LearnKey Blog

Adobe Certifications: Understanding The Importance of Getting Certified

Understanding the Importance of Adobe Certification

In today’s competitive job market, standing out is more important than ever. Achieving an Adobe certification in visual design and Photoshop is a significant step towards showcasing your expertise and dedication to your craft.

LearnKey a recognized leader in creating Adobe Certification courseware recently blogged on the topic of the value of certifications in today’s competing job market. They will also be releasing 2024 Adobe visual design later this month.  Adobe certifications are globally recognized and provide an official seal of professional approval that can make a notable difference in your career prospects.

 

Navigating the Visual Design Landscape with Adobe

Adobe’s software suite is at the forefront of the visual design industry, offering tools that are essential for professional-grade digital artistry. By navigating through Adobe’s comprehensive tools for visual design, aspiring designers can develop a keen understanding of digital aesthetics and technical skills, which are crucial for mastering visual design workflows.

 

Mastering Photoshop: A Key Component of Visual Design

Photoshop is arguably the most powerful tool in Adobe’s creative cloud suite, known for its robust features that cater to everything from basic photo editing to complex digital art. Achieving Adobe certification in Photoshop as part of your visual design expertise not only enhances your skill set but also proves your ability to tackle diverse design challenges professionally.

 

The Benefits of Pursuing Adobe Certification in Visual Design

Pursuing an Adobe certification in visual design and Photoshop can dramatically boost your credentials. Certified designers often enjoy better job opportunities, potential for higher earnings, and greater respect within the creative community. Moreover, being certified means you are up to date with the latest design trends and software updates, keeping you relevant in a fast-evolving field.

 

Crafting Your Path: Steps to Achieving Adobe Certification in Photoshop

Achieving Adobe certification in visual design and Photoshop requires a structured approach. Start by familiarizing yourself with the Adobe certification roadmap, which outlines the exams you need to pass. Invest time in comprehensive study, practical exercises, and use LearnKey or Adobe’s official training resources. Here are nine (9) tips for obtaining an industry certification using LearnKey courseware. Regular practice and preparation are key to mastering the skills needed to pass the certification exams successfully.

 

Exploring the World of Visual Design: Adobe Certification Insights

Holding an Adobe certification in visual design and Photoshop opens up a new realm of possibilities. Certified professionals gain deeper insights into the industry’s best practices and are often considered for leading roles on major projects. Additionally, this certification encourages a continual learning process that can lead to personal and professional growth.

 

Leveraging Adobe Tools for Professional Visual Design Certification

Adobe’s tools are indispensable for visual designers, and learning to leverage them through Adobe certification can provide a significant advantage. Certification ensures that you understand and can effectively utilize Adobe software to create high-quality, impactful designs that meet professional standards.

 

Unveiling the Secrets of Successful Adobe Certification in Photoshop

Success in Adobe certification exams requires more than just memorization of tools and functions. It demands a deep understanding of how to apply these tools in practical, real-world scenarios. Engaging with the broader Adobe community, participating in forums, and exploring advanced tutorials can enhance your learning experience and prepare you for the certification exams.

 

Practical Tips for Excelling in Adobe Certification Exams

To excel in Adobe certification exams, focus on practical application of your skills. Engage in regular practice sessions, take full advantage of Adobe’s educational resources, and join study groups to exchange knowledge and tips with peers. Mock exams can be particularly helpful in understanding the format and requirements of the actual test.

Additional 2024 Adobe Creative Cloud Online Courses to be released later this year.

LearnKey is excited to announce that it will be releasing Adobe InDesign – Print & Digital Media Publication June 28th, 2024, and Adobe Premiere Pro- Digital Video in July 2024. Staying ahead with the Adobe suite is your path to success.                            

Building Your Career: The Role of Adobe Certification in Visual Design

An Adobe certification in visual design and Photoshop not only demonstrates your technical skills but also signifies your commitment to professional growth and excellence. This certification can serve as a cornerstone in your career, enhancing your portfolio and helping you stand out in the competitive field of visual design.

 

What is Autodesk?

Being in the education space, we are often asked: What is Autodesk? It is a multinational software corporation that develops software for a variety of industries, primarily focusing on architecture, engineering, construction, manufacturing, media, and entertainment.

Also, it is best known for boosting productivity and efficiency in as much as 63% of tasks completed in the industry it serves. Some of Autodesk’s flagship products include AutoCAD (Computer-Aided Design), (Building Information Modeling), Maya (3D animation), Fusion 360 (CAD, CAM, and CAE), and many others. Professionals and companies around the world widely use these software tools for designing, visualizing, and simulating ideas and projects in various fields.

Who Uses Autodesk?

To increase one’s knowledge of what Autodesk is, one should understand who utilizes it. Autodesk is used by a wide range of professionals and industries, which is why it is gaining popularity.

Here are some of the main sectors and users:

Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC): Architects, engineers, construction managers, and building designers use Autodesk software like AutoCAD, Revit, and BIM 360 for designing buildings, infrastructure, and managing construction projects.

Manufacturing: Engineers, designers, and manufacturers use Autodesk software such as Fusion 360, Inventor, and AutoCAD Mechanical for product design, simulation, and manufacturing processes.

Media and Entertainment: Professionals in the film, television, gaming, and animation industries use Autodesk software like Maya, 3ds Max, and MotionBuilder to create 3D animations, visual effects, and virtual environments.

Product Design: Industrial designers and product developers use Autodesk software for concept design, prototyping, and visualization of consumer products, electronics, and machinery.

Education: Autodesk software is also widely used in educational institutions, from K-12 schools to universities, to teach students various design, engineering, and digital fabrication skills.

Urban Planning and Infrastructure: Planners and urban designers use Autodesk software for city planning, infrastructure design, and transportation modeling.

