How I became a web developer.

webdever

In my ten years working in the digital industry I never once experienced a web developer who had started their career through a ‘Become a qualified web developer in six weeks’ course. If you aren’t a graduate from a computing background an MSc conversion course to a computing related subject is an excellent way to start a career in web development.

In my mid twenties I decided to learn how to make a website. This quickly turned from a hobby into a professional career. Twelve years on I have had over ten years experience as a web developer, most of it working in the exciting digital scene in London.

Over the years curious friends have asked me about whether a career change into the exciting world of web development would be possible for them. That’s why I decided to write this blog post of how I entered into the digital industry. I’m not saying there are not other directions but this was my path.

Build a basic website from HTML.

This is the very first step, make no bones about it. In my case I purchased a copy of ‘HTML for dummies’ and spent my spare time making a site for my football team writing out every line of HTML. More than likely your end product is going to be, well lets say not as aesthetically pleasing as your friend who built his site using a web site builder. But that wasn’t the aim here. The aim here is to understand the basic structure of a website.

Harvest the web for its unlimited resources.

Now you’ve made a site, make another one. Try to start to copy existing websites, with your new HTML knowledge constantly start viewing the source of existing websites to see how something was done. At this stage still resist the temptation of using website builder tools or a powerful CMS. It’s all about learning the basics. Google is your tutor, ask it whatever you need to know. Start to have a look at the amazing learning resources online. Lynda.com is a great place for finding video tutorials. Learn how to use Photoshop, you won’t need to learn it like a designer but you’ll need it to learn how to deal with graphics for the web.

You are ready to decide if you want to be a web developer or not.

By now you should have a grasp of the discipline and aptitude you need to be a web developer. If you loving it then the next stage is to take a course of some sort. If you are not really feeling it then you haven’t wasted your time, you’ll have some knowledge and you’ll certainly have more understanding of popular CMSs and you’ll be able to create your own websites here.

Which course should I take?

This is a tricky one. I remember twelve years ago the adverts in the Evening Standard, ‘Become a web designer in six weeks’ for a course costing £2000. I didn’t go for it but remember a lot of them being investigated on Watchdog a few months later! Today I see online quite a few ‘Learn to become a web developer in six weeks’ courses. I guess you can pick up the concepts of something in a few weeks but it’s going to take a few years to really master it.
In my case I decided to take a years Masters course at university that basically allows non Computing graduates to convert to a Computer science graduate. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/10276792/Is-computer-science-for-you.html

The courses are generally quite broad in terms of your goal of becoming a web developer, you’ll learn stuff that is probably irrelevant but you learn the principles of good programming and all about databases. This two latter skills are essential if you want to become a professional web developer. The courses are also very theory based and you may well start to become impatient to start building some kick ass websites or doing something awesome with the latest Javascript library that’s in fashion.

Start creating as many sites as you have time for

Once you have completed your course you need to have some sort of portfolio to land your first job. Create your personal site, start advertising as a freelancer, build a ‘fun’ project that you can show in interviews or offer to do a makeover for your friends businesses websites.

Once you land your first job try and make it one where you are around other experienced developers, you learn a hell of a lot from them.