Quite often when telling people what I do for a living, the other person will take interest and ask me how to get into web development. I’ve also responded to a few forum posts with advice for fledgling developers looking for their first step on the web development ladder so decided to put together an advice for anyone looking to get started with this career. I’m writing this post assuming that you are competent with a computer and will outline what I suggest you learn and some other steps to take to get yourself your first job as a web developer.
If you already have access to a computer (and let’s face it, these days, who doesn’t?) you don’t need to spend a penny.
- You’re going to need a computer. Either a mac, PC or Linux machine. There is huge debate all over the internet of mac vs PC vs Linux, but at the end of the day, either is more than good enough for web development. I use a 13” Macbook Air for private projects and home use and I use a PC running Windows 7 at my full time job. So it really does come down to your personal preference or what you already own. In my opinion Macs look nicer so I’m happy to pay the “Apple tax” for their products because I spend so much time looking at them.
- A text editor. There are hundreds of different editors out there, many of them Free. When I started as a dev in 2000, I used Dreamweaver. At the time it was the big “buzz word” programme for web development and I’d not heard of anything else. Dreamweaver was my go to editor up until about 18 months ago when I started investigating other light weight options. I’ve tried Notepad++, Coda, Netbeans, TextMate, but have settled on Sublime 2 as I like the features, search is faster than any of the others and it’s nice being able to use the same editor on Mac and PC. It also looks pretty.
- A dev environment. I use MAMP Pro on my Mac for my dev environment. It’s just quicker and easier to set up, run and configure than it is to set up the native environment that ships with OSX - they also do a free, non-pro, version which will do you fine to begin with. On windows, there is WAMP (I can’t vouch for WAMP however as I’ve not used it before. At my job, we have a centralised dev server that we do all our dev on)
When you get called for an interview, go smart. That means a shirt and tie at least. You’ll likely end up being able to wear jeans to a web dev job but turning up to an interview like that makes you look lazy and like you don’t care about the job. Set a good impression. Take your laptop so you can show your work and your learning journey. In an interview, if you don’t know the answer to a question, say so. They don’t expect you to know everything, they just want to suss out what stage you are at with your learning. You’ll likely be on a short probation when you first start your job. Keep setting a good impression. Don’t be the guy (or girl) that turns up on the dot and then leaves on the dot. That guy exists in every single office and everyone thinks bad of them for it. I have a friend (not a developer) who is that guy. He can’t understand why I’ll be at work at least half an hour before I’m contracted to start and at least 15 minutes after I’m contracted to finish. He regularly tells me “They’re not paying you for that extra time. You should be out the door dead on 5.30. That’s your right”. Yes, it is my right but it doesn’t set the best possible impression. I may be working extra for no immediate financial gain, but come pay review time, the boss is going to be well aware of my time keeping and will no doubt reflect this in his decision.
Keep a blog of your progress. Did you struggle with something and work it out? Blog about it. Not only will writing about it help you remember, but you’ll have something else to show prospective employers, it’s a great way to interact with other developers. You may even get job offers come through to you. I only started blogging around a year ago and have had a number of people contact me with employment opportunities. Get an account on Stack Overflow. If you’re stuck with something, post a question. Also spend some time trying to help those with issues you know the answer to. You’ll quickly build a reputation and you can tie it to a Stack Overflow Careers profile which is another way to get in touch with prospective employers and for them to find and contact you. Get on twitter and start using it. I’ve only joined the twitter in the last 18 months or so and have to admit that this is one of my flaws. I should be more active. If you want to interact with me on twitter, you can find me @fraserhartdev Talk your code over with other developers. Seek out tidier and more efficient ways of achieving your end goal. If you don’t know any other developers and have some questions, fire me an email ([email protected]), I’ll be glad to give you some pointers. If you have any questions at all about anything below. Please ask below or get in touch via email. Good luck in your new careers!