Five Things I Wish I Knew When I Started My Web Development Career

By Lewis Dickerson 2 Comments

My web development career began 10+ years ago and since then, I have had some great accomplishments and learned some hard lessons. If I could go back in time and talk to myself this is what I would say.

1. Learn JavaScript as thoroughly as possible.

I have had the opportunity of working in a variety of dev environments including Java, Perl, Ruby on Rails, and PHP.  In each environment, JavaScript has been the one constant. Even in 2017, JavaScript is widely used and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

Today we have popular frameworks built with the help of JavaScript like Angular and Node as well as JavaScript libraries such as React and jQuery that are used throughout the industry.

For most web development jobs the better you know JavaScript the easier your life will be as a developer.

2. Technology will change; Embrace it, prepare for it, or die like the dinosaurs.

I first started my web development career as a front-end developer (HTML/CSS) in 2006. Back then the backend developers (Perl, Java, etc) pretty much drove the direction of the website. User Interfaces were very generic and minimal attention was paid to how a website looked on mobile devices.

Today it’s the total opposite and companies really care about their user interfaces and how their websites function on mobile devices.

For example, to keep current and in demand since my first job, I have had to learn PHP, MySQL, JavaScript, jQuery, HTML5, CSS3, UNIX, React, Ruby on Rails and more. Learning new programming languages came along with adjusting to different development environments and working with multiple Content Management Systems.

I have found that learning on my own time comes with the job. I accept that fact and look forward to building something new with the knowledge I have attained.

3. Find instruction material that works for your learning style and not the other way around.

Before I was a web developer I was a computer instructor. I had classes with 20+ adults and I would teach the course curriculum but many of the students didn’t truly understand the material. When I talked to them one on one and asked them questions I was able to figure out how they processed information and then I tailored my instruction accordingly.

This experience helped me personally and through the years I have come to understand that I am a visual learner. I am much better at watching someone else code on youtube vs sitting at a desk and being taught in a traditional classroom style.

Often it is easier for me to understand a language, framework, or library by seeing a finished product and attempting to take it apart. Fixing bugs and solving other people’s problems has also helped.

4. Always have a backup plan, don’t take your current position for granted, and save your money.

I have been on web development teams that had the whole team laid off. I have also worked as a temporary contractor throughout my career. I have witnessed colleagues who worked at a company for 10+ years and suddenly, without warning, found themselves unemployed.

I have learned to respect the fact that anything can happen at any time and to make the most out of every experience.

5. “Never put off for tomorrow, what you can do today.” – Thomas Jefferson.

Living by this quote has made my work life much easier. As a developer often you may be on a team that works in sprints (usually 2 weeks where you have a certain number of tasks to complete in that timeframe). It is up to you as a developer to budget your time and have your tasks completed at the end of the 2 weeks.

Through the years I have learned the hard way that changes can come at the last minute or the solution I thought would fix a problem when implemented was totally incorrect.

I have had assignments that were supposedly “simple” fixes that through research were actually complex problems that required multiple departments to remedy.

If I finish early – I often try to take the time to understand the whole development ecosystem as much as possible. Say if I am front end developer – I might focus on how the backend works and try to predict potential problems or come up with potential solutions.

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About the Author

Lewis Dickerson is a Senior Web Developer with over 10 years experience. In his spare time he enjoys learning new technologies and watching football. You can contact Lewis via his company website.

  • Marcus Rodriguez

    great article … solid advice

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