Advice for an aspiring developer?

Discussion in 'Web Design and Development' started by Virgo, Nov 9, 2015.

  1. Virgo macrumors 6502a


    Jun 7, 2011
    Los Angeles, CA
    Hi all,

    I'm mid-twenties, live in Los Angeles, and am seriously thinking about studying coding/development as a career. Right now I'm making pretty good money as a server in a restaurant, but obviously I do not want to do that forever.

    I've read a lot of good things about coding bootcamps, but the promises seem almost too good to be true. There is one called Sabio that I'm considering.. which I believe is 3 months straight. I'd basically have to quit my serving job and hope to get hired right afterward.

    I consider myself a pretty smart guy who is very detail oriented and analytical, and I've always been someone who can easily use and adapt to technology, but at the same time I do not have any experience coding. What do you think my best bet would be? Do any of you know of reputable places or have success stories?
  2. olup macrumors 6502

    Oct 11, 2011
    Before you sign up, hit up youtube for tutorials, read blog posts, listen to podcasts; you'll have to do that in your daily routine anyway, or at least you should, when landing a job as a web developer because the industry is constantly changing and new stuff pops up all the time.

    There are tons of free resources!

    Those coding bootcamps will only teach you the basics and some aspects of the field can only be learned through actually working as a web developer, how to deal with clients/coworkers etc.

    You will also need to dip your feet into design aspects, such as User Interface design, User Experience, design principles in general; at least grasp the basics.

    The demand is still there, and after graduation you might find a job in that field, it depends on what you built in the meantime.

    Create things for your portfolio, people wanna see what you're capable of and what you've built to land an internship/job.

    Here are some resources to start off with. (found this, a while back and it's actually free, remember basics) ;) (came across this today, interesting listen)

    some youtube channels that I personally subscribe to and would recommend checking out are:
    levelup tutorials
  3. 960design, Nov 10, 2015
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2015

    960design macrumors 68030

    Apr 17, 2012
    Destin, FL
    What olup said. Bootcamps, certifications, ect all crap to me. Before I hire you, I want to see your portfolio and then I'll take a small example and ask you to show me how you did it... right there in the office, on my mac.

    A Bachelor's in CS will get my attention, but the portfolio gets you the interview, the code gets the job.

    Keep your day job ( the pay is good after all ), find a developer and start begging for free work.

    Web development is much more encompassing than you think. A very small SPA (single page application) project I'm working on right now uses the following technologies:
    MySQL database ( that's a job in itself: database design and development )
    UI/UX testing workflows
    AJAX ( which really is just a fancy combo of HTML5, Javascript, and PHP )
    with a design look ahead for websocket integration

    Most anyone can do this. It just takes time and a lot of bug squashing.

    PS. I'm certainly not trying to dissuade you, actually I'm trying to encourage you to get started now. You've got a lot to learn. The work-life balance is a lot better than waiting tables. I'd bet the income is a little better too.
  4. villicodelirant, Nov 11, 2015
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2015

    villicodelirant macrumors 6502


    Aug 3, 2011
    Okay, I'm going to give you some of the best advice you'll ever get.
    I actually recovered my password so that I could log in and answer you.

    The most important thing you can realize is that "coding" means roughly the same as "typing" - on an old-fashioned typewriter.

    It's a boring, thankless, menial job.

    Do you want to be a "coder"? Really?
    Or maybe a designer? Or an engineer? Or maybe a scientist?

    These are three kinds of people that write code for a living - but the though process that leads to it is entirely different and in all cases the coding part is not the focus.
    In fact, "coder" is not a real profession.

    The paths that lead to each are different.

    Don't let your relatively advanced age scare you.
    "What, me, a scientist? I'm not a scientist. I just want to... code."

    When I was 24 I was in a similar situation as you (except that I did "code" for a living, i.e. translating specifications into PHP code, at minimum wage) and I enrolled in a BS in computer science, then I got my MS and now I'm considering applying for a PhD program (while I fend off job proposals, they are literally raining).

    The best choice of my life bar none.

    Maybe that's your road as well.
    Or maybe you should considering going to design school.

    But don't settle for something only marginally better than waiting tables in your life.

