Things I Wish I’d Known When I Started as a Web Developer

21 July 2021 5:00 pm LT Online Web Development

Becoming a web developer in 2021 is a constant series of decisions. The internet is full of excellent resources for learning to code online, but it can often overwhelm you with advice—some of it conflicting.

Of course, this situation is not surprising—there are so many different programming languages and so many ways of approaching any given problem. One of the biggest issues however, is time—in coding every choice about your learning has an opportunity cost. To adequately learn a language or master a framework could mean sacrificing days, weeks, and sometimes months of your life.

At the same time, often what we think are shortcuts can actually end up costing more time in the long run. A common example of this is the temptation to ignore learning basic “vanilla” JavaScript in favour of using frameworks such as Node.js and React.js. Makes sense in the short term, right? The problem is that further down the line you’ll realize that you actually need to understand how JavaScript works to progress. By that stage, having to go back and learn vanilla JavaScript can be a pain. So what if you could get more tips like that?

There are two different types of knowledge that a good web developer should be acquiring—procedural and substantive. The latter teaches you practical programming topics such as frameworks and libraries, whereas the former is equally important—how to learn a coding language. While some languages are easier to learn than others, what’s more important is learning how to learn. Knowing the difference between these two types is one thing, but recognizing that both are equally important is another. This is where having a mentor comes in.

One of the many, many reasons that having a mentor is essential when learning web development is that you get to benefit from their experience—they’ve been through it all before and have most likely arrived at every crossroads that you have. It might not have been the exact same language or framework for an application, but a similar one.

Outside of the virtual classroom, the importance of a mentor’s insights becomes even greater. They have years, often decades, of professional experience to offer, whether as a freelance web developer or for companies (and often both). Want to know what to focus on in coding challenges? Want to learn which types of freelance projects are ideal and which to approach with caution? Simply ask your mentor.

 

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Featured presenters

Edward Walther

Edward (“Ted”) Walther

Mentor at CareerFoundry

A CareerFoundry mentor, Ted Walther has been coding for almost 20 years. His professional highlights include: being the only on-staff developer at Starfall and coding the majority of their games in their paid section, developing Starfall’s first mobile application, being one of two front-end developers on The Dodo when the site averaged 17 million monthly hits, and producing many, many web and mobile applications for small and medium sized companies. He has spent the majority of his adulthood in California and Oregon but now lives in Maine where, when not coding, he solves crimes with Angela Lansbury (in his dreams).

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