You’ve checked out this coding thing and decided you just might want to become a web developer. Great! Welcome to the wild world of taming the unruly and magical beasts we call computers. Your Big Gulp coffee mug and mechanical keyboard eagerly await you!
Seriously though, life usually changes for the better when you become a web developer.
The opportunities are literally endless, the money is good and you’ll always have a job waiting for you. Whether you decide to go the corporate route, join forces with a startup or start your own business or freelance, jobs are waiting for you!
And honestly, the steps to becoming a web developer are simple.
But the process is not.
There will be days when you’ve absolutely had it, and start daydreaming about quitting everything and pursuing an easier path. Everyone feels this way, and it’s OK to quit.
That’s right, I said it: it’s OK to quit!
They key is, don’t stay quit. Web development isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, so if you need to take a break, by all means do it. The community will be here when you’re ready to come back and slay the dragon of monads and higher-order functions.
Let’s take a look at the 7 steps to become a web developer.
1. Make a commitment.
A serious, true-to-yourself commitment where you have specific goals. There are many types of web developers: some work on the backend, some do frontend, some work frontend with an emphasis on UX/UI, some do it all (full-stack). In order to make a genuine commitment to become a web developer you’ll need to decide which path to pursue.
This decision isn’t cut and dry – sometimes it takes awhile to find out what we really like. Other times, we stumble upon something that’s really cool and it just clicks with us. This discovery process is important on your web development journey. But no matter what type of web development you enjoy, making a commitment to that learning path is critical.
Try using the S.M.A.R.T. goal-setting method:
S – Specific
What exactly do you want? The more specific you are, the better chance you’ll have of obtaining just that. Specific means the difference between “I want to be a web developer” and “I want to be a MERN stack developer at a socially-responsible startup by March of 2020.”
M – Measurable
A – Attainable
Is your goal within reach? Do you have the time and effort to spare? For example, if you goal is to learn basic PHP in a month, you’ll need to assess if you have the time, effort and other resources to dedicate to it. There’s no time formula for learning web development, but you’ll need to make an effort every day to spend quality time with the tools and tech.
Why do you want to reach this goal; how is it relevant to your life? If your main goal is to make a healthy six figure income the first year of starting a job outside of NYC or Silicon Valley, web development may not be the most relevant option for you. On the other hand, if your goal is to become a web developer because you enjoy problem solving and want to get paid for it, that is relevant to your life.
T – Timely
To become a web developer, especially if you’re going the self-taught route, you need to impose deadlines. That said, your timeline should be realistic and flexible – life happens! If you’re too stringent with your deadlines you’ll constantly find yourself racing against time and feeling down. Be positive about your deadlines and focus more on self-discipline rather than beating yourself up.
Using S.M.A.R.T. goals can really help you on your path to become a web developer.
They keep you focused, sober, and on-track. Your mind and body will let you know when you’re watching Twitch gaming when you shouldn’t be!
2. Pick your educational material wisely.
The web is 👏One. 👏 Big. 👏Distraction.
It’s sort of designed that way. We could spend every waking minute online doing something that keeps up occupied. And it’s the same way with learning materials.
Use a critical eye when deciding what options to pursue.
Free videos can be helpful but rarely do they match the value of a paid course. Most Udemy courses can be had for under $20 and there are some very high-quality courses there.
My Udemy course recommendations for any aspiring web developer:
- The Complete Web Developer Zero to Mastery by Andrei Neagoie
- Complete React Developer Zero to Mastery by Andrei Neagoie
- How to Get a Job in Web Development by RealToughCandy (hey, that’s me!)
- A Smarter Way to Learn HTML & CSS by Mark Myers
As you get further along:
- The Complete Junior to Senior Web Developer Roadmap by Andrei Neagoie (Udemy)
- The Complete NodeJS Developer Course by Andrew Mead (Udemy)
- The Ultimate MySQL Bootcamp: Go from SQL Beginner to Expert by Colt Steele (Udemy)
- Freelance Newbie by RealToughCandy (Udemy)
- You Don’t Know JS series by Kyle Simpson (book)
Having a curriculum planned out can really help you achieve your learning goals as a code newbie.
3. ABC: Always Be Coding.
This was a little nugget I picked up from Chris Coyier. Chris is the founder of CSS-Tricks.com along with codepen.io. The mantra comes down to this: even if you only have ten or fifteen minutes, whip open a code editor and practice coding.
