My Journey Learning to Code: From Books and Bootcamp to UI Development
I'm new to this writing thing; spot the grammatical errors.
Hey, I'm Matt 👋 I've been a professional UI Developer for one year (coding for two) and I, like any developer worth their salt, barely know what I'm doing. So, I've been telling myself that I couldn't possibly be capable of blogging and sharing knowledge. What knowledge do I even possess? 🤷♂️
Lately, though, I've come to shed that thought and realize that I have experience, and that I'm passionate enough about UI to share my thoughts from time-to-time. So, I've come to the lovely Hashnode to put my introverted thoughts to the virtual page.
First, let me tell you a bit about myself and my journey.
About Me and Everything I Love 🎸
My wife's name is Shannon and she's the reason I brush my teeth in the morning (that's the saying, right?). She's an elementary school teacher as natural as they come, and way more caring and thoughtful than I'll ever be. We have a dog named Luna, a boxer/lab who started graying way too young.
Outside of coding, I love watching and talking about movies and television, and I really enjoy making food for people. Most of all, I grew up passionate about music, playing in bands , and drawn to the process of writing and producing. So much so that I spent my first two years of college studying music production. In the end I went with the "safe" choice that I probably wouldn't make now: a business degree.
About My Journey 🛵
Three years into my marketing career and I was unhappy and unfulfilled as ever. Commuting to a dull office, wasting gas and physical energy, surrounded by folks talking about improving ROI (whatever that means 😉). Interesting to some, of course, but it was never really my thing.
That's when I bought a book on coding. I studied HTML & CSS by Jon Duckett front-to-back before seeking out a more structured setting to learn the fundamentals of programming. I signed up for a six-month, full-stack, nights-and-weekends bootcamp soon after, and finished up in February of 2020 while working my 9-to-5. Bootcamps are not for everyone and certainly aren't required, but going to the bootcamp was the best decision I ever made. It's a "get out what you put in" sort of thing, and I got two Golden Ducks (see below).
After graduating I built a couple of small freelance sites, but knew that wasn't the path for me long-term. Ideally, I wanted to build software UI; something that became of interest to me while using (and nitpicking) platforms at my day job.
That opportunity came in August of 2020 when I was hired part-time to re-design the UI of a friend's recruiting software. When I told my peers in bootcamp that I wanted to learn PHP, they laughed. But it came in handy: this entire project was built with PHP and jQuery.
The opportunity buoyed me through the pandemic fall; I was still working my remote day job, and spent a lot of those days (shhh 🤫) reading up on how I was going to tackle a feature, just eager to get back to the UI work. I learned a lot quickly and on the fly.
I was actively looking for my first full-time junior role in March of 2021 when I was asked to interview through LinkedIn for a UI Developer role. A couple of weeks and a few conversations later I got a job offer! Was this real? It was, and I was terrified.
I felt like a fraud. I had never had a proper junior role. It stills feels odd! I couldn't shake the feeling that I missed out on a crucial experience, or that I didn't do it "right" and thus am not as good as others who did. But I've learned to let go of those anxieties as I've gained confidence over the past year. I've gotten comfortable feeling lost, and that's an important feeling for developers to be comfortable with.
My "Stack" 🥞
I know, I know; that's not a stack. But I really only dabble in the back-end. When I do it's usually in PHP and MySQL, but I have experience writing back-end code in Node/Express and MongoDB too.