Hey all! I know it’s been a long time since I’ve updated. The last few months have been a whirlwind of trying to balance a challenging day job with a long commute, cramming tutorials during the evening, and working on achieving the ever-elusive work-life balance everyone’s always talking about.
So here’s an update on some things I’ve learned along the way.
Working for a small company is a great way to learn ALL THE THINGS.
Um, reality check! As the main web developer in a small company, I’ve had to:
- Dive headfirst into reading and writing PHP and mySQL to try and achieve better site functionality on the Brilliant Directories platform — *cough cough* a platform with very, very little documentation and a business model that tries to leave you so in the dark about their code that you’ll hire one of their own developers to get the job done
- Grapple with UI mockups in Balsamiq and Photoshop, and iterate many, many times through proposed site designs
- Have a chance to rebuild one of the FreeCodeCamp projects (bigger and better, and with multiple APIs) for my company’s upcoming site launch
- Really put my problem-solving skills to use in coming up with general solutions and troubleshooting
- And overall, be the expert — or even the person who knows just enough to know where to look
For a web developer, working for a small company can be an awesome way to start on your career path.
The main reason being you’re not pigeonholed into doing just one thing. You get a chance to:
- Explore languages you might not have considered learning.
- See the big picture of all the technologies that can come together to form a single site.
- Enjoy getting to know your coworkers in an office environment with less hustle-and-bustle than you might find at an agency.
Invest in your learning because it pays off.
I’m not talking about getting a student loan out to go back to school for web development or computer science.
But you need to put forth the effort to keep developing your skills, whether that means auditing classes on sites like Coursera or edX, requesting books from your local library, or subscribing to a resource like PluralSight or Treehouse.
I’ve taken a huge number of classes on Treehouse since I started my job and it’s paid off in spades. Some of the classes I’ve completed include:
- PHP Basics
- SQL Basics
- Reporting with SQL
- Modifying Data with SQL
- And a ridiculous number of “just for fun” classes including some on Java, Watson APIs, and mobile app development
Multiple monitors will change your life.
When I first showed up at my new job, I had a single monitor — just like at home.
After the first week or so of wasting what seemed like hours per day jumping back and forth between my text editor window and my browser, I asked me I asked my employer to purchase one of these nifty Thunderbolt to HDMI cords so I could hook my iMac to another monitor for dual display.
I can now leisurely read and reference documentation and write code without performing veritable acrobatics.
You will make mistakes and you will feel dumb. Don’t give up; keep moving forward.
I look at items in my portfolio now that make me cringe. How could I have written a weather app with no fallback function or error message for if the geolocation fails?!
Keep chugging away. Seriously, I think back to how long it took me to integrate with my first API, and how utterly and completely lost I felt during the process. I spent a full weekend trying to figure out the CORS problems, gave up for several weeks, and spent another couple weekends trying to parse and process the results of the API call.
Fast-forward to now: this week I’m scheduled to have a phone meeting a company whose API we’re integrating with, and I feel more than confident that I can put together a solid widget on short notice.
That’s not to say work’s a breeze. It’s not.
Every day I’m faced with something I don’t know the answer to. I Google relentlessly and sometimes rest my head on my desk, cursing the Gods of cross-browser compatibility (among other things).
But now I know that all things get easier with time.
Have screen-free and/or creative time. And don’t forget to move your body.
OK, I’m guilty of getting way too hacked in to computer projects. When you feel like you’re making progress on your code, it can be hard to tear away.
One thing I firmly believe in is the power of walking away from your code. If you’ve been stuck on a FreeCodeCamp project for hours on end and aren’t getting anywhere, walk away. If your CSS is a hot mess and your positioning is all off, walk away.
There’s a power in just letting things marinate in your mind while you do something else. Anything else. Preferably something that you enjoy doing.
A few non-coding accomplishments/projects I’ve worked on while forcibly ignoring my code:
- My first sourdough starter (inspired by the sweet book Sourdough, which is about a rad lady software-engineer-turned-epic-baker)
- Making all the Christmas gifts, including black tea travel candles, microwaveable rice packs (why yes, that’s my new Etsy shop!), roll-on lotion bars, and lip balm
- Learning my way around my sewing machine
- Working on my Photoshop skills to start both a Zazzle and Amazon shop
- More relaxing walks with my canine pals
Whatever it is that you’re passionate about or interested in outside of coding — DO IT! Give your brain time to relax and refresh. Seriously, your code will thank you.
In short, this first few months at my first-ever web developer job has been an epic learning experience. Now that I’m for the most part adjusted to the new routine, I’ll make it a point to keep you all updated with new resources and articles.