Gaming and Virtual Reality (VR): Game developers and VR content creators use Autodesk software to create game assets, characters, and immersive virtual environments.

These are just a few examples, but the versatility of Autodesk software means it’s utilized in many other fields, wherever digital design, visualization, or simulation is needed. Many companies like LearnKey are creating Autodesk training and certification courses to accommodate Autodesk’s popularity.

Getting Started with Autodesk

Because there are so many people asking the question, “What is Autodesk?” and due to its growing popularity in education, there are slang phrases for its products. One such term is “CAD” (pronounced “kad”), which is the shortened form of Computer-Aided Design and is often used to refer specifically to AutoCAD. Also, the Autodesk CAD certification is one of the most popular globally recognized industry certifications.

Here is what you should know to begin using Autodesk:

Selecting the Right Software: Determine which Autodesk software best suits your needs. Autodesk offers a wide range of products tailored to different industries and applications. For example, Autodesk Inventor for students features 3D modeling software for designers and engineers.

Acquiring the Software: Autodesk software can be obtained through various means. You can purchase licenses for individual products or subscribe to Autodesk’s software suites. Once you have acquired the software, follow the installation instructions provided by Autodesk. This process typically involves downloading the software installer from the Autodesk website, running the installer, and following the on-screen prompts to complete the installation process.

Learning Resources: Autodesk provides a wealth of learning resources to help users get started with their software. These resources include documentation, tutorials, webinars, online courses, and user forums. Take advantage of these resources to familiarize yourself with the software’s features and capabilities.

Advanced Training: As you become more proficient with the software, consider seeking advanced training or certification programs offered by LearnKey. These programs can help you deepen your knowledge and expertise in specific areas of the software.

Flexibility: Online Autodesk courses offer flexibility in terms of scheduling and pacing. Learners can typically access course materials and complete assignments at their convenience, allowing them to learn at a pace that works best for them. This flexibility makes online courses suitable for individuals with busy schedules or other commitments.

Certification and Credentials: Some online Autodesk courses offer certification or credentials upon completion, which can be valuable for demonstrating proficiency in using Autodesk software to potential employers or clients. These credentials can help learners differentiate themselves in the job market and enhance their career prospects.

Overall, online Autodesk courses offer a convenient and effective way to learn how to use Autodesk software, providing learners with the knowledge, skills, and confidence they need to succeed in their chosen field. Whether you’re interested in architecture, engineering, manufacturing, media, or another industry, an online Autodesk course is likely available to help you achieve your learning goals.

One last thing to remember when asking the question “What is Autodesk?” is that while it can be initially intimidating to grasp it, learning to use Autodesk software is a continuous process, and proficiency comes with practice and experience.

ADJUSTING WITH THE TIMES: CHANGES TO LEARNKEY’S COURSES

Hello there. It’s been a while, but I’ve been deep in the think tank (with some help) for quite some time, looking for ways to improve our courses. And in doing so, I returned to one key principle about learning anything computer-related: practice makes perfect.

Our courses have video-based training, pre- and post-assessment tests for each domain, and practice labs. Most of our courses have a project workbook with exercises designed to help people achieve their course goals,, such as passing a certification exam and becoming more employable in their chosen field or fields of study.

But, as with many creations, we always look to improve the product. We have begun to roll out some enhancements to our courses to boost your learning experience. Some of the new features you will see in our newest courses are:

  1. Practice examples within each domain and many “try this yourself” exercises throughout the course. For example, the new version of the Python course includes several opportunities for immediate practice after a group of videos covering a topic. After you try to solve whatever problem is in front of you, the following video goes through the solution. These exercises give you great feedback while you are learning and will steer you toward areas where you can gain extra practice. We have also incorporated these exercises into the upcoming Adobe 2024 series of courses.
  2. For coding courses, code examples to complete. Occasionally, within a course, you will be presented with a code example that requires you to fill in some missing information. Again, the goal is to get you some extra practice and think beyond the video content to solve problems. These exercises will sharpen one’s test-taking skills.
  3. Faster updates to existing courses. Many courses have exam objectives that occasionally undergo minor updates (every 6 to 12 months). We are adding some small, text-based updates where necessary to keep these courses current. Many of these updates will have impromptu practice exercises right after those updates.

We are making other updates to our overall course presentations, but those are the three major features to expect at this time. As always, thank you for partnering with LearnKey for your learning and career aspirations.

Your QRF (quick reaction force) of device security

Just as in natural or organic life, in cyberspace, a virus is something that you do not know you have until it reveals itself.

Silhouetted figures against a bright sky, climbing on a giant rope net in an outdoor setting. The ropes crisscross to create large squares. The climbers are at various points on the net, grasping and stepping on the ropes, suggesting a military exercise.

Note: Names have been changed in this post to protect individuals’ privacy.

While reading cybersecurity headlines, a cadence from my military days and a story sprang to mind:

Up in the morning at the break of day;
I don’t like it—no way!
Eat my breakfast way too soon;
Hungry as a hippo by noon.
Went to the mess sergeant on my knees:
“Mess sergeant, mess sergeant, feed me, please!”
Mess sergeant said with a big ol’ grin,
“If you wanna be airborne, you gotta be thin.”

Once, we were flying our unit into our base camp during a deployment. After landing the helicopter, the soldiers were egressing out of the aircraft, and we could see something was wrong. We noticed one of the soldiers, Pvt. Royce, had a jaw that had swollen to twice its normal size, and he looked like some blue cartoon genie character, minus the being blue and living in a lamp. He had an infected tooth, and the altitude had made the infection fester and spread. He was given antibiotics to isolate the virus and remove it from his system before he could get the tooth removed and back to normal—or at least normal for him.

