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15 Tips To Become A Web Developer From A Soldier Who Became One

Svenja Schäfer

Do you think you’ve got what it takes to survive an online course?

If you’re worried about staying on track - you’re not alone. Even after 12 years as a soldier in Germany’s Armed Forces, I wondered if I had the discipline to get through a self-paced, online web development course.

So why did I choose to do it? After I left the army, I really wanted a new challenge. I’d read somewhere that women shouldn’t choose a field they’re perfect in, but one which they find challenging. For me, web development was definitely just that.

Here are my top tips to make it to graduation day (including insider tips to make the most of your experience if you study with CareerFoundry).

1. Find a study buddy

You don’t need to become best friends, nor do you have to call each other every single day. But when you struggle with a problem (Why is everything working on localhost but not on Heroku?!) you’ll be so grateful to have someone to chat to and solve problems with. For maximum effect, find study buddies who are doing the same course at a similar pace to you.

Insider tip: CareerFoundry students communicate via Slack, and it won’t take long to find a new study buddy. Just say hello when you’re starting your course and voila - you will meet hundreds of people in the exactly same boat, as well as people further along the course, or graduated, but always happy to help you out.

2. Press the ‘off’ button

Shut down your laptop AND your head. Take a deep breath, do some sport, enjoy a walk in the park. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it’s not related to the course you’re working on. After that break you’ll be even more productive - just don’t let your breaks spill over into your study time. You might even find you make life improvements outside of coding. In this article, tutor Eric An looks at some unexpected benefits of learning to code.

Insider tip: CareerFoundry courses are self-paced which means it’s your choice when to work and when to say ‘stop.’ You prefer to sleep in and study at night? Fine. You’d prefer to get up early to have free time in the evening? Great - you can do that too. You like to work in smaller chunks? Maybe a few hours in the morning and a few in the afternoon? That’s also fine. With classmates around the globe, there’s always someone online too.

3. Take notes

Bookmarking pages is nice, but you have to admit that you won’t learn anything from it. Write new things, step by step instructions, and ideas the good old-fashioned way - use pen and paper, not your laptop. Why? Your brain focuses even more on the content when you have to process handwriting.

Insider tip: Do not copy-paste parts of the course content. You’ll just feel bad afterwards. In fact, it’s a good rule to never cheat or take ‘shortcuts’ - at the end of the day, you want to learn.

4. Make yourself comfortable with Spotify (or another music app)

Have you ever tried to study while listening to radio and it didn’t work out? It’s probably because of the talking in between songs. It can be distracting when people have a discussion or are reading the news. Switch to music-only platform and stay focused.

Insider tip: Every student is different, and so is their taste in music. That’s why we decided to create a Slack channel “#music” where every student can publish their favourite playlists.

5. Be aware that it’s gonna be tough

The fact that it’s an online course may give you the feeling it will be less demanding. It won’t. So be aware that it’s gonna be tough and that everything needs time. Don’t be disappointed when things don’t work out immediately. When you keep that in mind, you’ll realize just how happy you’ll be and what a huge sense of achievement you’ll get when you finally read your last exercise review.

Insider tip: Most of the tasks end with a small project which your mentor will review. Sure, these task will challenge you but keep in mind - after submitting you’ll have more knowledge (and one less outstanding task to be done).

6. Reward yourself

Set yourself some goals. And when you reach these goals (no cheating!) reward yourself. What about a nice dinner out, a new pair of shoes, or a weekend break? Go for it! You’ve earned it!

Insider tip: Write down your goals, or better still, share your goals with other students. This will stop you from cheating, and other people will help to motivate you and keep you on track!

7. Don’t rest too long

Breaks are good and they even improve your power of concentration but they shouldn’t last weeks. So wherever you go, take your handwritten notes with you and have a look from time to time. Also, use your own projects you want to realise. It always feels better to work on something self-build rather than a topic someone else chose for you.

Insider tip: All of our tasks give you the freedom of being really creative. And there are optional projects, too. Feel free to add even more and get the help of our mentors and tutors to change your own ideas into real projects.

8. Coffee, coffee, coffee (and sometimes even beer)

Right now it’s the perfect time to get addicted to coffee. Equip yourself with a nice espresso machine (I recommend a percolator you can just put on the hob), a small coffee grinder and - of course - really good coffee beans. Why so? Because when you’re enjoying your “coffee time” you focus on something completely different to the course and the break has a perfect length - not too short and not too long.