    EDIT: Oh, I almost forgot. This implies forgetting what sleep even is and saying goodbye to anything resembling a social life until you're around 30. But hey, that's overrated anyway.
  5. superscape macrumors 6502a


    Feb 12, 2008
    East Riding of Yorkshire, UK
    Also, don't forget that programming doesn't necessarily mean web design. Do you definitely want to focus on web design? You could randomly throw a football down any high street and hit five web developers. Not that there's anything wrong with being a web developer, of course, just be aware that there's a lot of competition and as a result, wages aren't great unless you're one of the very good ones (who you're much less likely to hit with your randomly thrown football). If you're an average, or below average web developer then you can look forward to the codemonkeyhood described by villicodelirant. Maybe you'd be happy with that, maybe you wouldn't.

    Another option might be to take a (slightly) less travelled route and look at something like app development for iOS, Mac or (if you must) Android. I suspect that after a few weekends working through some of the better tutorials (e.g. those over at or the many YouTube demos) you'd be able to make a simple app and get it on the appropriate app store. If you're really lucky, it'll make you some money. If not, it's a good learning experience and a good thing to show prospective employers. I guess what I'm saying is that sometimes it's easier to be the big fish in a small pond, especially if you're just starting out.

    Maybe you can leverage what you already know well and come up with an app that would help waiters, or people in the restaurant business?

    As others have said, if you have good qualifications then that's great but I'd rather employ someone who could show me a raft of successful apps they'd created on the app store. Of course, if you've got great qualifications AND a raft full of successful apps then that's even better. ;-)

    Lastly, some of the best programmers I've met have had no formal training. Although it has to be said that the same is true of some of the worst!

    Good luck!
  6. Starfia macrumors 6502


    Apr 11, 2011
    Hey-hey, Virgo,

    I'm kind of like you. I was lucky to be able to do a little programming on the Amiga and in HyperCard growing up, so I at least got the basic idea of what the point is of writing lines of instructions in sequence (which is largely what it is! Yay!), and in high school, one of my general teachers introduced HTML to us for no particular reason before it was even common, and I've never not had a web page since. I've never taken a programming class – I'm entirely self-taught, and since then I've done the occasional web programming job for pay and have several iOS apps on the App Store. It's still not my main living, but it's proof to me that it's possible to learn a lot on your own. (Having one or two programming friends to ask helps when you're really stumped, but nowadays that's even less crucial with the ubiquitous forums and better tutorials than ever.)

    Here's my advice for getting started:

    1. Try making your own simple web page and see how far you get. You have to learn the basics of three (very simple) languages: HTML to outline the content of the page, CSS to change it from plain text to something that looks in any way styled, and finally – and relevantly to the future – JavaScript, which is the actual programming-like part, where you write lines of instructions in sequence in order to make things happen. JavaScript isn't needed for web pages, but if it's not there, nothing happens with them. (For example, I'm assuming the text editor stuff that's allowing me to type this message right now involves a lot of JavaScript.) Importantly, you can do this totally for free with whatever computer you already own.

    2. Have some very simple thing you want to make. That could be, like… a little choose-your-own-adventure game, or a little interactive birthday card to give to your best friend, or, like… I don't know. What do you like, anyway? Why are you even thinking about coding? Pick an exciting (but very simple) thing where you can imagine exactly how it will be when it's done, and then set out learn whatever you need to learn to do that. Either you'll learn those things, or you'll discover the things are way more than you can easily learn in a short time, which is… necessary to realize anyway, so that's progress. (Again, all free!)

    3. You've probably at least heard about how great Swift supposedly is, et cetera. It actually reminds me of my first programs way back on the Amiga. To program something that *isn't* a web page, like an iOS app or a Mac app, you need to learn some other language, and Swift is a good place to start. (Again, Xcode and testing your programs: all freeeeee.) That's… a whole other big wild world, but tutorials and stuff can help you get started. And Apple has *great* documentation on all of this, and a *lot* of it, and all of it is specifically designed to answer all the questions that someone learning how to program for their systems would tend to think of – including a book on how to get started with Swift. You have to be willing to read a lot. Read, read, read. Reeeeead.

    Bottom line right now: if you're thinking of spending money, you don't have to do that right now. Not in order to find out whether you have the persistent enthusiastic nerdiness needed to get into with this whole coding thing.
  7. Jamesbot macrumors member

    Jun 19, 2009
    My 2 cents:

    I'm a professional developer currently working on a team of roughly 30 other developers. I've interviewed lots of people coming out of bootcamps, and have even hired a couple of them.

    People coming out of bootcamps tend to show up with a portfolio of 2 or 3 small projects they built there. I personally dont pay much attention to portfolios. Instead we'd give you a programming problem to solve offline and once you send in your solution we have an engineer review it.