I know you’re wondering what this has to do with cybersecurity. Just as in natural or organic life, in cyberspace, a virus is something that you do not know you have until it reveals itself. As you might have guessed, we are discussing why you need to install antivirus software and do patches or updates.

1. Install and maintain antivirus/anti-malware software

Why is antivirus necessary? Consider Pvt. Royce’s swollen jaw as an analogy. Pvt. Royce was given antibiotics to kill and stop the infective bacteria from multiplying. He needed to follow a strict dosing schedule and take the entire regimen of pills. Similarly, an up-to-date antivirus that performs regular scans will actively detect, isolate, and remove malware from the system before it causes irreparable damage to a system.

An antivirus on your computer creates a safety barrier and an early alert for your local intranet, keeping it safe from viruses before infection happens. Yes, I spelled ‘intranet’ correctly, for the record. Just like there is the internet, the world wide web that connects everyone around the world (think infinite cosmic powers, all at your fingertips), there is also what is called the intranet. Think of it as a smaller, private version of the internet that is custom-built for your home or workplace (mini, somewhat infinite cosmic powers in your living space).

With the wide acceptance of remote work, a Windows computer can be safer in a coffee house wi-fi than at your home. What do I mean by that? With all the safety features turned off at home, any device with malware on your local intranet that connects to your device can infect it. Every day, you can open the cybersecurity headlines and find where a virus, trojan, or some malware has infected a device and part of the CPU is being used for nefarious purposes, such as illegal crypto mining, slowing down your performance, or, worse yet, being added to a botnet to launch a DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack against a target.

There are many suitable antivirus applications you can purchase or use. Windows Defender is already built into Windows, and there are several alternatives with different strengths and weaknesses. For my devices, my personal favorite is Malwarebytes. This blog is not a paid endorsement unless Malwarebytes wants to change that. Anyone? Anyone? Well, maybe next time. Back to Pvt. Royce. If he had not taken the antibiotics or followed the schedule, his infection could have been fatal. Whatever antivirus you choose to use, install it and keep it on with at least hourly updates and twice-daily scanning.

2. Don’t forget about your internet browser!

For most of us, our internet browser (Firefox, Chrome, Edge, Brave, etc.) is our computer’s primary connection to the world outside our intranet. Your computer’s antivirus provides some protection against web-based threats, but your browser, like Pvt. Royce’s teeth, deserves special attention and additional protection.

Optimize browser security settings and practices. Remember that security starts with you! Never save passwords in your browser. Explore your browser’s security settings, especially cookie handling and privacy preferences. Changing your cookie settings to “Ask me each time” gives you better control over the data websites collect and enhances privacy and security.

Install browser antivirus extensions. Add extensions to block ads, tracking, and threats to enhance your browser’s built-in security. Browser extensions—uBlock Origin, Malwarebytes, or Privacy Badger, to name a few—can give you an extra layer of protection by identifying and blocking malicious websites or scripts:

A close-up of a stethoscope resting on a laptop keyboard, illuminated by blue light. The stethoscope's diaphragm is centered and in focus, implying a metaphorical diagnosis or maintenance of computer health

3. Patch and update your systems

Regularly update software and systems. Keeping the operating system (Windows, Mac, and Linux) and software applications up to date is imperative. On average, according to the University of Maryland, every 39 seconds, a computer is attacked while online. On average, that is 2,244 times a day! Software and operating system updates are your first line of defense. They often contain security patches that fix known vulnerabilities. Many attacks can be stopped in their tracks by simply updating your OS and apps.

In the military, we had what was known as the QRF (quick reaction force). These soldiers were the early warning system and were considered expendable; their job was to hold off an attack and provide alerts to keep the core unit safe while waiting for backup. Think of updates as your QRF. As attacks are reported to developers, they release patches to seal the hole for found exploits.

Automate your updates. By enabling automatic updates for your operating systems and software, you ensure that you receive critical security patches, which reduces the risk of an attack. Regarding software, here’s my rule of thumb: if I have not used it in six months, I remove it. Everything you keep needs to run occasionally to check for updates.

Conclusion

Well, it’s time to land this chopper. Remember, you need a healthy antivirus to fight off, well, the viruses. If you have a hole in your patching, things will slip through, so automate it, if possible. Deploy your QRF tools or your quick reaction force to keep you alert and able to react to threats. Get busy protecting your data, or else you’ll need to—as we used to say in the military—get ready to suck it up, buttercup.

Mastering Your Job Search: Actionable Tips for Success

As someone who’s navigated the job market as an applicant, hiring manager, and job coach, I’ve seen firsthand applicants’ frustration with silence from employers. I’ve also witnessed strategies that empower job seekers to stand out and succeed. Here are some tips to help you ace your job applications:

 

Resume Tips

  1. Customize Each Application: Tailor your resume for every job. Recruiters value candidates who show they’ve read the job description and understand the role’s requirements.
  2. Keep it Clean: Stick to a simple, professional layout. Use standard fonts and clear headings for easy readability.
  3. Highlight Achievements: Focus on quantifiable accomplishments rather than just listing duties. Think percentages, dollar amounts, system changes, process improvements, management experience, number of clients engaged, outcomes, etc. These resume items demonstrate your impact and value.

 

Job Search Strategies

  1. Quality Over Quantity: Don’t spray and pray. Focus on fewer applications per day, but make each one count by customizing them to the role.
  2. Apply Directly: Submit your application through the company’s website whenever possible. It shows genuine interest and professionalism.
  3. Prioritize Your Wellbeing: Take care of your mental health during the job search process. Pace yourself, stay positive, and celebrate progress.

