think about how different her experience will be from mine. When I got my US driver’s license in 2006, I didn’t even have a back-up camera, let alone automatic parking. I certainly never imagined that semi-autonomous cars would…

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Why this letter?

I have been asked this question more times than I can count lately. New coders, CS students, and early-career developers can see the writing on the wall, and are concerned about their long-term career prospects. I don’t blame them for feeling this way.

That said, I stand by what I wrote in this piece. The reality is that with AI coding tools becoming more commonplace and powerful , it becomes even MORE important to master the fundamentals than ever before. Of course, there is plenty more to say on this topic — so stay tuned for more AI + Learn to Code discussions in upcoming newsletters!

Note: This is also a question I’ve been thinking about at Educative in terms of our own AI-enabled Learn to Code resources. The goal is to use AI to your advantage, while not letting it become a crutch in the learning process. If you are curious to get hands-on with foundational coding concepts with the help of AI, we have some cool courses over there that you might enjoy.


How drawing a chess board became my greatest coding lesson

Within a few weeks of starting my university computer science program, I hit a pretty demoralizing “coder’s block.” This hiccup was agonizing at the time — but ended up giving me one of the biggest lessons I learned in my coding career. I’m sharing this lesson today in the hopes that it will save you some potential stress along your own journey.

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Why this letter?

I have always loved coding lessons that show up when and where you least expect them. Here’s a bit of a counterintuitive one:

At the start of your learning journey, learning how to program is as much about training your brain to think like a developer as it is about actually learning literal code.

I count this particular story as one of those perfect little problem-solving lessons — and one of the first times I started to really understand how to “hack” a problem like a developer would. I hope you find it useful in your own journey!


Am I smart enough to become a developer?

Many aspiring developers ask themselves: “Am I smart enough to become a developer?” I actually hate this question. Thanks for reading Letters to New Coders! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work. It’s rooted in myths about what it takes to be a developer — not in reality. Developers are by no means geniuses. We’re not smarter than th…

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Why this letter?

I don’t know a single great developer who hasn’t struggled with fears around feeling smart enough at one point or another.

This topic clearly struck a chord, even helping spark this fantastic Reddit thread, which asked the question of “do you have to be smart to be a developer?”.

I absolutely love seeing the community weigh in and share their insights. To quote one of the posters:

In order to stay the course on a long journey of software development, the question is not, “am I smart?”, the question is, “am I prepared to be made to feel stupid on a regular basis?”

I couldn’t have said it better myself!

That’s all for this week. Please comment with your questions if you have them, and I look forward to responding to them in the coming weeks! Until then…

Happy learning!

– Fahim

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