Free Ways to Learn Tech Skills

February 3, 2016 Jiordan Castle

learn tech skillsThere’s an expression that’s become commonplace in just the last few years: “Every company is a technology company.” Think about it. Even the high-end dog food supplier who delivers to your door has a mobile app, a customer self-service portal, and live chat. The startup responsible for my plush new mattress has a witty Instagram account and the ability to deliver to most New York City apartments in under an hour. To be clear, they deliver these mattresses by bike… in under an hour.

How is that possible? In tech, almost anything is possible. It just takes a certain set of skills — the perfect storm of analytics, creativity, and code. As fate would have it, these are exactly the skills you need to make it in tech. But how do you get started or build upon your budding tech talents?

Online resources where you can learn tech skills for free

Though software developers are in high demand these days (particularly as we’ve gone from dreaming up the next big app to practically relying on companies to hand-deliver us fresh-baked cookies every day), you don’t have to spend a fortune to obtain some essential tech skills. The following are great resources for learning to code, diving into new programming languages, and more:

  • Coursera blurs the line between technology company and education company, offering over 1,000 courses from over 100 schools — some from top universities like Stanford and Princeton. You can learn Python, R, and more (e.g., build and deploy apps, take on advanced algorithms, etc.), or even pay for a certificate course. The latter provides inexpensive proof of your specialization in a certain discipline.
  • Want to learn to code for free? Codecademy is an excellent go-to. The company was founded in 2011 and currently has over 25 million users — all of whom can learn to code at no cost. While it has long been a haven for people who want to learn HTML, JavaScript, jQuery, PHP, Python, and Ruby, Codecademy partnered with Periscope last fall to provide users with courses on SQL.
  • Topcoder, Appirio’s own crowdsourcing community, is another great place to learn new skills and test your existing ones. Topcoder has 3 tracks of competition: design, development, and data science. It’s free to sign up and, as a member, you can compete in challenges and tournaments to earn money and participate in peer reviews and collaborate with other members. Companies like Amazon, Salesforce, Facebook, and even NASA and HPE have used Topcoder talent to solve business problems and create new technologies.
  • “The fun way to learn Salesforce” is no joke; Trailhead, Salesforce’s public learning tool, is exactly what it claims to be: a user-friendly way to learn different facets of Salesforce. You can take different trails — like those for admins, developers, and business users — and even take on projects like writing an Apex class or building your first app. Trails, modules, and projects can be sorted by level, product, tag, etc. So you’re free to learn anything you want, and all at your own pace.
  • While Udacity does have free resources, it’s unique in that it offers “nanodegree” programs (and part of the cost could be covered by your employer) for a relatively low cost. Courses are self-paced and cost $200 a month. (Courses often take anywhere from 6 to 12 months to complete.) The curriculum is designed by real-life industry experts, so you can rest assured that your education will be immediately applicable to today’s job market. And if you don’t have a job, Udacity’s Nanodegree Plus program guarantees relevant job placement within 6 months or 100 percent of your tuition back.

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