Into the Web: A Deep Dive Into Eight Successful Web Development Stories
Written By: Rojhan Paydar
Edited by: Luc Chiasson
My name is Rojhan Paydar, but you can call me Ro! I am a Junior Front End Web Developer studying at Juno College, in Toronto, Canada. A little about my background — I love animals, drawing, working out, and connecting with other people! To dive further into my web development journey, click here.
In this post however, I will be introducing you to eight wonderful people to learn about their stories, and showcase projects that they are particularly proud of. I feel very fortunate for having the opportunity to connect with all of them, and I’m happy to share the information they have provided.
I hope that this will act as motivation for others to join the wonderful web development community, and perhaps inspire some projects of your own. If you are new to web development, you are in the right place. I promise you, the coding community is the friendliest, most welcoming bunch you will ever meet!
“Overall, I am so grateful for the team and community that Juno provided. It was truly a dream come true.”
— Kay Evans-Stocks, Juno Alumni Cohort 25
1. Kay Evans-Stocks (she/her) — Front End Developer / Graphic Designer
Job Titles Inspired By This Journey — Front End Web Developer, Full Stack Developer, Graphic Designer
Introducing Kay Evans-Stocks!
She is a recent graduate of Juno College, and currently works as a front-end developer for Dotfusion in Toronto. Prior to web development, Kay studied graphic design where she would go on to receive an undergraduate degree. Outside of her career however, Kay has a love for camping, bubble tea, and listening to music from the 70s and 80s.
Diversity and inclusivity are very important to Kay; she inhabits the growth mindset. Always seeking to explore and expand her knowledge, Kay’s adventurous personality has been an asset to her success in web development.
To hear more about Kay and her works, continue reading below:
“I wrote my first line of code in 2016 in a Web Design class in my undergraduate degree. Quite honestly, I was so lost and had no idea what the heck I was doing. Learning HTML and CSS was so new and I was just copying my teacher, trying to keep up. As weeks went on though, I started to fall in love with it. I felt a drive and a passion I had never felt before. It was so cool how you would write a line of what at that time felt like gibberish, and see some magical things come to life. It also felt like the perfect harmony between technical and creative. I liked how there was answers and structure but that the web could become a new kind of canvas I could design with.
There was so much to learn and I felt a fire ignite with me. That summer I decided to take a course with Ladies Learning Code as I was ready to learn more. I took the Digital Skills program, a 7 week part-time class, which taught HTML and CSS fundamentals. My favourite part of that class was I felt I was learning the most up to date information and industry standard practices. Also, my instructors were AMAZING and so COOL. They had so much knowledge and really explained things well. I felt so comfortable and so accepted.
I learned they were alumni of this place called HackerYou (now Juno). After research of Juno and their immersive Bootcamp, it became my new dream. I knew this is what I wanted to do after my undergraduate program. Their commitment to diversity and inclusion was so rare and inspiring; I put it on my vision board and I was committed.
In the summer of 2019, after I graduated my undergraduate degree, I did some graphic and web freelancing. Another web project I did in the summer was more design related.
I began my #junojourney in September of 2019 in their Accelerated Web Development course. This course was amazing, and I felt an overwhelming feeling of community and support from the entire Juno staff. Everyone was free to be themselves. I was also blown away by their ability to explain these concepts in such an in depth and concise way. I had experience in the more traditional school structure but I came out of the first 3 days with more knowledge and understanding, than 3 months in a course. I couldn’t wait to continue with Juno.
This project was inspired by IKEA’s app to build your own room. I wanted to create an interactive app that allowed users to build their own study space. I challenged myself to create complicated logic and to design each asset! It was harder than I initially thought it would be, but it was so fun to build.
It was a goal of mine going into Bootcamp, or coding as a career, to build an e-commerce type of website from scratch. It turned out pretty cool and there are so many other features I hope to build on it soon. I also loved the final project we worked on: a group client style assignment where we are tasked with a application pitch and we are to make it come to life. My group was to build an app called Quick Flick Picker where people can create custom lists of movies to watch, and could be recommended a movie to watch based on those lists
It was a large project, and it was very very challenging. But through working on it with the team, I learned so much about how to approach problems differently.