    If your solution gets a thumbs up then you get to come in for an interview, where you'll spend an hour or two pair programming. Most bootcampers, if they've made it this far, don't make it past this step. Usually there are some major gaps in their knowledge. We let you google for answers, but people who rely on this tend to run out of time.

    Even after all this, bootcampers tend to be very very junior (how could they not be with only 3 months?). The ones that do get hired tend to talk through their issues, ask smart questions, and are able to articulate a plan before they start coding. Taking on a junior programmer is a huge investment and so you really have to get people to want to mentor you.

    Additionally, apparently lots of people dont even make it through the bootcamp, and end up dropping out. People also get kicked out, I've heard, if they're underperforming. The odds of this happening are higher if you're unprepared going in. You dont want to do this if you never written a line of code before, certainly. Also, expecting to get a job right out of bootcamp with only 3 months of experience is pretty unrealistic in my opinion.

    Anyway, hopefully some of this helps. Good luck!
  8. darrylhj macrumors newbie

    Mar 11, 2009
    London, United Kingdom

    There is nothing like misplaced arrogance, but I guess we should all be grateful for the fact he gave you the best advice you will ever get.

    So here are my two cents, based on the fact I personally hired over 100 developers last year as I had to build lots of development teams very fast, for the companies I was/am running.

    If you want to go down the degree/masters/phd route then fine, thats ok, but in Silicon Valley you will find that talent and skills will skill make you a far greater income than you have now even without a Bsc/Masters/PHD, and arguably much higher than your typical student with a doctorate (hell even a doctor) in Venice. The salaries for talent in your part of the world is almost limitless.

    So back to the question at hand, someone said it earlier, but a degree might open the door, but code will get you a job, and for the most part thats correct.

    I would find a language/stack you enjoy using, because you will need personal interest to keep informed on the topic, I migrated from PHP, through to Obj C, to eventually JS and then the MEAN stack - but its all personal preference, on the whole there is a use for most languages and a demand for them all too (I've managed RoR teams and .NET teams).

    The single best bit of advice I think I can give (and no its not coming with a claim) is to just jump right in, read some tutorials, read them a few times, then just try to code; Javascript or PHP is usually good for a learning curve, but they do get powerful too, don't worry that you will take time, thats normal, but read and then do. I know "want to be developers" who spend lots of time reading blogs and tutorials but hardly any time typing out code, trying to change the tutorial, trying to learn by doing than anything else.

    I personally love programming, and even though I am now a CTO, and perhaps can't code as often as I would like, I still love reviewing, and reading the code generated by my team.

    Just jump in, and read some tutorials, maybe some jQuery or PHP tutorials. I'd avoid YouTube, too much watching, too little action, I always preferred StackOverflow, Smashing Mag, PluralSight and so forth.

    On a personal note, I very rarely hire people who have Doctorates, not because I don't see their value, but I usually find the added years in Academia insulates them from people questioning their contributions quite bluntly, and that is usually not a great facet to have joining a team of experienced coders where they will usually critique code written by everyone (senior, junior) as par for the course.

    Lastly, if someone is worried about not earning more than a waiter (with all respect) if they are a programmer, then I would be inclined to think they aren't a good programmer - on average the salaries I would pay would be 3/4/5/6x what a waiter would earn in London (for a Developer in London, and SV is just the same).

    I hope that helps.
  9. darrylhj macrumors newbie

    Mar 11, 2009
    London, United Kingdom
    Oh, I noticed lots of job titles mentioned, so I will comment quickly on that;

    Usually a Web Designer would be paid less, generally I tend to find those people have a mix of design and coding, but usually are not too strong at either, but lets give them a Salary of 1.

    A Web Developer - okay so now id expect you to be able to code, understand whatever language you have pretty damn well, and to know how to cut up a psd file into a site. Thats a 1.2 on the salary scale - a lot of these are freelance.

    Developer (usually a PHP dev, or a RoR dev, Obj C dev, Angular Dev)
    Okay, now I really wont ever expect you to open Photoshop, your talent is more expensive to me than design, so I let the web designers do that, in this role you need a fundamental grasp of API's ideally creation and usage, databases, ideally testing (automated), source control and so forth; I would expect you to be someone people go to for questions about PHP/etc (depending on your specialism).

    Their salary would probably (and usually is) more than double of the first two, and has no real ceiling. Your talent = money.

    I could go into Architects/QA resources etc but its even more subjective.

