Learning a new skill is never easy, particularly when that skill is complex. It requires dedication, determination, and plenty of help and guidance along the way.
Many people all over the world are beginning to learn to code with the goal of launching new careers as web developers. Coding is a skill filled with complexity, and over the duration of the last 5 years, I’ve worked with countless numbers of people that are navigating the development world as newcomers.
There are 8 tips that I always suggest in order to minimize frustration and establish a solid foundation for long-term success:
1. Start coding
This sounds incredibly simple, but so many people get caught up researching and formalizing how they’re going to learn to code that they forget the most important bit: starting.
You can spend a huge amount of time researching programming languages, web frameworks, and coding paradigms, but if you never begin coding, you’ll never become a web developer.
Whilst it’s important to make sure that the skills you’re learning are applicable to the job you want, once you’ve confirmed that they are, I’d suggest diving in.
2. Be consistent
You need to spend time coding every single day. The people that are most successful in launching their new careers as web developers do this, and often it’s what sets them apart.
Even if you only have 10 minutes free in a day, take that time and continue learning. By taking small steps every single day, you’ll reap the rewards in the long run through incremental improvements.
3. Ask for constructive feedback
The fastest way to get better at something is to encourage critical feedback and use it to improve. Don’t be embarrassed to ask mentors and peers for assistance on this front: everyone has been there at some point.
In order for this to help you advance, you have to truly listen to the feedback that you receive. Doing so will allow you to improve at a much quicker rate than you would have on your own.
It’s generally good advice to be open to feedback at any point in your career, but it’s especially important early on.
4. Don’t panic if something breaks
When you’re in the process of becoming a web developer, you will almost certainly experience this scenario at some point:
You’ll make a change to your site, or application
That change will accidentally cause problems that need to be fixed immediately
You’ll have no idea how to actually fix the problem
Being able to think in a measured way during times of urgency is a trait that will set you up for long-term success in your new career.
5. Ask for help when you need it
As you’re learning to code, you will get stuck at times: it’s part of learning any new skill. One of the most important factors is how you deal with this. Don’t spin your wheels and get frustrated. Instead, reach out for help from your mentor, or your network:
-Over-communicate the problem you’re facing.
-Explain exactly how to produce the problem.
-Explain all the details of the problem and why the problem happens
-Walkthrough why you find this behavior to be surprising
By communicating these details, it will often help you uncover the cause of the issue. Most web developers have experienced a situation during which they explain all the details of their problem only to uncover the solution themselves.
6. Focus on the details
Details matter and details certainly matter a lot when you’re a web developer. In any given computer program that you write, you could have dozens, if not hundreds of variable names and method names.
The successful web developers will make sure they handle small details, like naming things in their code with smart, descriptive names, understanding the wider context that micro-decisions matter.
This will not only help you out in the long run, but it’ll also help out other developers who have to work with your code.
7. Keep up to date with tech-related news
The technology industry changes rapidly, and what is cutting-edge today may not be tomorrow. This means that you need to keep up with changes that will impact your job.
There are plenty of times during the day when it’s not actually possible to be coding. For example, when you’re commuting, or out exercising. However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Instead, it’s a great opportunity for you to learn in a different way: try reading articles, or listening to some coding-related podcasts.
During my day, I always check my inbox for the interesting posts and updates. Here are a couple of publications that I’d recommend that you check out:
-Signal v. Noise produce excellent posts about tech, development and the future of the web. Their opinions often are very different from commonly held beliefs, so it’s interesting to see their different perspective.
-Startups, Wanderlust and Life Hacking is one of the largest Medium publications. Although many of the posts aren’t directly related to coding, they’re certainly relevant for someone who is considering entering the startup world as a developer.
8. Know when it’s time to step away from the computer
Don’t forget to give yourself a break. As the day stretches on, it’s common for mental tiredness to kick in. When it does, you’re likely to be far less effective than you normally are. It’s not uncommon for someone to spend all evening working on a problem, only to solve the same problem in 15 minutes the following day.
Learn to read your body in order to understand when you’re at the point where you need to take a break is a very important skill to have.
Becoming a web developer isn’t easy, and the process itself can certainly be frustrating at times. However, if you decide to commit to this career path, it’s an incredibly rewarding profession with a myriad of possibilities. My hope is that the tips above will help you in some way as you continue on this journey.