Overall, I am so grateful for the team and community that Juno provided. It was truly a dream come true. The job hunt was hard, but I am excited to say I will be starting my new career at Dotfusion as a Junior Web Designer!!! I am so thankful I was able to find a place where not only my values align, but I am able to explore both in the development sphere and with design.”
See more of Kay on Twitter here.
Outcome of skills — Create Apps, Create Games, Create Websites, Graphic Design
2. Danny Thompson (he/him) —Software Engineer
Job Titles Inspired By This Journey — Motivational Speaker, Software Developer, Group Organizer
Contacting Danny was a little bit intimidating for me. Not because he came off as scary, or unapproachable, but because he has a very large following on Twitter. I thought there was no way I could reach him. He seemed like someone far too busy for something like this!
However, it was with the help of Raf Rasenberg (another developer included on this list), that I was able to connect with Danny. Funny enough, Danny’s first message to me was, “You could have just messaged me! How can I help you?”, which just goes to show how friendly he really is.
Danny is a software engineer and motivational speaker. His twitter page is a great display of his eagerness to help inspire developers in all walks of life. He would wake at 2:30 AM daily just to study before frying chicken at a gas station. While at work, he would be thinking of coding all day long, leaving debugging notes for himself to try once he got home. All the hard work and dedication would eventually pay off of course, and he is a perfect role model for people looking to transition into the industry.
Read what he has to say below:
“The journey was very difficult. You are learning a new way to talk and think. You have to adapt a new way to approach problems. Not only are you conquering new problems, you have to conquer new fears. “You are nothing, you came from nothing, you work in a gas station and you will die in this gas station, they don’t want a professional chicken fryer, they want a programmer! You will never make it! Oh you are going on a programming interview and you smell like the chicken you cook, they see right through what you are trying to do! GO BACK TO WHERE YOU BELONG!” My fears, My doubts, My obstacles enjoyed keeping me down but I made it. — Danny Thompson, Software Engineer.
As for projects. I run a community of developers called GDG Memphis. I provide meetups, resources, learning opportunities and networking opportunities for developers. I have also helped 44 people land their first jobs in tech last year and I am focused on changing my city for the better.
We have several low income areas in my town that lack resources. the average household income is 18k a year. If I can take one person from that area, give them resources and help them land their first job in tech making, lets say, 60k a year. They are now generating the income of 3.5 households. If I can get 20 people from the same area, I just changed the neighbourhood. Now the schools get more resources, because people are in a new tax bracket. Now because of a parent getting a better job, the children now have more resources. Now they have a more stable home. The ripple that tech can create is HUGE. But it doesn’t stop at tech. We can use this model for other industries, but we need to put resources in the hands of those that lack them. If they get them, we will produce a group of people that can make the biggest positive impact we have ever seen. This is my way to close the income gap, this is my way to create the change I want to see.”
To find Danny’s journey to web development, click here
Outcome of skills — Create Apps, Create Games, Create Websites, Found Developer Meet Ups, Public Speaking
3. Heather Payne (she/her) — Juno College Founder and CEO
Job Titles Inspired By This Journey — CEO, Founder, Code Career Services Expert, Manager, Code Instructor, Business Owner
When I asked Heather Payne for her web developer story, I was surprised to hear her say she “doesn’t do too much web development” right now. That didn’t stop me from wanting to ask her questions, in fact, it intrigued me further! Her story is a brilliant example of how you can take on a different role in the web development community, but still be incredibly involved and successful.
With some HTML and CSS knowledge, Heather became the founder of Ladies Learning Code, and the CEO and founder of Juno College (formerly HackerYou). She has helped thousands of people start their journey, including myself! Here is her story:
“I was part of a sorority in university, and one year I got tasked as the “Webmaster”. I had no previous experience building websites, but I figured it out as I went and launched a brand new site for my sorority after a few months of work.