If you don’t have access to a computer, you can still practicing your coding skills. How is this possible? Because coding is *soooo* much more than typing away on a keyboard. Essentially, coding is problem solving. How can you apply the problem-solving process to your every day activities?
Once you start thinking like a programmer, the ABC mentality is second nature. In turn, you become a better web developer! So whether or not you have access to tech gear, remember to ABC. Whether you’re trying to find the last place you set your car keys or you’re unraveling a vintage Murder, She Wrote whodunit, ABC applies anywhere there’s a problem.
4. Get involved with the community. We don’t bite (well, most of us)!
It’s easy to become isolated when studying to become a web developer. Days are long, nights are longer, and binge-watching Udemy videos often becomes our default study mode. But believe it or not, web development is a very people-focused industry.
The best projects (and to be fair, the worst ones too) were all coded by a team of developers. So it’s important to reach out to the web development community and be part of a group. You don’t have to be a social butterfly if you’re naturally shy, but you should make an effort to introduce yourself to other devs. Whether it’s on Discord, another chat app, or at in-person Meetups, the web dev community eagerly awaits you.
Aside from getting you socialized, being part of the dev community will help build your soft skills. These skills include communication, teamwork, and critical thinking. Remember, it’s not just about the code skills: employers want to see these soft skills as well!
Finally, getting social will open up numerous professional opportunities. From finding employers to connecting with a tech mentor, it seriously pays to start connecting – even in seemingly small ways.
5. Projects, projects, projects.
When it comes to employers (or clients if you’re going the freelance route), projects are king. Sure, you may claim to be a React wizard on your resume. But if you don’t have the projects to back up that claim, it’s on to the next candidate. Projects show employers that you’re capable of making things with your coding skills.
But not just any type of thing: things that solve problems.
Projects also help you understand how web development pieces fit together.
Sure, HTTP requests all sound fine and dandy on paper, but once you start coding? It’s a whole new adventure. You get to break lots of stuff, experiment, and discover optimal solutions.
If you really want employers to call you in for an interview, choose projects that solve problems. You should avoid calculator apps and TODO apps, for example. These are never good ideas for portfolio pieces. Why? Because those problems have already been solved.
You should also know the actions you took to solve the problem, and the impact (result) of your actions. It’s something I show you how to do in detail in my book and video course How to Get a Job in Web Development.
6. Focus on problem solving, not memorization.
It’s easy to get in the trap of memorizing web development terms and processes. But this habit can ruin any attempt to become a web developer. Why? Because we don’t need to memorize things. That’s what Google is for.
What we do need to do as devs, however, is solve problems. Thus, the much more important thing to know is how to solve problems rather than memorize the components of web development. Even senior developers at Amazon and the other tech giants Google things on the regular.
Focus your energy more on your problem-solving process rather than memorizing CSS properties.
Remember, efficiency is the name of the game in web development. You can find the definition, benefits, and use cases of Node in a few seconds using Google. That’s the easy part. The hard part is knowing how Node is going to help you optimally solve your problem. That’s where your focus needs to be.
Always focus on your problem-solving process. That’s they key to success if you want to become a web developer.
7. It’s never too early to apply for jobs.
Start applying to jobs as early as possible. I don’t mean rush through that Udemy bootcamp and slap some projects together – I mean get your skills down, get those projects looking good and get yourself out there.
Think about it this way: Whether you spend 7 months training to become a web developer or seven years to become a web developer, you’re still a junior web developer.
Senior web developers only become senior developers by working on the job and gaining real-world experience.
So the earlier you apply to jobs, the earlier you can start getting that real-world experience and working your way to a mid-level and eventually a senior role.
I started applying to jobs within 6 months learning web development. I was very much a code newbie.
And you know what? I was still getting callbacks and interviews! Why? Because I had a nice looking portfolio, I could articulate the impact of my projects, I busted my butt applying to jobs and I asserted myself.
It may sound obvious or dumb, but you’ll never get the job if you don’t apply. So just give it a shot!
In conclusion, you can absolutely become a dev using these 7 steps.
As someone who followed these steps who now runs her own software development business, the first year was by far the hardest. Everything is new. But eventually, things do absolutely get easier. For example, I couldn’t believe how easy it was to learn my second programming language once I had learned my first.
Just follow the steps, give yourself permission to get frustrated, and keep on truckin’.