 

Interview Preparation

  1. Know Your Stuff: Prepare responses to common questions like, “Tell me about yourself” and, “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” Be genuine but structured in your answers.
  2. Dress the Part: Mirror the company’s dress code, aiming to dress one step above if in doubt.
  3. Use Keywords: Incorporate relevant keywords from the job description into your interview responses.
  4. Tell Stories: Answer questions with anecdotes illustrating your skills and experiences, providing context, actions, and outcomes.
  5. Behavioral Questions: Be ready for questions that ask about specific situations you’ve encountered in the past. These often start with phrases such as, “Tell me about a time when…” or “Give me an example of…” Use the STAR method to craft your responses:

Situation: Describe the context of the situation you were in.

Task: Explain the task or challenge you faced.

Action: Detail the actions you took to address the situation.

Result: Summarize the outcome of your actions and any lessons learned.

Example:

Question: “Tell me about a time when you had to resolve a conflict within a team.”

Answer using the STAR method:

  • Situation: “During a group project at company X…”
  • Task: “Our team encountered a disagreement…”
  • Action: “I facilitated a discussion to identify…”
  • Result: “As a result, we reached a consensus…”

 

  1. Ask Insightful Questions: Show interest in the role by asking about the company’s culture, challenges, and opportunities.

Recommended Questions:

  • What does success look like in this role after six months, one year, etc?
  • What does a typical day look like in this role?
  • Can you tell me about the team I’ll be working with?
  • Can you provide me with more information about the next steps in the hiring process?
  • What are some challenges the team is facing right now?

 

  1. Express Gratitude: Send a thank-you email after the interview, expressing appreciation for the opportunity and reiterating your interest in the position.

 

By implementing these tips, you’ll approach your job search with confidence and purpose. Remember that every application and interview is an opportunity to showcase your value and take a step closer to your career goals.

A Super Passion for Cybersecurity and Advice for Newbies

“My advice to everyone trying to be more cyber-secure is to start at the beginning: passwords.”

In the BBC series Sherlock, the pilot episode begins with Dr. Watson, an ex-soldier, being told to start a blog and write about everything that happens to him. His response is, “Nothing happens to me.” My employer asked if I would write a blog about cybersecurity events and how an analyst thinks. Before I switched from my previous career to cybersecurity, I would have said the same thing as Dr. Watson—“Nothing happens to me.” Being a military veteran myself, when you compare the life of a soldier to others’ lifestyles, it seems like nothing happens in the civilian world. But, like Dr. Watson, once one finds a career that brings their passion back, they can suddenly blog. I have found my passion again in all things cybersecurity, and I hope you find that passion helpful and engaging. I will not be sharing any cases, but tips and practical advice on how to be a blue teamer or defender.

As a defender, you are not an avenger. Instead, you protect—you establish risks, set up parameters, and do cyber hunting in your domain. If you’re wondering where to begin, my advice to everyone trying to be more cyber-secure is to start at the beginning: passwords.

Passwords and MFA (Multi-Factor Authentication)

If you are new to cybersecurity, a password must be replaced with a passphrase and, if possible, a password manager.

Creating a passphrase

1. Level Up Your Password Game. When it comes to passwords, go for the ultimate power-ups! Craft them with a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and epic special characters. Beware of newbie moves like using birthdays, common words, and cliché phrases. And to really power up and go for the bonus levels, use a passphrase. Take a quote from your favorite book or movie and mix it up or combine multiple. Here’s an example mashing quotes from The Avengers with The Lord of the Rings:

All who wonder, lack conviction.

We’ll take that passphrase and change certain letters to symbols:

A//whoW0nder,la(kConviction!

Now you have added your signature move with special characters!

2. Save Your Game by Using a Password Vault. Do not let it be game over because you reuse your passwords, or because they are not strong enough, or worse, because you forget them. Get a trusty password vault, and be the superhero of

your online security! With a password vault, you’ll organize your accounts and generate long, strong passwords that even Sherlock Holmes couldn’t crack. With a password vault, you only need to memorize one passphrase or cheat code: one vault to rule them all, one place to find them, one vault to bring them all… well, you get it.

Utilizing MFA

3. Enable Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Block Like a Fighting Game Hero! MFA is your secret move, the combo that makes you unbeatable. To unlock MFA, you must master the trifecta of authentication: something you know (your username/password combo), something you have (like your trusty authenticator application), and something you are (like your thumbprint or facial recognition).

First, you unleash your cyber knowledge uppercut, entering your username and password. Next, unleash your right cross and let it fly through the interwebs to connect to your authenticator app, generating a unique code that only you can access to your digital passcode power-up box. With MFA, you become the hero of your digital security. Blocking unauthorized access, you’re ready to TKO an advisory in their tracks from accessing your accounts!

Are you ready to get in the game and ignite your passion for cybersecurity? Then select the start button, stop reading, and start working!

Turning Your Passion into a Side Hustle: A Guide to Starting Your Small Biz

So, you’re thinking about starting a small business? Awesome! Get ready for a rollercoaster of excitement, challenges, and a whole lot of cool moments. This guide is here to help you go from daydreaming to doing it! Let’s get into it!

 

Dream It, Define It:

First things first, what’s your vibe? What problem do you want to solve? What unique product or service do you want to offer?

Next, nail down and define your vision and your why. This is a personal statement that should help potential customers see why your business is important and inspire positivity and action. Your vision will also help keep you going when the small business life gets a little too real.

Audience:

Even though you may think that EVERYONE would love your product (and they might), you need to be honest with yourself and scope out who and what age range you want to direct your marketing toward. To help narrow down your audience, think about who benefits from what you’re putting out there and what makes you different. You can also check out your competitors and see what they are doing to push their products. Eventually, you will find your niche and will be ready to bring your take to the scene.

