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How I Became a Web Developer

How I Became a Web Developer

I have to admit that if someone told me a few years ago that I would become a programmer, I wouldn’t believe them.

The first job curse

My journey to become a front-end developer began with a desire for making a change. Straight after getting my University degree I started my career in Logistics. By the time I was working in that field for about 3 years I started to notice that my job is neither interesting, nor challenging, nor enjoyable enough to continue doing it. The problem was that I wanted to find something that would be fun, ambitious and profitable.

Let’s be honest, by that time I’ve had difficulty deciding what I could do. I have decided to meet a job counselor that suggested that because I am a very creative person, I should look for a job having this in mind.

Web development surprises

During my research I stumbled upon an article which stated that programmers are very creative people. This statement surprised me a lot then. I always thought that programming was only for mathematically inclined people that studied Computer Science or enthusiasts who were learning programming ever since they were teenagers.

However, upon searching for an answer to my questions I found that most people working as programmers didn’t really have an academic background. And most employers don’t focus on that when looking for potential job candidates. Especially if they have had some programming experience.

I started looking for tutorials and courses that would help me learn some programming language. Quite by accident I stumbled upon an interesting HTML5 tutorial on YouTube, which was actually quite fun to watch. It was an amazing feeling to be able to easily recreate some page elements that I have seen on typical webpages. Finally I found something that was interesting, quite a bit creative and brought me a lot of satisfaction.

Next stop: web development

Front-end developer usually works by receiving a graphical design and creating a webpage that works in a fluid way, on many different devices and browsers. As I’ve learned on the web, not only was it a high-in-demand and lucrative career choice. People working in this field could be very flexible in their choices. They can work for corporations, start-ups, small businesses, non-profits or as freelancers as well. Also, it’s an exciting career, because the field is constantly evolving and can keep you engaged for years to come. And so my decision was made and my roadtrip to become a front-end developer began.

The power of determination

By studying job advertisements I learned what is required for most of the junior job positions:

  • HTML, CSS
  • CSS preprocessors
  • Responsive web design
  • Bootstrap
  • Knowledge of Adobe Photoshop
  • JavaScript & jQuery
  • AJAX
  • React/AngularJS
  • GIT
  • Communicative knowledge of English

It looked quite daunting to be able to master so many technologies on a level that would allow me to start looking for a job as a front-end developer. But I decided not to be discouraged and to focus on how much fun I was having while solving logical problems and facing new challenges by creating more and more complicated interfaces.

What made my task more complicated, was that I’ve had a full time job when I was mastering this new skillset. My time was very limited. I was studying whenever I could – at home, on a bus or a train… At first I decided to use some of the free resources the web had to offer. Especially because I didn’t know if I would succeed on my journey.

Using the right resources

What is great about learning web technologies is that the internet is just full of resources. I highly recommend CodeSchool or Codecademy for mastering the basics of HTML, CSS and JavaScript. CodePen can be a good source of inspiration with editable code. I can also recommend some of the YouTube channels (like for example DevTips, LearnCode.academy or thenewboston). Also pages like W3schools or Mozilla Developer Network were helpful to me as a quick source of reference. I have also found useful information on Tuts Plus, CSS Tricks, as well as a lot of free courses on Udemy. Codewars is a very cool website with lots of coding challenges, of varying levels, in many programming languages.

When it comes to books – unfortunately, they tend to get a little bit out of date quickly. However, I believe it is useful to learn some of the javascript concepts from them. I have enjoyed reading “JavaScript and JQuery: Interactive Front-End Web Development”. However, “Eloquent Javascript” was much more challenging to read with examples to practice your code on.

Unfortunately, when searching for good learning resources I also stumbled upon some really bad courses. Looking back at my learning path, I wish I hadn’t taken them. They were either out of date, or run in such an uninspiring way, that I’ve had a feeling that the author was bored during their own monologue sometimes. So I highly recommend you to make a good research on the forums for what highest quality learning resources.

Mastering skills

By the time I learned the basics I’ve decided to join a bootcamp course to help me gain deeper understanding of the topics I’ve learned. The great thing about it was that I could talk to real-life people who had job experience in the front-end area. In one of my teachers I found a very supportive mentor that gave me a lot of useful advice not only when it comes to coding, but also regarding the job hunting.

Once mastering the basics, I believe that making small projects and applications is a great way to learn. And much more interesting than watching a few hours of an online course. Whenever you get stuck with a question there are some wonderful communities with people ready to share their knowledge. The most popular one is Stack Overflow and I can’t count how many times has this website been useful for me.

If you start to learn front-end technologies you will notice that looking at your first projects will make you cringe a little bit. You will see bugs or lack of refinement in the code that you would now write so much better. However, you need to remember that it’s all part of a learning and that you are progressing. Even if you make just baby steps first.

Speaking of communities, I also recommend to attend some front-end meetups in your city. I attended GeekGirlsCarrots and found it to be a wonderful and fun experience which further strengthened my belief in becoming a front-end developer. If you are a woman like me, you will more likely notice that we are sadly in the big minority when it comes to programmers. And Geek Girls Carrots is an initiative created especially to encourage women to join the software industry.

The process of job hunting

When I was looking for a job as a junior front-end developer I felt a bit like I was fresh out of the university again, with no job experience. So although the job market is always on the search for programmers, it is not easy to find a first job as one with no background. So what I’ve done is I’ve build a portfolio of projects and made them available on my GitHub account. It was a way to showcast a potential employer what I was able to do.

Last, but not least, when it comes to job hunting, a great place to look for open positions are IT job fares, as well as programming meetups. It’s important to join as many meetups and job fares as possible. If you talk to a recruiter in person you will be much more remembered than from just sending an email with your application. Be sure to attend academic job fairs at your local university, even if you are no longer a student. The companies there often offer entry level positions, for people with no commercial experience in programming.

Being a web developer

Finally, my time spent on learning front-end technologies has been proven fruitful as I have joined the Chop-Chop team last year. And I have never learned as much and as quickly as from the moment I entered the company. Having the benefit of working with really great, helpful people and constantly challenging my abilities with new interesting projects, I have advanced a lot in such short time. As I am working on projects made with CMS WordPress I am also learning some backend technologies, which proves to be challenging and enjoyable. Seeing websites that I’ve made online makes me very proud.

Looking back at the path I took to change my career I’ve noticed that it was a bumpy road and it’s not all been smooth sailing to get where I am right now. It definitely took some time. A lot of patience and determination was needed to become a web developer. But there is not a day that I regret my decision. Web development is an exciting career choice, with a lot of growth potential in the years to come.