So you wanna be a Developer?

Where to start and how to avoid information overload when starting out.

If you are anything like me, you probably feel paralyzed by all of the options. There are so many expensive courses and bootcamps everywhere promising you a six-figure job in like 3 months.

Let me just be the first to say, while this is not impossible, it is incredibly unrealistic. Don’t get trapped by the “but I could be the one” feeling.

My story

A little over 2 years ago, I decided to make a career change after having spent 10 years working in youth ministry in various roles. I left that career in the rearview mirror with nothing in the windshield. I had no plans other than I knew my time there was finished.

I spent roughly 3 months taking a rest the burn out I had experienced. During this time, I began to dream of what I would do in my next career.

The world was my oyster. I could do anything I wanted, be whatever I wanted to be. But something from my life before I was in youth ministry started to be rekindled.

I had developed a love for web development back in high school building websites to display lyrics from my favorite songs. I did a sort of internship/apprenticeship during this time. After graduating high school, I began to use this skill to build websites for people I knew or from ads on Craigslist.

I decided this would be my path.

I spent about 6 months using skills I already had in a technical support role for Microsoft cloud services like Azure while I continued learning programming. I eventually got my first shot as a web developer at a small digital martketing agency.

It’s hard. Are you ready?

Everybody and their brother wants to sell you their course on how to jump start your career in web development. Some even go so far as to promise you will be job ready in as little as 3 months. This is unequivocally unrealistic.

What is a more realistic timeline then? 12-24 months.

I don’t say all of this to be harsh or act like a gate keeper. Far from it in fact! I say it because I wish somebody had been realistic with me about what my first 2 years of this process would look like.

You have to be really committed for the long-term. If you are, then I believe you can do this!

Recommendations on where to begin

The biggest problem with getting started in web development is there is so much to learn. You have to unironically know how the entire internet functions at a deep level to be successfull long-term.

But we can break this up into 3 basics every web developer needs to know and skills you will use every day:

  1. HTML

  2. CSS

  3. JavaScript

As you get further into your journey, you will start to learn more modern ways that devs use these, for example you are more likely to be using a JavaScript framework or library like React than “vanilla” JavaScript (that is, JavaScript without any frameworks), or a CSS library like Bootstrap or Tailwind.

These are tools devs use to help speed up the process of development, but you should not start with them. Why? Frankly, you won’t know what you are doing. I received this same advice when I started and I can safely say I am glad I stuck with learning these basics first because it has made how I interact with the other libraries/frameworks much better.

This is only my first of many articles to come on Substack. I will be writing a follow up article explaining how to avoid paying for courses and still get a great foundational education in web development. Subscribe below if you want to receive that.