My journey to coding — Part 1: Learning

When I decided to switch careers and started off on my journey to become a developer, I read other people’s stories to see what I could expect and to know better which direction to take. I found those stories really helpful, so I’d like to share my own, hoping it’ll help someone out there.

My journey is somewhat fragmented. I’ve had an on and off relationship with coding, so to say, but I’d still like to tell the full story. Since there is a lot I’ll cover, I decided to split this into two parts. In this part I’ll go over my first steps, how I got into web development, and list the resources that helped me get to where I am today. In the second part I’ll talk about the job interviews, how I landed my first job as a developer, and how I’m liking it so far. I hope you’ll stick with me (it will get long) and get something useful out of it.

First coding experience

My first somewhat proper contact with programming came during college. Even though I majored in Civil Engineering, on my second year I started to learn Python on my own, through Learn Python the Hard Way. At the time, it was seen as the best resource for learning, and Python was widely recommended as the best entry-level language. I got pretty far in the course, but I never completed it. I got to some automated testing, which I couldn’t manage to get to work and I found boring, so I just dropped the whole thing. At the same time, on the side, I started to make some text-based RPG game using OOP I learned in the course (the game had trading, leveling and fighting systems). It was a great learning experience, since grasping OOP was pretty hard for me at the beginning. After a week or two, I realized I bit off way too much, so I dropped that, too.

Even though I stopped learning, I still had enough knowledge to make some simple scripts that would automate AutoCAD stuff I needed for my classes. Not gonna lie, it felt amazing to find some real world usage for my newly developed skill.

After about a year of no coding, I decided I’d like to make websites. To be honest, I can’t really remember how I came to that decision, but I started to learn some HTML and CSS through W3Schools. After some learning, I decided to make a website on my own, but the whole thing felt so overwhelming that I quit once again.

Full commitment

In the meantime, I finished college, got a job and worked at it for 3 and a half years, before quitting and going to another country to work on some farms/gardens and learn the language (through Workaway, just dropping it here in case someone was thinking of doing something similar). While I was there, scrolling through the internet on my afternoon off, I stumbled onto web development and found it interesting once again. I learned some HTML for the second time, using HTML Dog, before eventually finding FCC. I finished their first two chapters (responsive web and JS) and part of the third one (frontend libraries). The reason I stopped there is that, at the time, there was a big problem with React on their platform, to the point that it was practically unusable. Going through their content right now, it’s much richer than when I started using it, back in 2018. Since I was still in a foreign country at the time and I didn’t have a computer, so I did all of that on my phone. I also found out about Jon Duckett’s books and bought them. That was the point where I decided to fully commit to becoming a developer one day.

Soon after that, I returned home and was finally able to use a computer. I read Duckett’s HTML and CSS book and, as an exercise, I coded all the examples from scratch myself, then compared it with his solution. All in all, it was a great learning exercise and, even though the book is a bit outdated, it was still a pretty useful read. The JavaScript and JQuery book, on the other hand, wasn’t as useful (pretty outdated) and I quickly started looking for other resources.

At that time, I returned to my old full-time job, so it meant having less time to code, usually 3-4 hours a day (longer on weekends). While searching for my next learning resource, someone on Reddit mentioned Rithm School and I decided to check it out. It turned out to be a great resource for learning JavaScript and I finished up to Advanced JavaScript 1 (included), and then went on to Git and GitHub course. Here, I chose to go the frontend route, since I thought it was easier to show what I knew. So the next logical step was to learn React. After all, everybody was using it and it was on every frontend developer job posting. After some researching, I picked Tyler McGinnis’ React Fundamentals course. I wasn’t wrong. The course was really great. It taught me a lot and I decided to stick with Tyler for his Redux course. That one wasn’t as good, but it could easily just be me, since Redux is a bit harder topic to grasp as a beginner.

The next course I wound up taking (also through Reddit’s recommendation) was Jonas Schmedtmann’s CSS course. That one is pure gold. A must-watch for every web developer in the making, and probably some, if not most, of those who already are web developers. To this day, I still haven’t completed this course (the CSS grid part). It’s just so dense (and other things took priority).

Resources I learned from

  • HTML Dog
    This is where I started, but I only used for HTML, so I don’t really remember much about it.
  • FCC
    A great resource for learning HTML, CSS and JS, at least the basics. It’s constantly growing, so it’s probably a lot better now than it was back then.
  • Jon Duckett’s books
    I still believe the HTML and CSS book is quite a good learning resource, but JS and jQuery one can be skipped.
  • Rithm School
    A great resource to learn JS and basics of Git. I can’t say much more than that, since that’s all I used it for.
  • Tyler McGinnis’ React Fundamentals
    Awesome React course. Even though his courses have been reworked, I believe they’re a great learning resource for React and JS.
  • Jonas Schmedtmann’s CSS course
    A must-watch for anyone who’d like to build up their CSS skills. This is my favorite course, since it’s incredibly dense and a bit unique (nobody teaches CSS in such depth).
  • Jonas Schmedtmann’s JS course
    If you have to choose one resource to learn JS, make it this one, you won’t regret it.
  • Andrew Mead’s Node.js course
    I went through this one after I got the job, so I didn’t mention it previously in the post, but I’ll mention it here since I liked it and found it useful.

A word on paid courses

On this journey, I found that a lot of us want to learn as much as possible for free. Nothing wrong with that. Totally understandable. But maybe you noticed that at one point I switched from free content to paid content. I didn’t regret a dime. The step up in quality is quite noticeable and I think it’s definitely a worthy investment. I set a budget for myself that was equal to one average entry-level developer monthly salary. I believe if you can acquire knowledge that will get you a job and return the investment in one month, you’ve got yourself a pretty neat deal. The courses on Udemy are between 12 and 20 euros on discounts, which are offered quite often.
I’m not calling anyone out nor criticizing people for wanting to learn for free. I did so myself for some time. And I started this blog with the goal of sharing what I learn along the way. But I would just like to point out that paying for courses can be worth it, so give it a shot if you can.

Conclusion

In this part of ‘My journey to coding’, I covered the learning segment. I went over the resources which helped me along the way and I hope some of those will help you, too. You saw how many times I quit and got back to it again, so it’s never too late to make the final decision!

In the next part, I’ll talk about job interviews and how they went, how I finaly landed my first job as a developer, and how I’m liking it so far. I’ll also share some advice regarding job interviews, which I believe could help you in landing your first job. In the meantime, if you have any questions, comments, advice, or anything of that sort, feel free to ask, post, critique, etc. I’ll give my best to reply to or read all of them.

Have a nice day and see you soon! :)


Hi, I'm Elvis

This is my personal blog where I write about coding and stuff. It's still work in progress, but I believe the content is nice.

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