I Want to Design, or Code, or Something — OR — a Torontonian’s guide to getting started as a web professional.
Anyone who has written any flavour of code for long enough will admit that, ComSci degree or not, they are self-taught. My own start was at Fanshawe College in a program that I recently Googled with no results. It provided me with what I’ve dubbed the ‘General Arts and Sciences of Multimedia’: HTML4, CSS2, the Adobe Suite, video & audio recording, and 3D Studio Max. To make use of these skills, I sought tutelage from a programmer friend (to whom I owe the beginning of my career trajectory) for the basics of how to use PHP to create, read, update, and delete fields in a MySQL database. The rest is history.
I Understand the Words You’re Using, But I Still Don’t Get It
At that time, people would glaze over with disinterest at my work, or they believed that I am a magic wizard. Since then, it’s more common that people have looked at HTML code, and some kinda get it. Furthermore, people have realized that design and development extends beyond just punching code. Moreover, it is increasingly common knowledge that code comprehension is a creative and lucrative skill, often resulting in a swanky job where there is beer in the fridge, and a dog greeting you at the door. People want in. But, where to start?
Coding is a language skill. No jokes, you have to immerse yourself in it. Make friend’s who speak it at your level so you can learn and talk together. Go to free Meetups, and try to find a mentor. Even if you aren’t a coder (perhaps you like design, or prototyping ideas, or product designing Apps), you still have to know the technology and tools, and what they can do. You’ll also need, learn a basic code comprehension. All the drag and drop “UX prototyping” tools in the world won’t help you understand how things are built. And if your fancy yourself a designer, you better learn Zurb Foundation fast and start ‘designing mobile first’ right away.
Here are the resources I would recommend to anyone in Toronto who is looking to get started. And my advice is to throw yourself at it. This isn’t a dabbler’s sport anymore. There is too much to learn. And relearn. And tweak. And rewrite, redraw, reinvent. First, before you go to any school — get an account with an online training platform and get a start. Then, get into a community. Make a project. Read documentation. Attend meet-ups. Join newsletters. And then, maybe, you’ll want to get some formal training. Maybe.
Here is a Toronto-centric list of things to get you started:
- http://www.codeschool.com/ (Freemium)
- http://www.nodeschool.io/ (Free)
- http://www.lynda.com (Free membership with Toronto Library Card)
- Swifty (Free iOS app for learning Swift 2 — iOS development)
- AppInventor (Free Android based tool for creating simple apps)