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study plan

This is my multi-month study plan for going from developer (self-taught, no CS degree) to software engineer.

Coding at the whiteboard - from HBO's Silicon Valley

Table of Contents

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Don’t feel you aren’t smart enough

About Video Resources

Some videos are available only by enrolling in a Coursera, EdX, or Lynda.com class. These are called MOOCs. Sometimes the classes are not in session so you have to wait a couple of months, so you have no access. Lynda.com courses are not free.

I'd appreciate your help to add free and always-available public sources, such as YouTube videos to accompany the online course videos.
I like using university lectures.

Interview Process & General Interview Prep

Pick One Language for the Interview

You can use a language you are comfortable in to do the coding part of the interview, but for large companies, these are solid choices:

You could also use these, but read around first. There may be caveats:

You need to be very comfortable in the language and be knowledgeable.

Read more about choices: - http://www.byte-by-byte.com/choose-the-right-language-for-your-coding-interview/ - http://blog.codingforinterviews.com/best-programming-language-jobs/

See language resources here

You’ll see some C, C++, and Python learning included below, because I’m learning. There are a few books involved, see the bottom.

Book List

This is a shorter list than what I used. This is abbreviated to save you time.

Interview Prep

If you have tons of extra time:

Computer Architecture

If short on time:

If you have more time (I want this book):

Language Specific

You need to choose a language for the interview (see above). Here are my recommendations by language. I don’t have resources for all languages. I welcome additions.

If you read though one of these, you should have all the data structures and algorithms knowledge you’ll need to start doing coding problems. You can skip all the video lectures in this project, unless you’d like a review.

Additional language-specific resources here.

C++

I haven’t read these two, but they are highly rated and written by Sedgewick. He’s awesome.

If you have a better recommendation for C++, please let me know. Looking for a comprehensive resource.

Java

OR:

Python

Optional Books

Some people recommend these, but I think it’s going overboard, unless you have many years of software engineering experience and expect a much harder interview:

Before you Get Started

This list grew over many months, and yes, it kind of got out of hand.

Here are some mistakes I made so you’ll have a better experience.

1. You Won’t Remember it All

I watched hours of videos and took copious notes, and months later there was much I didn’t remember. I spent 3 days going through my notes and making flashcards so I could review.

Read please so you won’t make my mistakes:

Retaining Computer Science Knowledge

2. Use Flashcards

To solve the problem, I made a little flashcards site where I could add flashcards of 2 types: general and code. Each card has different formatting.

I made a mobile-first website so I could review on my phone and tablet, wherever I am.

Make your own for free:

Keep in mind I went overboard and have cards covering everything from assembly language and Python trivia to machine learning and statistics. It’s way too much for what’s required.

Note on flashcards: The first time you recognize you know the answer, don’t mark it as known. You have to see the same card and answer it several times correctly before you really know it. Repetition will put that knowledge deeper in your brain.

An alternative to using my flashcard site is Anki, which has been recommended to me numerous times. It uses a repetition system to help you remember. It’s user-friendly, available on all platforms and has a cloud sync system. It costs $25 on iOS but is free on other platforms.

My flashcard database in Anki format: https://ankiweb.net/shared/info/25173560 (thanks @xiewenya)

3. Review, review, review

I keep a set of cheat sheets on ASCII, OSI stack, Big-O notations, and more. I study them when I have some spare time.

Take a break from programming problems for a half hour and go through your flashcards.

4. Focus

There are a lot of distractions that can take up valuable time. Focus and concentration are hard.

What you won’t see covered

These are prevalent technologies but not part of this study plan:

The Daily Plan

Some subjects take one day, and some will take multiple days. Some are just learning with nothing to implement.

Each day I take one subject from the list below, watch videos about that subject, and write an implementation in: - C - using structs and functions that take a struct * and something else as args. - C++ - without using built-in types - C++ - using built-in types, like STL’s std::list for a linked list - Python - using built-in types (to keep practicing Python) - and write tests to ensure I’m doing it right, sometimes just using simple assert() statements - You may do Java or something else, this is just my thing.

You don’t need all these. You need only one language for the interview.