Fast forward a couple years, to 2009: I spent my last semester of university on exchange in Hong Kong. It was my first time being abroad, and I loved it. I decided to find an excuse to stay away from Canada a bit longer, and ended up being accepted to a Masters program at a university on the Chinese mainland (under a full scholarship!). Turns out that what I was studying, International Relations, didn’t interest me much, but I somehow remembered the fun I had coding that sorority website. I started skipping class and spending all my time coding.
By 2010, I had moved back to Canada. I got a job, but still spent a lot of my time coding. After about a year, in 2011, I decided that learning to code on your own is too hard, and there should be a group in Toronto for women who want to learn to code. Ladies Learning Code was born!
A few months later, in early 2012, I had the idea for Juno. We launched in June of 2012 and ran our first sold out Web Development course in the fall. It was led by Wes Bos! From there, the rest is history.
My strength through all this was that I represented Juno’s customers — I didn’t know how to code, and I knew what learning to code should feel like, I knew what the classroom should feel like. I was very involved early on in designing the experience, though others wrote the actual curriculum.
Soon, I became the job search expert, working with all graduates of our Bootcamp on their job searches. That was fun for a long time, but with our growth, last year we hired someone to lead our Career Services team. Now, I still work closely with them, but I also run our Marketing team, keep myself very business as CEO, and I also spend a lot of time thinking about Juno’s future and how we can achieve our impact goals, such as by launching new programs. It feels like a job that only I could do, which is maybe why I love it so much!”
See more of Heather on Twitter here
Outcome of skills — Build Websites, Create a Business, Manage Others
4. Raf Rasenberg (he/him) — Freelance Web Developer
Job Titles Inspired By This Journey — Free Lance Web Developer, Full Stack Developer
Raf Resenberg is yet another fellow web developer I came into contact with via Twitter. Raf utilizes his social media as a platform to ask important tech questions, generate discussion, and develop a community for his peers.
He also exhibits to his followers that web developers can have more than one passion. To Raf, a healthy diet and exercise are just as important as coding; he often shares how he manages a work-life balance with his followers.
Raf’s story involves travelling from country to country, working with a start-up company, and learning to change environments in order to succeed. To continue learning about Raf’s journey into freelance web development, read below:
“Well that’s a pretty funny story actually. Three years ago I moved from The Netherlands to Hungary for university. My program wasn’t even related to programming by the way, but it was a business study.
Moving from a wealthy West-European country comes with some downsides as well. I was looking for a part-time job during university to earn some extra side cash, but the pay is very low in Hungary. In comparison: a student job in the Netherlands made me around €12 per hour. Whereas in Hungary it’s €4..
(In Canadian dollars, that’s the difference of $20.30 CAD to $6.80 CAD!)
So, finding a student job wasn’t much of an option, but then I came up with an idea. What if I use this salary difference to my advantage? I looked for companies in The Netherlands that want to outsource their software development to the east. Since I knew the tech community here in Hungary was pretty solid, and the pay rates from Hungary to Netherlands would be an advantage (in terms of offering my business to those in the Netherlands with pay rates from Hungary), I thought to take this opportunity and learn the basics of code.
So, I started learning Python and fell absolutely in love with programming. The start-up idea I originally had never happened. It did however end up with me learning to program, and eventually start freelancing for Dutch companies. Tech made this happen! Developing is something you can do from anywhere in the world. This way I could enjoy a normal salary in Hungary, while enjoying the lower cost of living.
I did this for a couple of months, but I wasn’t really enjoying it. For me, I love to write out code, and not fill out websites with a page builder. The nice thing about this was the job opportunities it lead me to. I was able to get referrals from customers who were satisfied. It really gave me some credibility!
