Starting my journey to become a front-end developer
The beauty of tech is diversity. Not every developer has a degree in Computer Science. Like many developers that are self-taught, my path to web development was anything but typical. I graduated from college with a Bachelor’s in Fine Art. But I have always been passionate about creating websites.
My first experience coding
When I was much younger, I built simple websites with HTML just for fun. Before HTML5, I would use HTML tags to style the pages. I remember one of the websites I created was all purple and used frames. When the user clicked on a menu item, it would bring up a frame instead of loading a new page. At the time, I did not think this could be a career. I was just having fun!
Becoming a creative individual
I went to a college-prep program called International Baccalaureate during high school. It is a rigorous program that provides college credit after taking a series of exams. It is similar to AP classes. My love of music and art blossomed during high school. I was devoted to playing viola in orchestra and I taught myself how to play guitar. I would also draw in my sketchbook. I was an excellent student but I had no idea what I wanted to do for a career.
Going to art school
After high school, I entered into Kennesaw State University’s art program thinking I would become a graphic designer. I remember taking a tour of the art building and being amazed. I thought to myself, I could really do this! I took classes in drawing, painting, graphic design, photography, and ceramics. I decided on drawing and painting as my concentration. I thought I would get my MFA someday. I enjoy creating art but it can be difficult to make a living as an artist. However, it is possible. I was making money from commissions as a pet portrait artist but it wasn’t enough to live on.
Starting my photography business
After college I got married. My husband and I decided it would be a great idea to start a photography business. It was great for a few years. I got to be my own boss. I enjoyed coming up with marketing ideas. I had my first experience with WordPress by customizing a theme for our photography website. At the time I wanted to keep it as my hobby. But the wedding photography business is tough. Even though we had a successful business, we were starting to lose our passion. We also wanted to enjoy our weekends. So my husband and I got jobs.
My experience as a digital marketer
By running my own business, I had gained skills in social media, email marketing, and creating marketing materials. I got a job as a marketing manager for a surgical practice that focused on cosmetic and oral surgery. I designed a website for each of the doctors by customizing a WordPress theme. Two of the doctors had outdated, static websites. I installed WordPress on a subdirectory until it was ready to launch and then I moved it to the main domain. I chose WordPress because it was easy to create blog posts and the office manager could make small updates as needed. During this time my interest in creating websites took precedence over marketing.
Learning how to code
I decided to sign up for a subscription to Treehouse and start the web design track. Every day after work I would watch the videos and do the coding practices. With the skills I learned, I created my own portfolio website using the Bootstrap framework. Feeling confident in my HTML and CSS skills, I started applying for jobs. Just three months into my coding journey, I got my first web developer job.
My first web developer job
I am currently working at a small agency (only four employees including myself) as a web developer. I am responsible for creating and updating websites. We have a support ticket system where clients submit requests for changes to their websites. I love being able to code and work on websites every day.
Learning never ends
I still have a lot to learn. I believe the journey never ends. Technology changes quickly.
A good developer is always learning and improving their skills.
It’s not one of those careers where you learn something once and you just keep doing the same thing every day. That’s what I love about being in tech. I get to be creative while challenging myself to become better.
What I want to learn
I want to bridge the gap between design and development. You may think that since I have a background in art that I would want to be a UX/UI designer. But I love to code. I don’t want to get away from that. I want to be a front-end developer with a focus on UI design. Some of the things I want to get better at are:
- WordPress theme development
Tools for learning
For me personally, learning from multiple sources is best. If I get stuck using one resource, I can move onto another resource and it may explain it in a way that makes more sense to me. Also I have found that some resources have gaps in their explanations.
I have found that the combination of these resources have helped me the most:
- Free Code Camp
I highly recommend Treehouse! Compared to a coding bootcamp, the $25–50 a month subscription is very affordable. You can choose a track that interests you such as Front-End Development and then watch a series of videos that teach you how to code. You can use your own text editor or use the built in workspaces to do the coding challenges. I recommend that you attempt to do the coding challenges by yourself without any help. Do not skip over them! The curriculum is comprehensive and I think it pairs nicely with Free Code Camp.
Free Code Camp
This book takes a different approach. Mark Myers encourages readers to do a chapter at a time. Each chapter is only a few pages long, but goes over syntax and programming concepts in a way that is easy to understand. The most important part is the practice at the end. Instead of writing programs, you practice writing syntax. By doing the repetitive exercises, you actually remember how to write the code!
What is next?