How to Become a Web Developer
18 years ago, I started my web development and software engineering career. Back then, there weren’t any quick paths into web development and programming. No coding bootcamp was around to help me on my journey. So, how did I become a web developer and software engineer? Well, I didn’t learn during my undergrad years. In fact, I graduated college with a psychology / anthropology background. I learned quickly that although social sciences were fun to study in college, it was hard to find employment. In addition, although I learned a great deal, I wasn’t getting the fix of creative expression and problem-solving for which I yearned.
I decided to go to graduate school to study computer science. I played with programming as a kid, and worked with computers at my parents’ office in high school, but I felt that I needed to learn more in order to become employable. Being a woman, I was certainly a minority in the class filled with guys. I had this phobia of sorts that everyone around me knew more than I did; I had what’s called “impostor syndrome.” (More on that in another article, but look it up!)
I gave it all I had, not an easy task for someone working full-time during the days and going to graduate school at night. I took my studies seriously though, determined that I could change my career trajectory. To my surprise, not only did I perform well, I was at the head of the class! I felt very proud when my professor would call me up to the front of the class to have me explain a solution to the other students. Even prouder when he pulled me aside to say, “you’re a very smart girl!”
Into my second semester, I began dabbling in creating web pages on my own. They didn’t teach web development at school back then. In school, I learned the standards, like C, Assembly Language, Data Structures. The web was still a new frontier, and not many people knew anything about it, but I felt intrepid.
Without books to guide me, I jumped in and began playing around. Soon thereafter, I started getting calls. “I heard you do web development.” “Well, sure, I can create a website for you,” was my reply. Soon, I found myself combining my programming knowledge with my self-taught web skills, and made a company out of it. I was creating online applications for some pretty big companies, like Tyco International, right out of the gate.
My point here is that I taught myself web development the hard way back then, because there weren’t paths, sites, and books like there are now. Search engines? Well, they weren’t very good back then, and there certainly wasn’t much content online. I was usually the one writing the tutorials and sharing, just hoping I could find other specialists like me who would share back. The tools were minimal. The learning was self-taught. But, the education I received over the years was priceless!
I’m excited that now we have coding bootcamps for software development. I could have saved myself some major headaches if I had a mentor to guide me and explain all the nuances. I’ve had to keep up with the times — as a web developer, prepare yourself that you’ll always be learning.
If you are ready to learn, if you are prepared to put in the effort, you can start learning how to become a web developer by following this path:
- Learn HTML.
- Learn CSS.
- Understand these 3 and know them like the back of your hand. Be playful! Experiment!
- Get to know libraries like jQuery.
- Play with some AJAX and JSON.
- Learn “backend” skills including C# (if you want to go the popular and well-paying Microsoft .NET route).
- Get ramped up in SQL and relational databases.
- Understand and use Git or some type of version control system.
- Check out different IDEs, their similarities and differences. Visual Studio community edition is free! It’s Microsoft’s IDE. You should also understand that there are many IDEs out there.
- Understand the importance of testing and learn some testing tools.
- Start investigating libraries. There are a ton of libraries and special tools that pop up constantly. Know how to look for these and with experience, you’ll learn how to discern the winners from the losers.
- Use StackOverflow to find answers. When you are experienced enough, make sure to visit and provide answers as well.
- Learn Model-View-Controller patterns.
- Learn object oriented programming. Be aware of functional and procedural styles as well.
- Understand (at least) the basics of how the Internet, DNS, and networking works.
- Become familiar with (at least) the basics of web servers.
- Familiarize yourself with the basics of search engine optimization.
- Investigate (at least) the basics of user interface design.
- Be creative and playful. It’s a very fun job!
- Have faith in yourself. Be fearless!
You can learn all of this on your own, or you can join We Can Code IT at an upcoming coding bootcamp!