 Sketch Out a Business Plan:

Time for a plan, but don’t stress out! This is just your roadmap, not a strict rulebook. I can’t tell you how many times I pivoted when building my business plan…and I still do! Start with the basics: what you’re selling, who you’re selling to, how you’ll get the word out, and where you want to be in a year. I like to call this my brain dump! Any and all ideas, just get them out and onto paper! Once you get everything down on paper you can create achievable goals to help you move forward one step at a time.

Legalities:

Sort out the paperwork, grab any licenses you need, and make sure you have all your state requirements done! If you are in business with a best friend or partner, make sure that all expectations and details are agreed to and written down. You can go here to follow the steps and learn more.

Cash Flow:

What are your start-up costs? Determine where your initial cash investment will come from. Are you rolling with savings and loans, or getting the squad involved? Whatever you decide, keep it simple but smart. When you get sales, where is that money going to go? If available, consider opening a business bank account, and sort out some simple accounting (there are many online accounting programs available).

Brand Vibes:

Time to brand yourself. What’s your vibe? Create a logo, nail down your visual style, and tell your story. I really love to use “mood boards” to make sure my brand has a cohesive feel. You can do this by gathering photos online and adding them to a Word doc, or my personal fav, creating a board on Pinterest! Consistent branding is like having a solid music playlist –people start recognizing your tunes. 

The Online Game:

We live in a day and age where EVERYTHING is online. So, set up a website, get on social media where your target audience hangs out, and maybe dip your toes into online sales. Being online is like having a 24/7 open mic for your business!

Connect the Dots:

Networking is just making friends in the business world. Hit up events, join some online groups, and connect with other small business owners. I have made some of my closest friends by collaborating with other businesses. Don’t be afraid to reach out and start connecting with people!

Treat Your Customers Like VIPs:

Customer service is the secret sauce. Treat your customers like VIPs – listen to what they’re saying, be open and appreciative of feedback, and always look for ways to level up your game. Always be willing to go above and beyond. Happy customers are your best promoters.

Roll with the Punches:

The one thing you can count on when running a small business is that things change! Not everything is going to go exactly how you plan it. Sometimes you will be flying high, and others, you will be hitting rock bottom. Stay flexible, keep an eye on what’s new, and be ready to switch things up. The best businesses are the ones that can ride the waves and come out on top. Remember your company vision and why. This will help you keep going when things get hard.

Conclusion:

I would recommend you take a course to really give you that extra oomph to start your business. This one here is a good one to start with! Starting a small biz is like starting a band – it’s a journey full of highs, lows, and killer tunes. Keep it simple, stay true to your vision, and enjoy the ride!

 

Where to Start in Coding: Asking the Right Questions

My coding journey

A Texas Instruments TI-82 graphing calculator with a dark gray casing and a sliding cover partially removed to reveal the keypad and screen. The calculator features a large rectangular screen at the top and a variety of buttons below, including numerical keys and function buttons like 'SIN,' 'COS,' 'TAN,' a directional pad, and special keys for graphing functions such as 'Y=', 'WINDOW', 'ZOOM', 'TRACE', and 'GRAPH'.

Image courtesy YugCC BY-SA 3.0 DEED, via Wikimedia Commons.

When I was 13, my dad brought home a TI-82 graphing calculator and manual that had been abandoned at his workplace. I stared at the huge 9,024-pixel screen and giant array of 50 buttons and felt an overwhelming combination of curiosity and confusion. 27 of these buttons were a complete mystery to me. “What the heck is a COS?” I wondered, “And what does it have to do with sinning, tanning, and abs? And how do you even turn this thing off?”

I started experimenting. Most of those “extra” buttons caused errors or did things I didn’t understand. The calculator’s manual, the TI-82 Graphics Calculator Guidebook, was 300 pages long. I was frustrated with my lack of knowledge, but I knew I could find some answers if I were patient. My patience paid off when I learned from the manual that adding a random number after COS would return a long decimal number. This was exciting to me, even though I still had no idea what a cosine was. I followed the examples in the manual to learn how to use many of the other keys.

After a while, one button stood out above the rest: on the seventh row up was a button marked PRGM. I had heard of programming before, but I didn’t know what it meant.

As I tried the code snippets in the guidebook, I wondered how I could use each feature to create fun or useful things. Eventually, I coded card games, board games, a ping pong and snake game, a cash register program, and many other programs to help me with my schoolwork and personal projects . . . all in the Texas Instruments flavor of the BASIC programming language.

This experience launched my fascination with and use of coding. I pursued other languages in high school and took programming courses in college. I started a career in IT and began using coding to create business applications to help others.

Asking productive questions when searching for an organic entry point

My journey in programming stemmed from natural curiosity, without preconceived expectations or the need to bring in a salary. However, as a programming tutor and IT professional, I have seen many adult learners struggle to find an organic entry point into coding. In my experience, there are some common questions beginning developers have:

  • Which development environment (IDE) should I use?
  • Which language should I learn first?
  • Should I learn front-end (what users interact with), back-end (server-side processes), or full-stack (both front-end and back-end)?
  • What application should I code first?
  • How soon can I make money programming?

You can find a variety of conflicting, strongly worded answers to these questions online. Some would-be programmers quickly develop resource fatigue and become discouraged before they even start. If you’re spending a lot of time on these questions or if you feel confused about how to begin, this post is for you.

Remember: confusion is often the first step in learning something new.

While the questions I mentioned are common among beginners, they often lead to a narrow view of what programming entails. I hope to answer those questions by exploring a smaller, more productive set of questions:

  1. What skills do I need to develop for a sustainable career in coding?
  2. How can I identify my strengths and interests in programming?
  3. What can I do to avoid burnout while building practical coding skills?

