A man Web Developer smiling at the camera standing in his office

5 Tips For How To Become A Web Developer From A Local Hero

Ed M. Wood

Meet Sam.

The first thing you need to know about Sam is that he’s a local hero. Having trained as a musician, he enrolled onto the CareerFoundry Web Development Course 4 years ago, and now he’s Head of Web Development here. True Story.

His story is inspiring, and it’s a testament to the quality of the course – and his character and application – that he’s been able to climb so high, so quickly. It’s also a sweeping, resounding affirmation that, yes, you too can learn to code and pivot to a career in web development later in life, even if you don’t have a background in mathematics or a childhood spent dismantling and rebuilding computers.

So how do you do it? Who better to ask than Sam himself – so, Sam:

What tips do you have for someone starting out in Web Development?


1. Don’t panic

There’s a huge amount to learn in the world of web development, and it’s difficult to know where to begin. Don’t be scared. Believe me; the large majority of seasoned developers are equally overwhelmed by the plethora of new languages, frameworks and tools out there. The key is focus. You don’t need to learn everything all of the time. Learn incrementally, take moments to recognise your progress, and embrace the freedom and opportunities the field provides, rather than being overwhelmed by it.

2. Start with the basics and let the complicated stuff look after itself

So you’re not panicking and your pulse rate is safely within the range of 60-85 beats/minute. Excellent. But now, in your state of quiet contemplation, you’re wondering where to begin. That’s completely normal – just read other people’s accounts of their journeys. I always recommend starting at the beginning, which means pure HTML, CSS and JavaScript (ES5). Don’t concern yourself with frameworks, libraries, or the most recent developments in PostCSS and ES6, ES2017+… In fact, if those intimidating assortments of numbers and letters are an immediate dissuasion, just forget you ever saw them for now. Once you’ve covered the basics, you’ll automatically end up looking into libraries and frameworks. Why? Well, because people wrote those things to make working with HTML, CSS and JavaScript easier.

3. Set yourself realistic goals by developing your own passion project

If you’re training yourself up in web development, you’ll naturally be spending a lot of time on the internet. And if you’re spending a lot of time on the internet, there’s a lot of potential to get distracted and overwhelmed by the volume of learning material. And Facebook notifications. (If the internet had a surname, “overwhelming” and “distraction” would be its middle names.)

So how do you keep yourself on the straight and narrow? My best piece of advice is to develop your own projects and break these down into manageable goals. Which app would you like to build? What’s your grand idea? Once you get shin-deep in your project, the motivation becomes intrinsic, and every time you find yourself saying, “I have no idea how to do this,” you push yourself to research and find a way. I have always found this project-based, problem-solving approach the best way to internalize and memorize what I’ve learned.

4. Reinvent the wheel

Nowadays you’ll hear people say that you don’t have to write a lot of code yourself because there’s a plugin for everything – or a framework you should use that other, more experienced developers have already made. There’s a lot of truth to this, of course. The developer community is renowned for its dedication to open source and building things which make our lives easier. BUT… by making our lives easier, it also makes our learning simpler, and our experience shallower. To become a good web developer, you need depth. Yes, you’ll learn how to use the particular plugin you’ve implemented, but you won’t learn the language behind it. Mastering the language will make you a far more competent developer in the (slightly) longer run than if you just juggle plugins. Try to build things yourself. The code won’t be the cleanest in the world, and you’ll make a lot of mistakes, but you’ll learn from these mistakes, and learn quickly. I’ve rewritten some of my personal projects three or four times in their entirety in the past. Why? Because a few months later I realised I could code them much more efficiently – much more cleanly. And it’s at moments like those, when you revisit your own code, that you realise just how much progress you’ve made!

5. Learn what you love

Web development has so many facets. You’d don’t need to do everything, and don’t need to do something you don’t enjoy. If bugs in the backend bug you, and solving them isn’t a source of sudden dopamine spikes, then don’t be a backend developer. That’s completely fine. Perhaps you like making things pretty – we all know the internet could often do with being a bit more beautiful. If this sentiment resonates, perhaps frontend development is the right thing for you. And the division between frontend and backend development only covers the first level of specialisation: If you don’t like fixing bugs but you do love finding them, then the life of a QA engineer could be the job for you. Web development is a rich topography of possibility: don’t do what you hate just because you think you have to. Pursue a passion.

Need more tips? We once wrote a very digestible article, complete with gifs.

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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Ed M. Wood

Ed M. Wood

Tech Writer at CareerFoundry

Ed M. Wood is originally from Wells, the smallest city in England. He now lives in Berlin. Having studied Psychology (BSc) and Political Science (MA), he now writes about tech for CareerFoundry.