Why code in all of these? - Practice, practice, practice, until I’m sick of it, and can do it with no problem (some have many edge cases and bookkeeping details to remember) - Work within the raw constraints (allocating/freeing memory without help of garbage collection (except Python)) - Make use of built-in types so I have experience using the built-in tools for real-world use (not going to write my own linked list implementation in production)

I may not have time to do all of these for every subject, but I’ll try.

You can see my code here: - C - C++ - Python

You don’t need to memorize the guts of every algorithm.

Write code on a whiteboard or paper, not a computer. Test with some sample inputs. Then test it out on a computer.

Prerequisite Knowledge

Algorithmic complexity / Big-O / Asymptotic analysis

Data Structures

More Knowledge

Trees

Sorting

As a summary, here is a visual representation of 15 sorting algorithms. If you need more detail on this subject, see “Sorting” section in Additional Detail on Some Subjects

Graphs

Graphs can be used to represent many problems in computer science, so this section is long, like trees and sorting were.

You’ll get more graph practice in Skiena’s book (see Books section below) and the interview books

Even More Knowledge

System Design, Scalability, Data Handling


Final Review

This section will have shorter videos that you can watch pretty quickly to review most of the important concepts.
It's nice if you want a refresher often.

Coding Question Practice

Now that you know all the computer science topics above, it’s time to practice answering coding problems.

Coding question practice is not about memorizing answers to programming problems.

Why you need to practice doing programming problems: - problem recognition, and where the right data structures and algorithms fit in - gathering requirements for the problem - talking your way through the problem like you will in the interview - coding on a whiteboard or paper, not a computer - coming up with time and space complexity for your solutions - testing your solutions

There is a great intro for methodical, communicative problem solving in an interview. You’ll get this from the programming interview books, too, but I found this outstanding: Algorithm design canvas

No whiteboard at home? That makes sense. I’m a weirdo and have a big whiteboard. Instead of a whiteboard, pick up a large drawing pad from an art store. You can sit on the couch and practice. This is my “sofa whiteboard”. I added the pen in the photo for scale. If you use a pen, you’ll wish you could erase. Gets messy quick.

my sofa whiteboard

Supplemental:

Read and Do Programming Problems (in this order):

See Book List above

Coding exercises/challenges

Once you’ve learned your brains out, put those brains to work. Take coding challenges every day, as many as you can.

Coding Interview Question Videos: - IDeserve (88 videos) - Tushar Roy (5 playlists)

Challenge sites: - LeetCode - TopCoder - Project Euler (math-focused) - Codewars - HackerEarth - HackerRank - Codility - InterviewCake - Geeks for Geeks - InterviewBit - Sphere Online Judge (spoj)

Challenge repos: - Interactive Coding Interview Challenges in Python

Mock Interviews: - Gainlo.co: Mock interviewers from big companies - I used this and it helped me relax for the phone screen and on-site interview. - Pramp: Mock interviews from/with peers - peer-to-peer model of practice interviews - Refdash: Mock interviews and expedited interviews - also help candidates fast track by skipping multiple interviews with tech companies.

Once you’re closer to the interview

Your Resume

Be thinking of for when the interview comes

Think of about 20 interview questions you’ll get, along with the lines of the items below. Have 2-3 answers for each. Have a story, not just data, about something you accomplished.

Have questions for the interviewer

Some of mine (I already may know answer to but want their opinion or team perspective):

Once You’ve Got The Job

Congratulations!

Keep learning.

You’re never really done.


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Everything below this point is optional.
By studying these, you'll get greater exposure to more CS concepts, and will be better prepared for
any software engineering job. You'll be a much more well-rounded software engineer.

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Additional Books

Additional Learning

These topics will likely not come up in an interview, but I added them to help you become a well-rounded software engineer, and to be aware of certain technologies and algorithms, so you’ll have a bigger toolbox.

Additional Detail on Some Subjects

I added these to reinforce some ideas already presented above, but didn't want to include them
above because it's just too much. It's easy to overdo it on a subject.
You want to get hired in this century, right?

Video Series

Sit back and enjoy. “Netflix and skill” :P

Computer Science Courses