These questions can guide you toward becoming a proficient coder and help you understand broader, often overlooked aspects of programming. I hope to share some of the concepts that I have learned from both my personal experiences and my professional interactions, and I hope they will help guide you through the early stages of your coding adventure.

1. What skills do I need to develop for a sustainable career in coding?

While technical skills are essential in coding, life skills like communication, problem-solving, patience, and persistence are equally important. These skills often go underestimated but significantly affect a coder’s efficiency and ability to handle complex projects.

Learn effective communication and documentation

A bright yellow rubber duck sits in front of a MacBook with an open code editor on the screen, displaying lines of code. The image captures the practice of 'rubber duck debugging,' where programmers explain their code to an inanimate object, like a rubber duck, to debug it more effectively. In the background, notes and another rubber duck are partially visible, indicating a collaborative or educational setting.

Rubber duck debugging in action. Image courtesy Tom MorrisCC BY-SA 3.0 DEED, via Wikimedia Commons.
In programming, explaining complex code to a rubber duck is a humorous yet effective way to find solutions to problems by clarifying your thoughts.

In my experience, the best way to increase your efficiency as a programmer is to learn to communicate clearly and succinctly. Effective communication is vital in programming, not just in writing code but also in documenting your work and collaborating with others. I can’t tell you how many times I have written important code, put it in a production environment, and then had to completely reverse engineer it months or years later to fix a simple problem when, if I had spent a little extra time documenting my rationale, I could have saved a lot of stress and time overall.

Although the ideal scenario is to write code that is intuitive and self-explanatory, I try to prepare for the worst-case scenario. In my practice, I often write almost as many lines of comments as I do of code, preparing for scenarios where the code’s purpose isn’t immediately clear. This approach ensures clear and comprehensive documentation, which is important for internal use and also establishes trust and usability in the wider developer community. Whether you comment inline or with whitepapers or knowledge bases, well-documented code enhances collaboration, boosts your reputation for quality, and reflects a commitment to professionalism and transparency. Future you and your coworkers will greatly appreciate this level of detail, especially when revisiting complex code later.

Two individuals in an office setting, focusing on a large computer screen displaying colorful lines of code. One person is typing on a keyboard, while the other is pointing at a specific section of the code on the screen, suggesting a collaborative effort in coding or debugging. The workspace is bright and modern, with additional monitors, notepads, and a cup of coffee indicating a productive environment.

Popular media often portrays coders as enigmatic figures, crafting cryptic walls of code decipherable only by machines or other “coding wizards.” This portrayal, while dramatic, isn’t accurate or helpful. In reality, the best programmers prioritize clarity and accessibility in their code. Code isn’t just about instructing a computer; it’s a form of communication with others, including our future selves.

Gain basic computing skills

Familiarity with basic computing concepts is a prerequisite for diving into programming. You will need to know how to manage directories, open files, browse the web efficiently, and perform fundamental operations like copying and pasting. The IC3 courseware from LearnKey offers comprehensive training in computing fundamentals, key applications, and living online, providing a strong foundation for aspiring programmers.

For comprehensive training in essential computing skills, consider LearnKey’s Information Technology Specialist Courseware, an excellent starting point for your programming journey.

Develop logical thinking and mind mapping

A professional in business attire is sketching a Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) diagram on a transparent board with a marker. The BPMN diagram includes standard symbols such as diamonds for decision points and arrows for flow direction, illustrating the systematic planning of a business process flow, a technique commonly used in programming and project management to visualize and improve processes.

Developing logical thinking skills is vital for efficient problem-solving and debugging.

I mean formal logic—not common sense, and not even mathematics. Probably half of the bug fixes I have experienced have had to do with faulty logic. Learn how to identify formal fallacies—non-sequiturs—and practice over and over again. While knowledge of upper math is helpful in certain areas, many programming tasks require logical thinking more than advanced arithmetic.

Alongside logical thinking, learning visual mind-mapping techniques can significantly help you organize and plan your projects. You will need to be able to split a project into its main requirements and then split those requirements into the considerations that go along with each requirement. At least learn the following visual mind-mapping languages:

  • ERD (entity–relationship diagrams)—a standardized visual language for data structures.
  • BPMN (Business Process Model and Notation)—a standardized visual language for procedural flowcharts.
  • Gantt charts—a project management bar chart for organizing task dependencies.

Practice modular engineering

It is important to learn modular design and solid software engineering principles. Think of programming like building a car: each component, like the bolts in an engine, must meet certain standards and work effectively on its own before it can contribute to the larger system. You don’t have to build an engine to determine whether the bolts will work or not. Similarly, each part of your code should serve a specific purpose and be testable independently. This approach may not always be glamorous, and while there will be times that code flows from your fingertips, you will spend much of your time prototyping, retooling, refactoring, and testing. Understanding sound development principles will help you easily navigate complex programming tasks and enable you to create efficient, scalable code.

Read and research

Finally, learn to read patiently and spend a lot of time with official documentation. Programming languages are usually well-documented and sometimes in multiple places, but learning which source works for you in your current programming journey can take time. W3Schools and Stack Overflow are great starting places and quick daily resources for many languages, but you will inevitably need to read whitepapers and the developers’ specifications. Learning where these are sooner rather than later will save you a lot of time.

Start today

You can begin honing these skills today:

  • Write out detailed steps for completing tasks to enhance your logical thinking.
  • Engage in daily writing to improve communication skills and typing speed.
  • Play logic puzzles and strategy games to sharpen your problem-solving ability.
  • Practice mind-mapping on topics you enjoy to get accustomed to organizing complex information.
  • Take an eLearning course to see if that mode of learning works for you. May I suggest one of the courses at LearnKey’s Information Technology Specialist Courseware or LearnKey’s Certiport – IC3 Courseware?

By incorporating these tools and practices, you will enhance your coding efficiency and develop a well-rounded skillset, which will be essential for a successful programming career.

