Take a Work Project to the Next Level to Practice Your Coding Skills

By Nikhil Abraham

As a busy professional with a full work schedule, you need a tangible project to work toward to keep you motivated while you find out how to code. Think of all the tasks you perform during the week — how many could be automated if you had the right tools and skills?

The following sample tasks can be done more efficiently with some coding and could help you think of a goal of your own:

  • Spreadsheet consolidation: You have 15 team members who submit timesheets to you using spreadsheets, and you create a consolidated weekly report by manually cutting and pasting entries from each spreadsheet.
  • Content updates: You cut and paste the latest press stories every week into a content management system to update the company’s website.
  • Data retrieval: You work for a financial services company, and monitor acquisitions and sales made by ten private equity firms. Every day you visit each firm’s website to look for updates.
  • Quality assurance: You test updates made to the company’s website by clicking the same set of links to make sure they work as expected.
  • Prototyping designs: You create website designs, but it’s difficult to explain to clients the user experience and interactions through static illustrations.

Whatever task you choose, make sure that you can describe how to complete it from start to finish. For example, the steps to complete the data retrieval task might be listed as follows:

  1. Visit the first firm’s website, and download the list of companies on the acquisitions page.
  2. Permanently store the list. If the acquisition list has previously been retrieved, compare the list downloaded today with yesterday’s version, and note any additions or deletions.
  3. Display the additions or deletions.
  4. Repeat Steps 1–3 for the next firm, until all the firm websites have been visited.
  5. Repeat Steps 1–4 daily.

You may be part of a technical process, such as a designer who hands off mockups to a developer to create. Instead of automating your existing work, you could try to complete work the technical team normally does after you. For example, if you do customer or sales support, you regularly receive customer and client feedback and file support tickets for issues that require an engineer. The number of support tickets always exceeds the number of engineers, so choose a low-priority non-mission-critical issue to fix.

Don’t worry about choosing a task that seems too simple. Fixing an issue on a live site currently in use is always more complex than it initially appears. However, try to choose a work-related task so you can ask for help from coworkers.