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Cloud advocate for Microsoft Azure.

I'm here to help - How to start coding when you don't know where to start

I'm here to help you start a career or hobby that is based on coding, when you don't know where to start.

Brian Benz

6 minutes read

Have I mentioned that I love my job? As a Microsoft cloud advocate, I get to learn and share, and meet people from all over the world. Teaching myself to code at a relatively young age took me from a small town in rural Canada to a life far beyond what that kid could dream of.

I’d like to share my experience with under represented folks who are interested in a similar journey, but don’t know where to start. My LinkedIn profile is here, feel free to connect with me and reach out to talk, chat, whatever. I’m here to help you get started and beyond.

If you’re interested but you don’t want to connect or talk, hopefully you have a few minutes to spare to check out my tips on getting started:

The first question: What language(s) do I choose?

Hint: Use Data!

There are many answers to this question, and it really depends on what you want your code to do. Web development, data, science, Artificial intelligence, and other areas of expertise all have languages better suited to tasks in that area. You can ask around, and the more you ask the more answers you will get. I usually consider opinions from all respected sources, but I also like to back up my decisions with data. Here are some great free resources that are published annually. They can help you decide where you want to go with some solid numbers:

StackOverflow Developer Survey

The annual StackOverflow Developer survey has the results of thousands of respondents on worldwide trends. I use it a lot for planning future events and strategies for myself.

GitHub State of the Octoverse

The GitHub State of the Octoverse provides some incredible insights into what take place on GitHub. How active are projects? How popular are languages? It’s all listed

Sign up here first!

OK, so now that you have selected a coding language, it’s time to have a look at what people and communities are doing with that code, and what are the latest news and trends in your chosen coding language. Here are four places to get started, and all are free to sign up:

Code communities on GitHub

GitHub is where you will likely store your code and the way to connect with fellow developers and open source communities. Checking out popular repos and projects, and having a look at other people’s code is a great way to get started.

Advice and solutions on Stack Overflow

The more experienced a developer is, the more time they spend on Stack Overflow. There are amazing solutions to common and not-so-common coding problems here.

Communities and career advice on LinkedIn

You need a LinkedIn account to apply for pretty much any job these days. Any career needs a solid network and the best way to get started is a LinkedIn account. Don’t worry if your profile doesn’t fit or is empty for now but get yourself out there and start connecting with folks! Join groups and search terms based on the career you want. Follow people that show up in your searches - it’s helpful to see what they had to go though to get where they are, so you can get some idea of where to go from where you are. You can even try to connect with some of them if you feel bold. Write custom connection request text explaining why you want to connect. My LinkedIn profile is here, feel free to connect with me and let me know you found me via this blog!

News and Trends on Twitter

If you’re already on [twitter](, start following the people and topics related to your area of interest for the latest news and trends. Make lists! And follow me!

Get the right tools

So now you have decided on a path. Congratulations! Now you need the right tools. Here are some resources to get you started.

Visual Studio Code

Download Visual studio code to write your first code. It’s a free, open source text editor that runs on Windows, MacOS or Linux, with support for pretty much any coding language available today. Then check out the marketplace for free extensions that help you customize your coding environment.

Visual Studio Codespaces

No regular access to a specific computer? That’s OK. Check out Visual Studio Codespaces, a new online environment that saves your work in the cloud and connects with GitHub and runtime environments for testing. It’s not free, but it is reasonably priced.

There are also several free options, depending on your area of interest. For example, JSBin and CodePen

Don’t forget your Cloud

The cloud is a great place to run your code, and test and share running applications. The good news is that there are free trials (and free tiers beyond the free trials) for all clouds these days – perfect for learners. Sign up for one or all (But sign up for Azure first!):

Hello World! Write some code!

OK, so now you’ve figured out what kind of code you want to work with, you’ve connected with some people and communities, and maybe you’ve even found an open source project that you want to get involved in. You also have an environment in place to work with code, and you’re ready to do some coding!


Here are some great resources to get you started on your coding journey. All are free, and help you not only write code that works, but develop habits and best practices that will help you in your coding future.

.NET tutorial - hello world in 10 minutes

If you’ve decided to work with the Microsoft stack, check out this .NET Tutorial - Hello World in 10 minutes, including an In-Browser Tutorial is an online community that helps you learn to code by building projects. It’s pretty awesome and you can really learn a lot by doing.

Microsoft Learn

Microsoft Learn has some amazing resources for learning pretty much anything in the Microsoft universe and beyond. Bonus - most learning paths are preparation for a specific role and/or certification!

Kaggle is great for downloading sample data to test out your code with, and generally learning about data and data trends. And once you’re proficient in code they have fun challenges and competitions.


Once you’re feeling proficient in your coding area of interest, it’s time to communicate your proficiency to others!

Here is a list of all Microsoft developer certifications for beginners. Currently there are over 20, based on language and area of discipline.

Cloud certifications are valuable right now as well. A good one to start with is AZ900 - Cloud Computing Fundamentals (and there are many others!).

More good news - Microsoft Learn has created free learning paths for most Azure certifications (here’s the Learning Path for AZ900) to help you on the way. Check out all the learning paths!

Oh - and don’t forget…

Have Fun!

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