How I became a web developer from scratch

Emily is our Teaching Manager here at OpenClassrooms. You can recognize her from the Frontend web developer path. However, did you know that she actually studied art history before becoming a developer and teacher? Learn more about her journey below and get inspired to start your own!

  • How did you proceed to learn coding?

I floated around for a long time. I heard so much conflicting advice from experts who all suggested different ways of getting started. Some people suggested starting with pure programming languages, others with HTML and CSS, others with frameworks. I didn’t know what any of that meant at the time! Half the battle of learning to code is deciding where to even start. The sky’s the limit when you’re learning to code, which is both empowering and terrifying. I took a couple JavaScript courses online then looked at Ruby because Kickstarter (my employer at the time) used it, but I was frustrated because I didn’t understand the point of these programming languages. The results of my code learning didn’t look like web pages. They were, for example, mock calculators that you’d run from Terminal or lines of JavaScript you’d run in the browser console. These projects didn’t look like what I ultimately wanted to do: build web pages like the ones I access every day.

My learning accelerated when I focused only on HTML and CSS, the building blocks that make up a web page and the way it looks. It’s now my advice to any beginner that they start with these two languages. I remember building a simple page in HTML and CSS with a header and a paragraph, changing the font to Helvetica, and changing the background color to red. It was so simple, but it blew my mind because it looked like a web page.

From there, I started learning Ruby on Rails. This allowed me to add dynamic content and data (like users and blog posts) behind my silly little HTML and CSS pages. Once I crossed the hurtle of combining frontend and backend programming, real-life websites made much more sense. My learning accelerated again at this stage, and it hasn’t waned since!

Despite the difficulties I encountered when I started learning, I was able to push through the tough moments thanks to a support network of cool, helpful developers. Having a mentor is so helpful, and I wish I’d had one available to me every week like we offer on OpenClassrooms.

  • What would you recommend to someone learning from scratch like you did?

Remember that humans made computers, not the other way around. Everything that the all-star coders at Google and Facebook know, they had to learn. This means you can learn it too! Set small, incremental goals for yourself, and don’t compare yourself to those around you. Solicit advice from people you trust, but pave your own path. As the saying goes, the best day to start something would’ve been yesterday. The next best day to start is today. 🙂

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