Customer Operations Advisor
First of all, welcome! You’re starting a long journey that will enable you to build, create, and spread ideas in a way you’ve never experienced before.
Make no mistake, there are countless lessons you’ll learn along your programming odyssey, but I’m here to share 3 that I’ve found absolutely key to my continued progress.
Learning web development (web dev) in 2018 is easier than it’s ever been. This isn’t to say that it’s easy, but you can take solace in the fact that there are tens of thousands who have come before you, and all of them had fewer resources at their disposal than you do just by having a computer and a web browser right now.
You should also take advantage of the fact that a fair share of those thousands have made it a point to blaze trails for those coming behind them, and you can follow any number of those trails to reach your goals. Whether you study computer science at a university, enroll in a coding bootcamp, or are self-taught like me, a common thread between all developers is that they help each other. As you progress and come up against problems in your code, you have access to a wealth of information and a community of other developers all across the world. For learning, you can use everything from Youtube to more focused websites like Udemy, Lynda, FreeCodeCamp, and so many more.
As your skills grow, your problems will grow in complexity, but you’re never on your own with web dev. Once you’re building your own projects, you can crowdsource more nuanced issues by posting them on StackOverflow, Github, or Quora. Before you know it, you could find yourself answering questions for others as well. You can learn a lot by challenging yourself with problems that have stumped others, and it can be even more satisfying to build your reputation in those communities by helping others. It still overwhelms me how willing and available people online are to share their knowledge with fellow developers they’ve never met. Whether that support structure is built from a culture of shared hardship, or from the constant beat of iteration and learning that makes up development, I can’t say. I can only guarantee that the more you invest in these communities, the more that it will pay off for you in the long run; not only for your own learning, but for the learning of those coming after you as well.
A question that I’ve heard from others teaching themselves web dev, and that I’ve often asked myself is, “When will I actually ‘become’ a developer?” For many people who are learning independently, it can be difficult to judge where your skill level is in comparison to others who are already working in web dev. And I think that this is a toxic measure of success to place on yourself and your learning. For the majority of my past year in learning web dev, I kept seeking the skills I needed to be considered a “web developer,” but I’ve found that there’s no clear answer. There is such a vibrant community of developers online, and you’ll find that each of them does something slightly different.
Prior to realizing this fact, I found myself falling into a trap known as “imposter syndrome” which can make you feel like all the progress and work you’ve put in is meaningless, and you’re right on the verge of being “found out” as an imposter and subsequently shunned for it. I can’t make myself clear enough here, but this is absolutely false. There is no one true answer to what a web developer is, and there is no end-all be-all authority who will tell you if you are or are not one. In my mind, by virtue of reading this article, you’ve already taken a huge first step. If you’re looking for a way to measure your level or set a goal for yourself, my best advice is to look at how many projects you’ve created or worked on. Seek out learning resources that let you create projects alongside the lessons, or just go crazy and try to slap something together after reading about it online; you can do anything here.
I’m gonna cheat a bit and talk more about resources, but the fact is that there are so many resources online, practically no one just builds things from scratch anymore. Everyone is using a library or code that was built by someone else to get their projects started in a quick and effective manner. This is extremely useful as you go through your programming journey, but at first it can feel like cheating, and can contribute to doubts about your own abilities. However, this is an essential part of the beauty of learning web development, and is even encouraged in the industry. Everyone is creating and contributing not only to their own projects, but to the larger global community of web dev. This means that you may use five other people’s work on a single one of your projects, but from that you could create something that many more people end up using for their own needs, and then the cycle continues.
My third and final point was a bit of a revelation for me. The fact of it is that people can be knowledgeable in development, but regardless of skill, talent, or position, no one knows everything. This sounds pretty obvious, but when you’re just starting out, it can seem like everyone else knows everything while you know nothing.
At the end of the day, web development is not about being an engineer or understanding every different part of code. The most important part is for you to learn to learn. If you strive to be the best learner in the room at any given time, then your initial knowledge is just a blip on the radar compared to the potential you can unlock. This mindset can apply to lots of skills, but web dev is unique because constant learning is a crucial part of thriving in the profession. You’ll notice in this article that I never describe anyone as being a “web developer,” instead saying “people learning web development.” That’s an important distinction for me because every so called “web developer” is still learning. It never stops.
If you studied development even just three or four years ago, then you could be working with a whole different set of tools and syntax now. The pace of the development profession is fast, but if you focus on your ability to absorb and apply information, then you can guarantee your own success.
When you’re learning any new skill, you’ll come up against challenges and problems that you never could have predicted, but in the world of web dev you’ve got thousands of people in your corner already that can help you get through these challenges. As long as you use the resources you have, remember to believe in your own abilities, and never stop learning, then you’ll overcome any challenge you might face.
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