2. How can I identify my strengths and interests in programming?

Many beginners hope that they will have a perfect programming journey—that their first programming language will be perfect for everything they want to do, that they’ll find a dream job right away, that they’ll stay up late at night coding because they love it so much, and that they’ll single-handedly write code that changes the world. The reality is that no programming language is perfect, most beginning coders don’t make huge salaries, most good code is written by teams, and many good programs never see the light of day. But that doesn’t mean that the journey isn’t worth it. In programming, curiosity is its own reward—and the more you learn, the more likely you are to find something you love.

Delay specialization

Many beginning programmers get lost in the weeds worrying about whether to learn front-end, back-end, or full-stack. Others spend too much time figuring out what development environment (IDE) or language to use. Whether you use Visual Studio Code or Notepad++, C++ or JavaScript, the key is to start experimenting. Most of the time, your choice of IDE or language is similar to your choice of clothing—it should suit your use, but if you obsess too much over it, you will never get out the door. Beginners can benefit from simpler environments or text editors, focusing on learning the language without the complexity of advanced tools. You can always switch to different IDEs and languages as your skills and needs evolve. The key is not which language you start with but how thoroughly you grasp that language’s concepts. Remember, the principles you learn in one language usually apply to others, preventing you from becoming just a “script kiddy” who only follows examples without understanding them.

Explore, explore, explore!

A young Asian student is intently working on a laptop in a classroom setting. She is wearing a denim jumper over a long-sleeved shirt and is seated at a white desk. The background is softly focused, with educational posters visible on the wall and other students also working on laptops. The image conveys a sense of focus and concentration, typical of an academic or learning environment where technology and computers are integral tools.

Begin by understanding the fundamentals of how the web works. This knowledge is foundational, regardless of your eventual specialization. Get acquainted with both front-end and back-end concepts. Once you get the basic concepts of one language under your belt, expand your repertoire to include a variety of other languages. This broad base will inform your later choices and provide a well-rounded understanding of web development.

As you explore different languages and technologies, pay attention to what excites you and positively challenges you. Do you enjoy creating visually appealing webpages, or are you more intrigued by the logic and data processing on the server side? Experimenting with various aspects of programming will naturally lead you to discover your strengths and interests.

There’s no rush to specialize, but don’t be afraid to hyperfocus on one aspect if it catches your attention. The field of programming is vast and varied. Permit yourself to explore different paths—front-end, back-end, full-stack, data science, or any other area that piques your interest. Over time, your preferences and strengths will become more apparent, guiding you toward your programming niche.

Cultivate your unique coding path

  • Stay curious and engage with the subject.
  • Read lots of code from different authors. Analyze it until you understand exactly what it does.
  • Choose a beginner-friendly language. For web coding, start with HTML and JavaScript. For data manipulation, Python is a great choice. LearnKey courses provide excellent foundations in these languages: LearnKey’s Information Technology Specialist Courseware
  • Enroll in a good introductory programming course. LearnKey’s Introduction to Programming Concepts course is ideal for beginners, covering the basics of programming logic and structure. For a more in-depth guide, try LearnKey’s Software Development

By following these steps, you’ll establish a solid base in programming, enabling you to confidently explore more complex concepts and languages and discover your talents and interests.

3. What can I do to avoid burnout while building practical coding skills?

Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced coder, a sustainable programming career requires pacing yourself to avoid burnout. Regularly updating and improving your skills is critical to staying employable and avoiding the pitfalls of rushing your learning journey.

Set limits

The sheer volume of learning resources available can be overwhelming, leading to indecision about where to start. Rather than getting lost in the sea of options, select a few well-reviewed resources and dedicate daily efforts to thoroughly understanding them. Diving deep into one or two quality resources is more effective than skimming through a multitude of them.

Set small goals

A row of seven dice on a vibrant blue background. All are white with footprints in black, except for the fourth die, which is yellow and features a flag. This image symbolizes the achievement of a goal. This visual metaphorically suggests setting and accomplishing small, incremental goals in a process or journey.

Many beginning programmers start their journey filled with enthusiasm and big dreams. It’s common to envision creating groundbreaking software like a new operating system, a replacement for Google, or an intricate game right from the start. This ambition, while admirable, often overshadows the practical realities of learning to code. The excitement can lead to overestimating your capabilities. Beginners might not yet fully grasp the complexity and skills required for large-scale projects.

Begin with small, manageable projects that are within your current skill level. Choose something your life does not depend on but is useful or fun, like a calculator, a single-screen game, or a time-saver for a frequent manual process. These types of projects are achievable and provide a sense of accomplishment and a solid base for learning.

Having clear, specific objectives is key to staying focused and making progress. Aim to complete small projects that challenge you enough to learn but are not so daunting that they lead to frustration. Each completed project will build your confidence and skills.

Practice Modularity

Big projects can always be broken into smaller projects. This concept is the foundation of modular design or modularity. Modular design not only helps you learn to code but also sets the stage for effective programming and troubleshooting practices. For example, if you’re interested in building a web application, start by thinking about one application component, such as a web form or a simple database interaction. Then ask questions to break it down even further until you have reached one of the most basic elements of that page or interaction. How do you even collect user input? How can you interact with a database? If you treat each part of a program as a self-contained building block, you will be practicing modularity.

Consider enrolling in project-based courses that provide a structured approach to learning. Instruction like LearnKey’s Python v2 course puts modular design in practice, introducing small, manageable modules that could build up to a larger project.

Build your portfolio before seeking a job

One of the best ways to reduce the chances of burnout is to only take jobs for which you are prepared.

