Get started the right way as a new developer
No matter if you’re fresh out of school, self-taught or decided to make a career change, being a web developer is awesome. But it can also be a bit scary at times.
Like any new job, there’s a ton to learn when you’re new. At least once you've learned something new you can use it for most of your career. Web development is not always the same... What you learn today might be obsolete tomorrow. The technological landscape is moving faster and faster, which can make it very hard to navigate.
So what do you do?
If you’re expecting the answer to be a full list of technologies to learn to make you set for life, then I'm sorry to disappoint you (mostly because that list doesn’t exist).
Instead, my answer is that you should listen to those who’ve already been in your shoes and have built a career in web development. Luckily, we found some great developers from some of our Gold Partners who were willing to share their best tips with us.
Let’s dive right in, shall we?
- Stephen Meyers, Head of .NET Development at twentysix
- Mike Allen, Principal Engineer at Emergent Software
- Ryan Michael, Head of Front-End Development at twentysix
- Borjan Vasovski, Senior Software Developer & Solutions Architect at Novicell UK
- Alex Meyers, Umbraco Developer at Carbon Six Digital
Stephen Meyers, Head of .NET Development at twentysix
Tip #1 - The community is your friend! Don’t be afraid to ask for help
The support you can get from your colleagues, friends and the online dev community is invaluable, and you should never be afraid to ask for help.
If you’re struggling with some code, the chances are that someone has struggled before you and has already solved your exact problem! By having the confidence to reach out to those around you or online, you’ll find solutions much more quickly, increasing your knowledge in the process.
In addition to this, when starting out, I believed that it was preferable to write and develop everything yourself. In reality this is far from the truth, and you’ll find a wealth of ready-made packages and libraries of code online to use at your disposal. Do your research and be sure to sense-check the quality, but don’t be afraid to use these resources to help you spend less time “reinventing in the wheel” and more time developing your skills and knowledge in other areas.
Tip #2 - Create your own github account
When starting out, I’d recommend creating your own github account where you can start adding your own projects and snippets of code as you go along. Not only is this a great place to build up a reference library of code, it also helps when showcasing your work to potential employers too. You’ll find that when you’re interviewing for roles, most employers appreciate being able to see some code you have written.
Mike Allen, Principal Engineer at Emergent Software
Tip #3 - Plan for the future
The technologies and projects you’ll work on in 10 years may not exist yet! Plan for the future and continually explore new technologies, it could end up being your job one day.
Tip #4 - Learn from others
Take the time to learn from the experience of senior developers.
Tip #5 - Communication is key
Your communication skills are just as important as your development skills. Take the time to practice writing – you’ll use it more in your job than you might think.
Tip #6 - Explaining to non-developers
Get comfortable explaining what you do to non-developers. Especially in the world of consulting, you’ll likely be communicating with those who don’t have the same technical background as you do.
Tip #7 - Stay flexible
Staying flexible and adaptable as a developer is extremely important!
Ryan Michael, Head of Front-End Development at twentysix
Tip #8 - Be kind to yourself (and your team!)
It may sound cliché – and perhaps a little cheesy – but it’s important to be kind to yourself when starting out in your development career, as nobody becomes an award-winning developer overnight.
While it is sometimes easier said than done, don’t put too much pressure on yourself and make sure you allow yourself the time to learn, grow and most importantly, make mistakes! It is inevitable that when you’re playing around with some code, you’re going to break some things along the way – but it’s solving these mistakes that will help you become a stronger developer.
As well as being kind to yourself, don’t forget to be kind to your team too and remember nobody comes to work to do a bad job. The key to a successful development team is helping and supporting each other. A happy team will always produce the best work – and it’s less likely to feel like a job!
Borjan Vasovski, Senior Software Developer & Solutions Architect at Novicell UK
Tip #9 - What I wish someone had told me when I just started out
If you know how to look up stuff, it’ll save you a lot of time. I wish that someone had told me to formulate my issue in a general context. Don’t be too specific. Search for a starting point. Usually, there’s no exact answer to your issue.
Tip #10 - Skills I wished I had back then
As I have a Master’s in Banking, I already had a problem-solving and goal-setting mindset. I think I would have benefitted from having an introduction to the way of thinking and the general breakdown knowledge of people who have studied Computer Science. But I have gained an overview and knowledge along the way.
Tip #11 - What I did early on, that helped me in my further career
I have three tips.
- Communication is essential
- Try out different areas
- Seek out guidance with experienced developers
Firstly, communication is essential when you’re not coming from a Computer Science background. You need to communicate with Project Managers and translate the technical problem and how we recommend solving it.
Secondly, I would recommend you explore and try out different areas within web development and different technologies. If you want to work with web development, try working with one CMS and becoming an expert in that – e.g. Umbraco. It will help you get a better idea of where you want to focus later on. In the long run, I think you need to pick a specific area and master it.
Thirdly, seek out guidance with experienced developers when you face a problem. They often have a different mindset and are experienced in how to look at stuff in different ways.
Tip #12 - What I would do if I was new to the field
For this one, I also have three top tips:
- Stay updated
- Prepare for job interviews
- Communicate problems early on
Firstly, I recommend you keep up to date with whatever develops within your field – it’s crucial to know what’s cooking.
Secondly, when you go to a job interview, always prepare. Low-hanging fruit is to research interview questions to the industry you’re soon to be joining. Interview style can help you get through further. Lots of platforms, like Glassdoor, have frameworks that can help you prepare for your job interview.
Thirdly, when you face a problem, communicate it early on and see how it can be fixed. Don’t waste all day when you only have three hours.
Alex Meyers, Umbraco Developer at Carbon Six Digital
Tip #13 - Learn to read code, before you write it
You don’t need to be an expert in a programming language to decipher what the code is doing. Reading other developer’s code will help you to work effectively across different codebases and support you in writing code. There are a couple of ways you can do this, either by checking out some open source projects or reviewing the most recent project that your team has been working on.
Tip #14 - Develop your social skills
It’s not all about the code. Miscommunication is perhaps the biggest threat to any project. You’ll likely be working in a team, so you need to be able to effectively communicate with other developers, project managers and clients. Clear, concise and timely written or verbal communication can go a long way.
Tip #15 - Develop your project management skills
Similar to social skills, you need to be able to communicate your progress on development tasks. Tools like Trello, Jira and Azure DevOps support developers in task management, planning and scheduling. These skills will help you when you’re fixing a bug or writing a new piece of functionality; breaking down a larger task into smaller pieces making it more manageable.
Tip #16 - Expose your ignorance
It is often the case where you don’t want to look stupid but you must fight this urge and speak up. If you don’t understand something or haven’t heard of a term or technology - ask. If you don’t, it’s a missed opportunity to learn and verify your understanding. Software development is a multifaceted industry, you can’t know everything and you’re not expected to, but you can always gain knowledge by speaking up.
Tip #17 - Don't agonise over the perfect solution
Try to focus on a working solution, rather than a perfect solution. By all means aim to write clean, reusable and easy to read code but do it in a timely manner. Always remember that the code you write today will be redundant in a couple of years, whether that’s due to the requirement changing or the technologies used evolving.
Tip #18 - Google is your friend
Seeking a solution online is often the most efficient first step towards a solution. A great piece of advice is to “get good at Googling”. Someone has run into the same problem as you, you just need to find it. Once you’ve found it, try to understand the what, why and how before copying and pasting it. This is an opportunity to learn and develop your knowledge.
18 great tips to any new developer out there who’s getting started with their career.
Thank you for reading and as always a huge #H5YR to our Gold Partners who took the time to contribute to this post.