    Again, don't worry about the job title, just learn what you love and a recruiter or employer will issue the relevant job title.

    * Don't start out being freelance, join a company and learn from people for a bit first. I won't start a flame war as to why.
  10. villicodelirant, Nov 21, 2015
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2015

    villicodelirant macrumors 6502


    Aug 3, 2011
    I'm sorry, if it's not too much of a hassle would please explain why you are accusing me of being "arrogant" for suggesting the seemingly tautological fact that
    - getting an education is a good idea
    and that
    - good jobs (as opposed to "disposable code monkey") require one?

    P.S.: I said I offered some of the best advice (which follows from it being tautological), not the best advice.
  11. raison macrumors member


    Nov 13, 2009
    Hey OP, I live in Los Angeles too, I'm a web developer and want to go back to "regular" jobs, wanna trade lives? LOL

    But seriously, LA has a lot of good web development jobs, you can start as an intern at a startup. Santa Monica always has a lot of companies hiring, so you're in a good location.

    You can join some Meetup groups and get to know people, there are usually people who no knowledge to professionals working on the field, it's a good way to start networking.
  12. iPaintCode macrumors regular


    Jun 24, 2012
    Metro Detroit
    What I would recommend is you go fierce in the "Trial and Error" department and don't worry about being the ninja developer all these jobs put in their requirements. The most important part is finding your mojo about how you sponge in the stuff you're learning. Some are book readers, some are videos, some tutorials etc..., everyone learns different and you have to find your stride. The best advice is to stay be hungry and experiment, don't worry about being a coder who knows every design pattern or how to abstract for the sake of abstraction, do it because it's what you love to do.

    Meetup groups are helpful to learn new topics but you're much better off signing up for a GitHub account and putting up your experiments there (not verbatim code from tutorials or videos). It's important you do the things you enjoy, do you like the visual aspect? or do you enjoy the server side of development. Once you decide if you prefer the Front-End or Backend you have to decide what languages get you pumped. If there was a secret sauce for making it someone would be a millionaire 5 times over, but in all honesty you have to find how you learn the most efficient and keeping it fun.

    If you don't love what you do, you're doing it wrong.
  13. villicodelirant macrumors 6502


    Aug 3, 2011
    Meh, I agree, in general, with the "if you don't love what you do you're doing it wrong" attitude, but this specific bit irks me a bit (no pun intended).

    Absorbing lots of patterns and understanding their motivations and applicability repays itself many times over when designing your own systems *and* understanding existing ones.

    I agree that there is a bit of excess hype around the pattern community, though.
  14. iPaintCode macrumors regular


    Jun 24, 2012
    Metro Detroit
    There should become a point where you start venturing into the world of design patterns. Of course as you start to get your bearings as a coder you should push to learn and understand these concepts. The current practice, especially in the JavaScript world, is an obsession that doubles as an oppression for growing as a developer. Looking at the mvc pattern, we've twisted and molded mvc, mvp, mvvm or just called it mv*, and that's not necessarily a bad thing but not something an aspiring developer should obsess over. It will pay off in time, but only when the time is right for said person. They should experiment, make mistakes where they can learn and grow from, not jump straight into the deep end.

    Learn the basics, respect the them and use them as building blocks to grow.
  15. villicodelirant macrumors 6502


    Aug 3, 2011
    Oh, well, I wasn't talking about the hipsters.
    Still, before designing your third or fourth system - and before deigning your first production system - you should at very least have read GoF and the Fowler pattern book cover to cover.

    Because they're just so useful (as in you are either gonna read them or reinvent, poorly, what's inside).
  16. iPaintCode macrumors regular


    Jun 24, 2012
    Metro Detroit
    Gang of Four is a great book but not a book I'd drop on an aspiring developer who's looking to jump into Front-End development. But that's where we won't see eye to eye though I respect your opinions, I just don't agree starting off as a design pattern elitist before you really understand writing native JavaScript. If were talking strictly CSS and HTML, GoF is a waste of time, there are much better resources to learn from.

    Virgo, check out, a lot of great digital books (free reads via web), best of luck.
  17. villicodelirant macrumors 6502


    Aug 3, 2011
    Well, I was of course talking about software design from a general viewpoint.
    If you are working strictly on the presentation layer with CSS + HTML there is absolutely nothing GoF is good for, you're right.
  18. Nitesh Pundhir macrumors newbie

    Nitesh Pundhir

    Nov 26, 2015
    I totally agree with you

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