After 8 months I got my first real project where I had to write code. It was for a start-up, an online marketing platform where aspiring pro soccer players could sign up and create a profile to improve visibility. I made it with Django, PostgresSQL, Sass and Vanilla JS. This start up doesn’t exist anymore, but that’s okay! I enjoyed every bit of it during development. It was my first 4 digit project, and I was extremely happy with it.
After that project the ball started rolling. I have made several full-stack apps and enterprise-level websites since then. The most recent delivery is a platform for freelance drivers and couriers. The users can sign up there, and companies can pick them out to do jobs for them. One of my most recent milestones that I have achieved is landing a 5 digit project! I am so extremely stoked for that! It’s a very large project which is going to take several months for me where I also probably have to hire some extra people to help out.”
See more of Raf on Twitter here
Outcome of skills — Create Apps, Create Games, Create Websites
5. Celeste Ellerby (she/her/they/them) — Animator / Developer
Job Titles Inspired By This Journey — Front End Web Developer, Full Stack Developer, Animator
Celeste Ellerby is a junior full-stack developer with a fun twist… she’s an animator!
I found this to be fascinating, primarily because of how two fields can intertwine to create something beautiful. Celeste’s work really showcases how to utilize an outside skillset to your advantage when working as a web developer.
I highly recommend you visit her Twitter page to view her works. I find it to be very inspiring, and displays how you too can push the envelope for what’s possible as a developer.
Here is her story from animator to coder:
“After high school, I had decent grades across the board and I had no idea what I wanted to do at all. I ended up going to Sheridan for Art Fundamentals, and from there went to Cambrian College in Sudbury for Animation. I studied hand drawn traditional animation, 2d digital animation, character design, storyboarding and 3d animation. Unfortunately, the 5 week teachers’ strike hit the year I was supposed to graduate, which heavily impacted the quality of our portfolios.
Despite that, since I had an internship at a studio in Sudbury between year 2 and 3, I managed to land a dream job as a freelance storyboard artist for Yowza Animation where I planned out pre-school musical numbers. I chose to get into coding because although I adored being paid to do art for a living, I found myself going into work and turning my brain off.
I love the engaging problem solving of web development, as well as the collaborative aspect that includes sharing knowledge with like-minded, equally excited classmates and coworkers.”
You can see more of Celeste and her projects on her website
Find Celeste on Twitter here
Additional animation work by Celeste can be found here
Outcome of skills — Create Apps, Create Games, Create Websites, Create Animation
6. Alex Davis (he/him) — Designer
Job Titles Inspired By This Journey — UX/UI Designer, Product Designer, Front End Web Developer
Next, we have Alex Davis.
Alex is also someone from the Juno Community, but I have had the pleasure of knowing him for many years prior. It was a pleasant surprise that I was reconnected with him through the web developer community on Twitter.
I was delighted to see that he had attended Juno’s Intro To Web Development Program, which made me eager to pick his brain. Interestingly enough however, Alex told me he took a different route to becoming a developer. Instead, becoming a designer through his “frustrating web experiences”.
Below is his story:
“One of the first jobs I ever got was building animated web assets for a friend of mine (she was doing a big web overhaul project). Super focused gig, but gave me tons of insight into what it takes to build, test, and launch a web project in a tight timeline.
I ended up enjoying the design side so much that I shuffled into UX/UI and eventually product design — going from insurance to medical technology, and then from ISP’s to being the lead designer at an education startup.
While I don’t dev quite as much anymore I find that understanding the foundations of how the web works is critical to my work. It helps me communicate more effectively with engineers and deliver designs that are more feasible and consistent — always take your web stack into consideration!
Web development always interested me because I was always someone that liked building things. But unlike something like Lego or Warhammer or any other model kit, the web was infinitely scalable and only required a computer (and an internet connection). You could just keep building and building.
Design was a reaction to seeing and interacting with tons of frustrating web experiences (although I also design systems and non-digital experiences now too).”
See more of Alex on Twitter here
Outcome of skills —Design Apps, Design Games, Design Websites
7. Audra Turuta (she/her) — Front End Web Developer
Job Titles Inspired By This Journey — Front End Web Developer, Teacher, Web Developer Instructor
She loves video games, and is a member of the Toronto Roller Derby team, Chicks Ahoy!
