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Advice for New Developers

August 25, 2018

This was originally written for my Girls Who Code class but still find it relevant for any developer regardless of experience level.

Becoming a developer can be a wildly fun and exciting journey but can often be frustrating when your code doesn’t work or don’t understand concepts right away. By taking your time, and with a lot perserverance, you can overcome anything.

These are some rules I try to live and work by when I’m coding.

1. Attitude

Having a continuous positive attitude will help you tremendously while learning web development. Web development in some ways can feel like a constant uphill battle as you are trying to understand concepts and just want your code to work and look the way you are envisioning. If you keep your head up and not get bogged down (it’s hard, I know), and if you keep trying, you will get over your obstacles!

2. Stay curious

Staying curious expands your knowledge and allows you to try and explore new things that you might end up falling in love with! Don’t be afraid to try new things, even if they scare you. Better yet, run towards it! Get wild!

3. Keep an open mind

Keeping an open mind relate closesly to the previous points of having a positive attitude and remaining curious. There is a trend in web development where developers will knock down some technology, methodology, etc. Keep an open mind to all of the technologies, they were created for reasons that may be unbeknownst to the haters.

4. Ask questions, and lots of them.

You will get stuck, no doubt. Get used to that feeling and ask questions when you’ve tried it all! Everyone has questions, from junior developers to senior. The day you stop asking questions is the day you stop growing.

5. Be kind

The web is dependent on people. If people aren’t kind on the internet it leads to disastrous and toxic enviornments which no one wants. Always be kind on the internet to your fellow developers. We’re all in this together, let’s have fun and build cool things!

6. Be resilient

Most of the time when you write code, there’s a huge chance it won’t work right out of the gate. This can make you feel dumb, incompetent, not fit for a developer, but these things happen to every developer. Be resilient to these setbacks of your code not working, it happens to EVERYONE. Be persistent, ask questions, patient, and you will get that code to work! Resilience helps developers not get bogged down when things don’t go their way. Keep at it, you can do it!

7. Write out concepts when you first learn them and once you get a grasp of them.

This will help you in cementing your new found knowledge. It could be immensely beneficial for you to create a blog and write out your thoughts on web development concepts. It’s impossible to remember all of the minute details of every topic, so it’s helpful to write them out so you can always go back when you will inevitably forget when you’re trying to remember what justify-content does on a flex-direction: column element. ;)

8. When in doubt, go outside

These times happen when you’re banging your head on the same problem for hours and hours, or even days. When you get to this point, you need to close your computer and walk straight outside. Go around the block, get a coffee or an ice cream to heal your wounds, meditate, go for a jog, go to a museum, do anything but look at the computer or think about a computer. Sometimes a 15 minute to a 15 hour break is all you need to get back and debug your problem. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve left the computer and then figured out the problem when I had a break from staring at the problem. It’s magic and necessary!

9. Be persistent

One of the quotes I read every day that hangs above my desk on my wall says:

“Continous effort — not strength or intelligence — is the key to unlocking our potential.” — Winston Churchill

Don’t give up. Some of the best developers in the industry cannot stop until they finish a project, or debug a problem, or learn a specific technology that they’ve been wanting to try out. Keep putting in the time and you will get better. Every hour you log in coding, whether you feel productive or not, is something and adds to your experience. There are times where you may feel you are spinning your wheels for hours and not getting a thing working at all (I’m looking at you, babel), though you feel like you’re not accomplishing anything, that painful time of trying to get your code to work, you are getting better and gaining experience. So, pat yourself on the back when you have nothing working and your computer somehow self combusted and the flames are spreading about the room. Everything is fine.

You’re doing great and getting experience, so keep it up! :D

That’s all I got for now, I hope you enjoyed these pieces of advice that I too have to remind myself of frequently.

Be well, and make cool things!