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Kick starting a career in Web Development

Kick starting a career in Web Development
Oli-A Oliver-profile_400x400

Oliver Cox

Top 5 Essential tips to becoming a Web Developer and how to get started today

Bit of backstory... I was initially a Graphic Designer before making the leap to Web Developer. My background has always been in Graphic Design, throughout education and into industry.

I quickly realised that digital is where I wanted to be, I felt having a working knowledge of the development landscape would aid in a better understanding of the complete process on digital products. It was at some point in that learning, I actually decided to completely pivot away from design and move fully into development.

Moment of madness? Not at all! I couldn’t be happier about my decision. I’m now at a job I love and where I am learning the full gamut of being a Web Developer with sysops, backend and frontend technologies. I am learning everyday with a great support network around me.

Kick starting a career in Web Development

Where to begin?

So learning... there are some fantastic freely available online resources out there to really get your teeth into. I can’t stress enough that it is really important to have a focus. Initially I found myself hopping from one tutorial to another in some sort of tutorial purgatory. I’m still very much in the learning process, I found the following really helped me stay motivated and focused throughout.

Have a structure

Figure out what you want to learn and set yourself both realistic and optimistic goals. The importance of this is to have direction and accountability. Having a goal of what type of development you are striving for is a bonus early on, whether it be Front-end, Back-end, Mobile etc. This can be really beneficial in tailoring your learning path and maximising your learning.

Movements like #100DaysofCode on social media can really encourage positive routines, making you publicly commit to sharing your achievements of the day, highs or lows. The great thing is the dopamine fix you get from peoples engagements in your tweets to really spur you on, also engaging with others and being inspired by their own tweets.

Document your learning

I love a list, me. I initially set up a Google sheet and documented a list of courses / articles. I later moved over to a Trello card for better documenting. A key deciding factor was attempting to learn for free, so I believe most, if not all of the resources I collated were free. I got encouragement looking back at what I had already achieved when I was struggling with a particular aspect of something (usually JavaScript). For those curious here is a link to that very spreadsheet.

Fundamentals, again and again.

I am going to illustrate this weighted toward that of a front-end developer. Really drill down into the fundamentals of the big three. HTML, CSS & JavaScript. Those in themselves are enough to keep you endlessly busy. Having a really good grasp of those, you can’t really go wrong. Anywhere you work they will have their preferred build stack, so having a decent understanding below the abstracted layer will help differentiate what is specific to JavaScript, and something abstracted above such as React or Vue when you run into issues.

Kick starting a career in Web Development

Projects

Make stuff! Probably the most important point really! You can do all the courses under the sun and read docs from back to front, but it’s not until you have to put something into practice that you can really solidify your knowledge. A great aspect about a lot of the learning resources, is that they set projects throughout. I also recommend grasping the mechanics of the challenge and implementing it with something of interest for yourself. I found the challenge more engaging and it can easily snowball into something much bigger! I love animals but I don’t want to build a cat gallery or card component.

Community

The Design & Development community is full of fantastic people, get out there! Seek out local meetups, slack & discord groups of interest and follow your peers on social media. Absorb like a sponge, make some friends and if you are feeling brave get an accountability partner or mentor to help you along your path!

Nottingham has a fantastic scene with a multitude of disciplines catered for. I am a big fan of the wonderful guys over at Tech Nottingham and NottsJS. Always putting on great speakers across a diverse range of topics. Not to mention giveaways, refreshments and often free swag! You can find local meetups in your area through sites such as meetup.com.

If you don’t have the opportunity for meetups locally, the communities are ever-present online with a plethora of channels on platforms such as slack and discord. You will find me in the local meetup channels or global channels, such as Craft’s discord.

Kick starting a career in Web Development

Contribute

If you are feeling brave it’s that time of year again. Hacktoberfest, where anyone of any skill level can contribute to projects looking for help, you can get some free swag too!

It’s a fantastic way to see how others build their projects, as a junior contributing to projects that others need help with is a great confidence booster. I completed Hacktoberfest last year and will be doing so again this year.

Closing Thoughts

At the end of the day your learning path will always be unique to you, what works for one person might not work for another. Learn via whichever medium works for you and champion your achievements and find your groove.

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