For those who don’t like coffee - use tea or maybe hot chocolate. Oh, and about the beer: don’t start your day with it, but maybe finish your day with one as a reward for an intensive study day.

Insider tip: At CareerFoundry HQ they also like to celebrate when the working week is done. Every Friday at 5pm people can grab a beer (or a mug of Gluehwein if it’s cold outside) in the Berlin office - so if you’re in Berlin, swing by!

9. Get upset

It’s totally fine if you find yourself on a day where everything and everyone rubs you up the wrong way. A review, an answer on Slack, the weather. Whatever it may be. So how can you handle it? Write to your study buddy, call your friend, go out, do sport. It’s good to vent your anger, don’t let it build up. Otherwise you may stay frustrated - and that’s something you don’t want to be.

Insider tip: If there is anything about your experience with the course that has you frustrated, you can reach out to CareerFoundry and they should be able to fix it for you. Whether you want to switch tutors or you need a two week extension, they’re usually pretty accommodating.

10. Be proud

Lots of people complain endlessly, without actually changing anything. You are different as you are about to change your career, which is a huge step. So don’t underestimate that step and be proud of what you are doing.

Insider tip: CareerFoundry also do monthly success celebrations, to show they’re proud of the graduates!

11. Move, change scenery

You don’t need to get a new apartment but a change of your surroundings from time to time can have a positive effect on your work. If your city doesn’t provide you with tons of co-working-areas like Berlin does, try your local library. It’s calm and you don’t have to pay for a cappuccino every twenty minutes to keep the waitress smiling.

If you prefer learning at home, make your office area comfortable and free of distractions like TVs or phones.

Insider tip: Are you in Berlin? If so, you should go and visit CareerFoundry HQ. It’s a nice office with damn good coffee, and there are free desks available for students. You’re invited to go and work there for free. Even if you’re visiting town, you can pop in and get some Berlin city tips.

12. Stay away from Facebook, WhatsApp, Threema

I imagine this tip doesn’t need an explanation - you probably know what I’m getting at. Yes, you might need your phone for the unlikely event of an emergency but does it have to be placed directly next to your laptop? Nope.

Leave it in your bag or in another room - somewhere where you have to think twice about getting up just to check your notifications.

Insider tip: As soon as you are part of the Slack community you won’t miss Facebook!

13. Go to meetups

Meetups give you the opportunity to talk to like-minded people, learn together, and to build a good active network which is absolutely necessary - not only in the tech branch. If you don’t like the idea of networking or you feel shy, just going to interesting talks is a great start.

Insider tip: You might have already heard, but the CareerFoundry ambassadors started a meetup called SyncUp. Keep an eye out - there may be a SyncUp event coming to a city near you soon!

14. Use a schedule

It’s good to have a routine and to use a schedule to show all your study hours. Don’t forget breaks for lunch and maybe a small yoga session. You brain will be happy to have some rest.

Insider tip: Your CareerFoundry dashboard shows you your progress and lets you know if you will finish the course on time. It also says how many tasks you should finish this week to reach that goal.

15. Remember you’re doing a great job!

Don’t think that you should be smarter or faster or better. Nobody is learning a new job within two days. You are doing a great job! And do not compare yourself with your mentor. He or she is an expert in the field you’re a learning about. Sure, they can fix a problem in minutes where you might get stuck for about three hours. That doesn’t matter. On the contrary, be glad that you’ve got a teacher with these skills.

Insider tip: CareerFoundry believes that anyone who finished the course is 100% employable, and because of this they offer a job guarantee. They’ll not only help you learn, but also help you to build an online brand, prepare for job interviews, and if after 6 months you can’t find a job, you’ll get your money back.

What You Should Do Now

  1. If you’d like a step-by-step intro to find out if web dev is right for you - sign up here for our free 7-day web dev short course.
  2. If you are interested in becoming a Web Developer check out our web development course (you'll learn the essential skills employers need).
  3. If you’d like to speak to an expert Career Advisor for free about how you can really get a new job in tech - connect with us here.

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Svenja Schäfer

Svenja Schäfer

Web Developer

For the past twelve years, Svenja has been a soldier for the German Armed Forces. After studying for a degree in design and journalism, she looked for a new challenge and found it in web development. She’d read that,”women shouldn’t work in a field they know they’re perfect in, but in one they’ll find a challenge.” She knew web development was exactly that, and started the CareerFoundry Web Development Course.