Before actively seeking coding jobs, developing a strong coding portfolio is essential. This portfolio should showcase your best work and demonstrate your coding proficiency. Jumping into the job market too early—without a solid grasp of programming languages or a substantial portfolio—can be counterproductive. Consider securing an alternative income source while building your programming skills and portfolio.

Conclusion

My early experiences with a TI-82 calculator sparked a journey of discovery and learning in programming. Your path can also be filled with growth and exploration. Starting with foundational skills and gradually building up to more complex projects is key to a sustainable career in programming. From understanding basic computing concepts to building a robust coding portfolio, every step you take should be well-paced and guided by curiosity, practicality, and a willingness to grow. Resources like LearnKey’s courses can provide the guidance and structure needed. Nevertheless, your personal journey starts with the press of a button, the writing of a line of code, and the willingness to explore the vast and evolving programming landscape.

Do Certifications Still Matter In a Post-Pandemic World?

Certified Image

In a word, yes. Though technology and markets have changed, and attitudes toward working at home vs. working in an office vs. working on an island with a satellite… OK, I’m getting carried away here, but certifications still matter. Our CEO, Jeff Coruccini, outlined this in a blog post at the beginning of the year, but let me add some statistics here about certifications themselves:

According to CompTIA, the certification body for A+, Network+, and Security+, three industry-leading certifications, 96 percent of human resource managers use IT certifications as part of the screening process for candidates. 96 percent; that’s 24 out of every 25 human resource managers. According to Coursera, 59 percent of cybersecurity jobs require at least one related certification.

But lest you think these percentages are limited to IT jobs, consider this. According to Indeed, 62 percent of those surveyed for QuickBooks positions indicated they got a higher starting salary because they obtained a QuickBooks certification. And let me share a personal anecdote. My first IT training full-time position was at a hospital. I had Microsoft Office Suite (MOS) certifications; those certifications put me at the high end of the starting salary range, a full 25% higher than if I had not obtained those certifications.

Certifications are more than proof that one has expertise in the certification earned. They also prove several characteristics that make for an outstanding employee:

  • A willingness to learn, often in a very compact amount of time
  • The ability to study and research
  • The fortitude to finish a project from start to finish
  • The ability to succeed on a task after not succeeding. In this context, that would mean retaking an exam if one does not pass on the first attempt (it happens to the best of us)

So, which IT certifications are most important for those starting an IT career? This article from Coursera lists the top 10 IT certifications in 2023, and we have courses for six of the top seven certifications on the list. If you are looking at an IT career path and have not started the journey of obtaining any certifications, consider this an invitation to do so. I’ll be rooting for your success down your chosen path.

Unlocking Your Future: ACE College Credits and Certification Programs

In today’s fast-paced world, education is more than just a means to an end; it’s a pathway to success and personal growth. At LearnKey, we take this very seriously. As the landscape of education evolves, innovative solutions emerge to bridge the gap between real-world skills and academic achievement. ACE College Credits, a pioneering initiative, is transforming the way students approach higher education by offering a unique opportunity to gain college credits through certification programs. Let’s explore how this program can pave the way for students to accelerate their educational journey and open doors to exciting new possibilities.

The Power of Certification Programs:
Certification programs have gained immense popularity in recent years due to their practical approach to skill development. These programs, often endorsed by industry leaders, provide students with specialized expertise that can be directly applied in the workforce. From IT certifications to healthcare credentials, these programs offer a convenient and focused way to enhance one’s skill set. But what if these certifications could also contribute to your college education?

Enter ACE College Credits:
This innovative program partners with various certification providers, such as our partner Certiport, to evaluate and recommend college credit for completed certifications. Imagine the satisfaction of knowing that the hard work you put into acquiring a valuable certification not only boosts your employability but also contributes to your college journey.

Benefits:
1. **Accelerated Degree Completion**: One of the primary advantages of ACE College Credits is its potential to expedite your degree completion. By earning college credits through certification programs, you can significantly reduce the time it takes to earn a degree, saving both time and money.

2. **Enhanced Employability**: Combining academic knowledge with practical skills gained from certifications makes you a well-rounded and attractive candidate in the job market. Employers value candidates who possess both theoretical understanding and hands-on experience.

3. **Flexibility and Customization**: ACE College Credits provide flexibility, allowing you to tailor your educational journey to align with your interests and career goals. You can choose certifications that resonate with your aspirations, creating a unique blend of expertise.

4. **Transferrable Credits**: Many colleges and universities recognize the value of certifications and accept ACE-recommended credits, allowing you to seamlessly transfer your hard-earned credentials.

5. **Cost-Efficiency**: College education can be expensive, but by utilizing this program, you can potentially reduce the overall cost of your degree. With every earned credit, you inch closer to your degree without additional tuition expenses.

In a world where adaptability and skills are prized, ACE College Credits offer a bridge between the dynamic demands of the job market and the structured realm of academia. By recognizing the value of certification programs, students take charge of their education and pave the way for a brighter future. Whether you’re a recent high school graduate, a working professional, or someone seeking a career change, ACE College Credits can be your key to unlocking a world of opportunities. Embrace this innovative approach, earn credits for your certifications, and embark on a journey that’s uniquely tailored to your aspirations. Your dreams are within reach – take the first step today.

Note: The process for transferring ACE Credits to a college or university differs for each institution; the first step in the process is to get a copy of your transcript.

The next step is to find the college’s transfer credit policies and procedures. Check the college’s catalog or website for “academic policies and procedures” or “transfer credit.” Once you know the correct policies and procedures, complete the process. If you are unable to locate the policies, give the school a call.

LearnKey neither guarantees nor implies that other institutions will accept credit hours or previous training earned at the school. A student who anticipates transferring to another institution should first contact the other institution to determine whether their credit hours or previous training will transfer. Policies governing the transferability of credits vary greatly from school to school.