How I learned Web Development

Published Nov 23, 2017Last updated May 21, 2018
How I learned Web Development

About me

After graduating college in 1999, I began my first career as a help desk technician and desktop support engineer, a career that I would stay in for almost 10 years.

After becoming a casualty of the 2009 recession, I began to teach myself web development. I didn't become a full-time web developer until 2015.

During the six year period between 2009 and 2015, I taught technology in an elementary school until I felt I was ready to take on web development full time

Why I wanted to learn web development

I had always loved to program as a hobby and throughout the early part of my career after college, I always wondered if I wasn't fulfilling my true passion. I always found myself coding small, fun little programs in C as a hobby. In college, any computer programming class that I ever took, was the only one that interested me.

How I approached learning web development

Being out of a job, I decided the best way to learn web development was to start immediately. I purchased my first book, "Web Development and Design Foundations (4th Edition)", by Terry Felke-Morris, and "Internet and World Wide Web - How to Program (3rd Edition)" by Deitel & Deitel. I chose these books because they seemed to have project-based exercises at the end of each chapter.

I used the Terry Felke-Morris to learn HTML4 and XHTML and basic principles of web design. I used the Deitel & Deitel book to learn DHTML, despite the fact it was already considered outdated in 2009 due to its unobtrusive nature. HTML5 was a working draft at this time. I wanted to have a solid understanding of the technologies that were considered out-dated, before coming up to date with the newer technologies. I also wanted to learn the history of web development as well.

Shortly after this period, in mid 2010, formed an LLC in the attempt to develop a portfolio for an eventual full-time position, I started building websites for small businesses and it was at this point that I really had a better understanding of these three languages.

Challenges I faced

The biggest challenges I faced, were being patient and not feeling the pressure being rushed to learn everything as quick as possible. After all, I was unemployed and had a lot to prove to myself.

I also faced social challenges. I was in a relationship that I began to ignore, due to my new found passion for web development and being in coffee shops all day long. I started to lose friends, I started to no longer exercise. None of this mattered, at least in the beginning of my journey.

From a coding perspective, I would forget or have to review syntax over and over again until I felt I was able to internalize everything as best as possible before beginning to take on more advanced concepts.

Key takeaways

I was fortunate to be in a position to learn on my own and sacrifice years of income. Hard work pays off. I had to grind it out for several years until I felt I was ready.

At times, I thought I would never make it and boy was I wrong. It is the story I now share with my students and try to use to inspire whoever I can — those who want to be web developers or anything else in life.

Tips and advice

Fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals. Can't stress it anymore than that. Unless you have a solid understanding of the basics, jumping into what's new today, Bootstrap, Node.js, Angular, React, etc, in my opinion, will shortchange you.

Not everyone has the time or opportunity that I had. However, a fraction of what I did is maybe all that you need to succeed. You also have to draw a line in the ```
sand and assess your current situation. Do you have months of time to dedicate to learning without working? Do you have a family? Can you afford a bootcamp? Can you wait until you apply, get accepted, and begin a bootcamp? Can you afford to get a degree in Web Development?

If you want to be a solid web developer, you need to put in the work and have a lot of patience.

Here is a list of my go to books that I feel are easy to understand, well written, and have been key contributors to my career. DISCLAIMER: THESE BOOKS ARE CONSIDERED OUTDATED.

  • Any book from the Deitel & Deitel series (my favorites).
  • Web Development and Design Foundations (any edition)", by Terry Felke-Morris. You can buy an older version and still obtain the skills necessary for success.
  • Professional: JavaScript® for Web Developers, Third Edition - Nicholas C. Zakas (in my opinion, best JavaScript book out there, even though it is outdated as far as ES6 is concerned. Still an amazing book).
  • PHP and MySQL by Example by Ellie Quigley (has significant amount of errata, is outdated, but one of my favorites for PHP).
  • Hour of Code
  • (get a membership, this is a must)
  • Codecademy
  • Treehouse
Discover and read more posts from Derek Bowers
get started