Like many of the people featured in this blog post, Audra is also a Juno alumni. Roller derby is actually how she came across the school, since one of the team’s coaches had previously attended Juno.
Speaking with Audra has been a very refreshing conversation for my own journey. We talked about working out, education, and of course roller derby. Like the other Juno alumni, Audra has been incredibly supportive, and a very relatable human being who I have had the pleasure of speaking to online.
Here is her journey, as well as one project she is proud of:
Together, Matthew and I created a pokebattle using gifs and rock-paper-scissors logic!”
As mentioned earlier, Audra plays a sport called Roller Derby with Toronto Roller Derby on Chicks Ahoy. Audra quotes, “There are actually a lot of Juno alumni from the roller derby community who helped me out through my coding journey, so roller derby changed my life in a couple ways”. Truly an uplifting story of how one community can lead you to another.
See more of Audra on Twitter here
Outcome of skills —Create Apps, Create Games, Create Websites, Teacher, Code Instructor
8. Mike Gambetta (he/him) — Web Developer
Job Titles Inspired By This Journey — Front End Web Developer, Full Stack Developer, Software Developer
Last, but certainly not least, we have Mike Gambetta!
Mike started off his coding journey with a fascination on how apps and mobile phones functioned. He eventually evolved that fascination into his career as he became a web developer. It was through perseverance and determination that he made the transition, traits that still hold true today. Because of this, he continues to grow and be a source of inspiration for how to navigate into the field.
Here is Mike’s amazing journey:
“I started out in college going for software development, and learning to code with languages like Python and C, but we weren’t really learning how to make websites. For me, I wanted to see my code come to life, and not just tell me whether I was writing a Fibonacci algorithm correctly. I had one class in college that briefly covered the basics of web development. And I got an insight of how quickly you could see results. By results I mean an interface, colors, interaction, etc. So I took it upon myself to learn web development in my free time. I had to work and go to school so it took me longer to learn, but eventually I started to get the hang of everything.
My job was just data entry, and eventually I got to work from home, which allowed me to at least study and multitask while I worked. I would watch a lot of Brad Traversy tutorials, and dive deep into W3 schools tutorials. At this point, I really only knew HTML, CSS, and some JS. Then I knew I had to start deploying websites now that I knew I could build one, so after purchasing the wrong type of hosting account twice, I finally got a shared hosting account with cPanel, through GoDaddy and learned how to buy and register domains. I had no portfolio at this time. Just practice projects.
I still had over a year left of college, and this part time data entry job wasn’t going to pay the bills, so I reached out to friends on Facebook and local friends looking for people who needed a website done.
Getting clients is another ball game. My first client was a nightmare, but a learning lesson. A manager from a local restaurant paid me monthly to update their website, but I had no control over the code and had a basic web builder to play with. Moving forward, in May of 2019 I got my first real client. A local videographer. I still work with him today, his website is http://RTBvisuals.com. At the time, I also launched my first web “application” which was just a nutritional informational website about supplements to take. At this point I knew I had some experience and it was time to apply for more developer jobs.
At the end of June 2019, I received a phone call for an interview for a website developer position for a property management company. I still had over a semester of college to go, (fortunately it was online) and I was offered the full time position as a web developer. It’s mostly front end work, I just build update websites for condominiums and deed restricted / home owner associations. I was nervous to get started since I still felt like a beginner, but everything seemed to work out perfect.
See more of Mike on Twitter here
Outcome of skills — Create Apps, Create Games, Create Websites, Free Lance
There you have it! Eight incredibly inspiring stories to help kick start your coding career. I hope their stories have motivated you to consider diving into the development world.
If you have any questions, you can contact me through Twitter. I am always happy to help and offer guidance however I can. I would love to hear your stories and how you got involved with coding. Thank you for taking time to read this post, and have a beautiful day!