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:

  • JavaScript
  • jQuery
  • AJAX
  • Sass
  • PHP
  • SQL
  • Git
  • 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.

Resources for learning JavaScript

I have found that the combination of these resources have helped me the most:

Treehouse

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

After hearing so much about Free Code Camp, I decided to start in March. I am almost finished with the Basic Javascript section before I move onto the Object Oriented and Functional Programming section. What I love about Free Code Camp is that you start coding right away. Instead of watching videos, you read the challenge and write your program. Only after completing the challenge correctly can you move onto the next step. Free Code Camp makes you think like a programmer by solving problems. I would not suggest Free Code Camp if you want to be an expert in HTML, CSS, or Bootstrap. The main focus is on JavaScript.

Jon Duckett’s JavaScript and jQuery

Coming from a background in art, this book is amazing! Not only is it beautiful to look at, but it also has clear explanations that make sense to me. Jon Duckett does an incredible job of breaking down complex programming concepts and presenting it in a way that a beginner can understand. Even though it is a few years old, I still think it is a great way to learn JavaScript.

Mark Myer’s A Smarter Way to Learn JavaScript

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?

My plan is to become proficient in JavaScript, jQuery, and AJAX. Then I will move onto PHP and SQL. Why? I want to create custom WordPress themes. I am not sure where this journey will take me. I may learn a JavaScript framework one day. I do know that I want to stay in a role where I can be creative and be around like-minded people. I am looking forward to continuing my journey!