How I Became a 16-Year-Old Full-Stack Developer

I was 14, I was a noob at PHP, HTML/CSS, and JavaScript, and I was jealous of my friend

Nuno Martins
Aug 29 · 9 min read
Photo by Ali Yahya on Unsplash

This is my first publication ever here on Medium, and I’d like to start with a post about my journey — that still continues (because it’s impossible to learn everything about technology).

But who am I? I’m Nuno, I’m 16 years old, and I’m from a country (because it’s not a part of Spain as a lot of people think) named Portugal. Today I’d like to tell you my story about how I became a full-stack developer (or something like that).

I don’t think people of my age becoming programmers is weird at all. Firstly, because I see lots of people saying that they’d love to create videogames like Grand Theft Auto V or mobile games like Clash Royale, and some of them actually pursue that dream. They learn to code, they like it, and then they create their own indie videogames.

Secondly, with more apps emerging in the market, and young people becoming multimillionaires (for example, Mark Zuckerberg and Evan Spiegel) with their ideas that may seem simple, a teen may think, “Why wouldn’t I try it?”

But there are also people that look at code and get scared. For example, when I show my siblings some code I’m developing, they look at it and say, “I don’t understand anything that you’ve just written there.”

My mom, for example, saw me programming something in C# and asked me if I was making a bomb. Of course, she was kidding (because she laughed at the end), but I had to tell her I was programming.

And my father, for example, didn’t know what Python is. I had to write him a simple Python script for automating something, and when I explained to him he had to click the file to make the script run, he just looked at me and asked what that was.

Anyways, even as scary as a bunch of lines of code can look, I think young people will get interested in it. And it’s becoming simpler. Look at all the frameworks and libraries available on the Internet. It’s huge, and they’re made to simplify everything. Code isn’t boring. But learning it…


How I Started My Journey

I’ve always loved the Internet and technology in general. I was born in 2003, so in my first years with computers, I was using Windows XP. Oh God, I loved it. Seriously, it was amazing. I spent hours playing games like Pinball, and I’ve painted a lot of masterpieces with MS Paint. And I used to play other games like Crazy Taxi, The Sims, and more. I always had an interest in technology, and I always wondered how things worked.

Well, when I was 7 years old (I think) I got my first (just mine) computer. Here in Portugal, it was usual to give kids a laptop in 2nd grade. It was called a “Magalhães” (a reference to Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese explorer) and it was the thing that kids of that age wanted the most. It was full of educational programs and it was really good for a 7-year-old. Windows 7 ran on it, and it was the most wonderful and precious thing in the universe for me.

Portátil Magalhães 2 — the most wanted thing by 7-year-olds in 2010/2011

As everything has to end, it broke. My father sent it to be fixed, but eventually, it was slow enough that it couldn’t be useful (by “useful” I mean playing videogames. I was keen on them back then).

I got another computer, and then I remember my father buying a broken Magalhães just for pieces — maybe he could fix whatever was wrong with mine. But it didn’t matter anymore, because I had a desktop PC and it was faster than my old Magalhães, even though not as funny.

Then an incredible and life-changing idea came into my mind: since my father hadn’t been able to fix my Magalhães, I thought I could use the pieces he had bought to create my own personal videogame console.

OUYA, the biggest inspiration for my journey

I was so innocent then…

I’d read about a console named OUYA and I was impressed by its proposal: a completely new console that was based on Android and was free to modify and create games for. So, I wanted to create a console based only on my Magalhães pieces.

Needless to say that I didn’t — and still don’t — have enough knowledge to create a project that big, but I was really excited about it. After reading some articles on the Internet I decided that I just had to learn C and Assembly to build my operational system.

It would be easy, I thought…

Well, guess what? When I saw the first line of Assembly I started to cry. Not literally, but you understand what I mean.

Goodbye console project.

Fast forward to a couple of years later. A friend and I decided that it would be nice if we started a corporation like Microsoft or Apple (P.S. we were only 13). It would be great. We would create a lot of programs and applications and we would get famous and swim in money.

Our dreams were kinda like this… — Photo by Chiara Daneluzzi on Unsplash

Let’s get started, we thought. And what was the first big step to creating a big corporation and earning millions of Euros?

That’s right — create a Facebook/Twitter page.

After that, we had to start creating our apps and programs, but neither of us was able to program. Not even a little bit. Not even a single line of Python, Java, PHP, not even my old friend C!

And what did we do, you may ask? Exactly…

What we didn’t do was learn how to code. Instead, we thought it would be great to follow a series of untrustworthy YouTube videos on how to create a web browser in Visual Basic.

Really innovative for our big corporation, right?

And guess what? We created our browser! I even hosted a website on Weebly (with a .com address — I don’t know how I managed to convince my father to buy me one, really) to share this masterpiece with the world.

