Things I learnt in my first year of Programming, by Alex

Me (Alex)

A year ago, I started my journey to becoming a full stack web developer with ZDEV on their early version of the Function Camp course . I had always had a fascination with what you could do with computers, and for whatever reason I felt writing code for a living would be pretty exciting.

So I knew I wanted to be a developer and although I had some preconceived ideas of what that meant, in reality I had no idea.

Over the six months that I trained to be a developer, and the following six I spent working on client projects, I came to realise some truths about life as a developer. I would like to share these with anyone who is thinking of training with Function Camp to give an insight as to what being a developer is.

You don't have to be a maths genius

This was a big one for me. I really hate maths, and I was pretty sure that my failure to listen to the teachers drone on about quadratic formulas, integration and differentiation and whatever else would be a downfall in programming.

In reality, the most complicated calculations I’ve ever done are things like finding the average of a set of numbers, and even those tasks are achieved with code that someone has already written and provided online (there’s no point re-inventing the wheel!). I soon realised the real key skill in becoming a good developer is being able to look at a task and visualise how it should be built. Keeping calm and thinking logically when something doesn’t work is vital, and in the early days is a lot of the time!

Writing code is a creative endevour

At the start of my development career I made the mistake of thinking that writing code was like mathematics, with one and only one correct answer. In reality, I found there are a million different ways to get a task done with code, and my job involved finding the best solution by being creative with the tools I have.

Writing code is a lot like drawing a picture. I start with a sketch, roughly writing the code that I think will work. Then I take a step back and say “that doesn’t look quite right”, make a few changes and rinse and repeat until I am happy. Then I pass my code on to be reviewed by a second, more experienced pair of eyes, who will look over it and make a suggestions as to how to make the final code even more polished.

It would have been impossible on my own

I tried a couple of times to get into coding on my own before training with Function Camp, and failed. Each time I would be starting learning an exciting new technology, then I’d hit a problem that I just couldn’t fix and that would be the end of that.

A lot of my problems could be resolved with Google, but for the times that I hit a wall I needed someone who had already climbed the same wall to throw me a rope. That’s where ZDEV came in, and I know that without having that person on hand 24/7 to help with any issues, I probably wouldn’t have got over the first obstacle.

I take my hat off to any person that can train themselves to be a top shelf developer with no assistance, but for me and most people the guiding hand of experience is a must.

Being a developer brings happiness

Working as a developer day to day is great fun. I tried to think about why this is and for me it boils down to two main things: variety and self-worth. I put variety first, as I believe that doing something different everyday and stimulating your brain is the key to enjoying work. I’ve worked plenty of repetitive jobs, and knowing I would have to do the same thing today, tomorrow and indefinitely into the future was crushing. As a developer I do something different every single day, and there are are always opportunities to learn new skills.

A desire for self worth and importance is as innate in you and me as the desire for food and drink. I’ve found that being a developer fulfills this desire, as I see projects go from nothing more than an empty folder to a fully blown application and sit back and say “I did that”. Seeing the actual difference that my work makes everyday gives me the best feeling, and I look forward to every single day that I am working.

You have to celebrate every victory

As a developer I get given some pretty big tasks to accomplish. To begin with these tasks were pretty terrifying, but I found that breaking them down into smaller tasks made them far more achievable. I spent the first few months looking at the big tasks, thinking ‘’Why isn’t this done yet?’ and only feeling accomplished when they were done.

After about 7 months I learnt that this was the wrong attitude, and if I had a time machine I would go back and tell myself to take joy and pride in every little achievement, no matter how small.

This may seem like a waste of the ability to time travel, but this concept is so important to the happy existence of a developer, as only worrying about the bigger picture will result in hating the task from start to finish.

Good Googling is a skill

I’d bet that 99% of code problems have an answer somewhere online. The problem is finding them, and that takes good Googling. I was taught during the course to ask Google questions like you would ask your Grandma (or a non-technical person for those with tech-loving Grandmothers). This turned out to be one of my most valuable tools as a developer, as I always have problems that need solving, and being able to diagnose the problem and find useful resources on the issue is at least 50% of the battle.

Think you can be a developer like Alex? Apply to Function Camp and change your career in 6 months.

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