Life As a Professional Code Newbie

Tom Raley | May 31, 2019

From Zero to Hero

So you already have a good idea of my story to this point. If not, check out my journey post. At this point, I've been doing web development (from scratch) just about 13 months. I literally signed up for Codecademy on April 23, 2018, so just over 13 months from when I started learning. It's very surreal and maybe still hasn't fully sunk in.

The Real Deal About Being a Professional Dev

A lot of people seem to have questions about what life is like being a developer that has little to no professional experience and whether they "can hang" or not. The answer is: yes, you can hang. Most professional developers still spend half (maybe more) of their day on StackOverflow and Googling answers to problems. And frankly, a lot of "experienced" devs still write sloppy code.

Don't put so much pressure on yourself! Get things to work, then go back and refactor your code. Just make sure to actually go back and refactor it.

Life As a Professional Code Newbie

The reality is, life as a professional code newbie is...well, interesting. I'm lucky to be at a place where I was very clear with them what my strengths/weaknesses were up front and they were comfortable with that. Every day, I learn something new and often come upon problems that I have no idea how to solve. But, it's similar to when I was learning to code--I scour StackOverlow and Github issues and eventually find the solution to the problem, oftentimes with many trials and errors.

I've heard many developers talk about how they understand concepts but still have to Google syntax. This couldn't be more true and I can't stress this more--if you understand programming concepts, the syntax doesn't really matter. You can always look up the documentation to find out how to specifically code something. But if you don't understand how to think through and troubleshoot problems, the syntax doesn't matter. You can't Google how to solve issues that are specific to your application, but you can Google the syntax for the solution you've come up with on your own.

The Curveball

Six months into my web development career, the Senior Developer on my team (and only other developer on my team) left the company. This really freaked me out. I was (and am) now the sole developer responsible for a corporate website that has roughly 1,000 visitors each day. It's been about a month since he left, and so far things are going ok. I've only broken production once (for a few minutes while I figured out the fix!).

TL;DR

Honestly, being a professional Code Newbie is not much different from being a Code Newbie who doesn't officially have a dev job. You still work on projects, you still run into issues, you still go to StackOverflow to solve them, and you still make it through. You will have good days and bad days, problems that frustrate you to no end, and also successes that make you feel like you're on the top of the world.

If you're learning web development, you likely have a reason and I can tell you--being a web developer, despite its challenges, is still miles better than what I was doing previously and I wouldn't change anything for the world.

I hope this helps someone, and please email me or hit me up on Twitter if you ever want to chat!