Not a single soul cared.

But this little thing, my friends, was the start of my journey. That’s what made me into the developer I am today. That first contact with Visual Basic (although I’d tried to learn Java when I was young, I gave up) and with real programming (even though I was copy-pasting everything the guy on the video said).


How I Really Started My Journey

Now we can talk about programming the right way!

After these delightful experiences, I realized I had to learn how to code properly, and not based on some random YouTube videos that teach me how to build a dubious web browser. No, my friends, I wanted more than that!

This website really helped me a lot!

This website helped me a lot: Codecademy!

Codecademy is by far one of the most amazing websites on the whole internet for learning to program. It reminds me of freeCodeCamp (which I only got to know last year and it’s also really amazing), but I believe that in some things it’s even better.

My first adventure was Python. Python is easy, fast, and fun to learn and code! It’s almost like English (which I’m relatively good at if what I’ve been hearing from all the English teachers I’ve had is true).

After a while, I wanted more, so I started learning PHP just for fun (because I didn’t even want to make websites, they were so… boring — and look at me now). I had a friend that was a genius at PHP, so I also started learning it because he recommended me to.

In a short period of time, I got to know the basics of PHP and Python. But then I discovered a YouTube channel that changed my developer life forever. Its name is Curso em Vídeo, a Brazilian channel that has a lot of programming courses for free taught by a really good college teacher named Gustavo Guanabara.

This channel was the best thing that ever happened to me (professionally speaking, of course).

I enrolled in one of their first courses: Algorithms and Programming Logic (I’m sorry, this is the best translation I can come up with. I’m not sure if that’s the course’s name).

Learning programming logic was one of the most important things I’ve ever done; it helped me so much in understanding a lot of programming basics.

And then the journey begins.

After that I focused on learning PHP (OOP), Java (my biggest dream, since I’d always wanted to build Android apps), HTML/CSS, JavaScript (so important right now) and… that was pretty much it.

I’ve also tried to learn a little bit of C (just the basics) but it makes me confused. I had a lot of trouble understanding the concept of pointers, for example. But now I feel like I know the most basic stuff and I could write a basic C program.


When I Started Learning a Lot of Programming Languages and Got a“Job”

After all this work, I wasn’t happy. My biggest dream back when I was starting to learn how to code was to be able to develop desktop and mobile apps. For some reason I disliked websites, I don’t know why. Still do to this day.

A friend of mine (the same one who helped me with my big corporation — he had also learned PHP) told me he knew a guy who had a big project that had the potential to grow a lot and become a serious corporation.

This project was a website. Back-end and front-end.

But when you’re 13–14 you don’t care about those things. If my friend was involved in a project this big, I wanted to be involved too. Because even if I knew some things, I was still a kid. And kids are stupid and jealous.

What did I do? I spoke with the friend of my friend and I got accepted in his project for the price of some shares (around 10% I believe). Their project, their proposal, was inspiring for me.

So this is the story of how I got my first “job”: I was 14, I was a noob at PHP, HTML/CSS, and JavaScript, and I was jealous of my friend.

Really professional.


And Now What?

Well, I’m 16 years old now, and my journey didn’t end (of course). After realizing that web developing and mobile developing were my thing, I started learning a lot more about PHP, databases (MySQL and MongoDB), APIs, JSON, HTML/CSS and their frameworks (Bootstrap, Sass/Less…) and eventually some Javascript (ES6, Node.js…).

I decided to learn React first after a lot of doubt between choosing it, AngularJS, or Vue.js. And it was the best thing ever, because I was able to learn some React Native, realizing my dream of becoming a mobile app developer.

Right now, I think I can say I know the following technologies:

  • HTML/CSS (and frameworks)
  • JavaScript (MERN stack, NodeJS, etc.)
  • PHP (but not Laravel, which I regret. I only worked with CodeIgniter)
  • Databases (MySQL, MongoDB)
  • Java
  • Python
  • C# (just a little bit. It helps that it’s similar to Java)
  • C (a few things. I don’t use this daily, just when I feel the need to play with my Arduino)
  • APIs (how to develop a REST API and use it)

Right now, I’m not focused on programming like I was before. I love it and I still program every day, but now I’m more focused on cryptocurrencies, businesses, and artificial intelligence, which I want to learn.

My biggest project right now is a cryptocurrency investing bot written in Python, which I believe has a lot of potential.

I’m also really excited about learning UI/UX design and developing great themes and designs for my websites.


Conclusion

I really hope you liked this post. For those of you who are my age and are thinking about becoming a programmer, don’t think: do! It was by far the most amazing thing I could have ever done in terms of knowledge and career, and the sooner you get started, the better.

Better Programming

Advice for programmers.

Nuno Martins

Written by

Portuguese programmer, student, musician and that’s basically it!

Better Programming

Advice for programmers.

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