I was never quite sure what I wanted to do in college. I was pretty sure I wanted to be a rock star, until it was pointed out that I may actually want to make money at some point. So on to plan B. My older brother, a developer, told me a little about his job and I thought it sounded pretty cool. Per his advice, I downloaded a text editor and decided to try to make my computer screen say “Hello, World!” a program that is considered to be simple in most programming languages. 

It took a while. I knew I had a lot to learn. 

I enrolled in a community college to study Web and Multimedia Design. We learned about UX, design, and audio/video production. I was intrigued. Right away, I knew that I wanted to work in the digital world. The problem? In my major, there were only two web development courses — and the first course didn’t even teach responsive design. 

While these two courses laid the groundwork for my career, they were by no means enough to set me up for a successful career in web development. 

I don’t see anyone getting a job right out of college without doing some of their own research and learning. I decided to take learning the ins and outs of web development into my own hands. Here’s what I did, and you can too: 

1. Join online communities

Whenever you’re working on a problem and you can’t figure out the solution, there’s a good chance you’re not the first person who has run into this problem. Online communities help developers find solutions from all over the world. I learned the most from Codepen, an online community where developers and designers show off some of their amazing creations and interesting code solutions. Stack Overflow is also super handy for the development community. If you ever Google a question about a development problem, 9 out of 10 times you will see a link to a Stack Overflow Q&A. 

2. Attend meetups

Meetups is exactly what it sounds like — an online platform for attending meetups, and there are no shortages of options for developers (including virtual ones). I didn’t attend meetups until I started working for Ample, but I wish I had known about them sooner. They’re a great way to get involved in your local dev community and learn about a new topic or technology. You can also get involved in “hackathons,” where developers and designers collaborate on a project together. 

3. Practice coding

At one point in my college career, I had a semester where I had a 3-4 hour gap in between classes. I took that time to build random websites (even though I probably should have been working on an English paper). These little websites I made in my free time set me apart from my classmates. 

There are also so many great resources like Code Academy and freeCodeCamp that can help you get a hold of a skill like Javascript or React. If you are ready to dive in and start your career fast you could look into a bootcamp. Bootcamps are fast and intense training programs that teach students to be job-ready and exposes them to real-world scenarios. A fellow Ample developer did Prime Digital Academy in Minneapolis and recommends it highly. While on-campus bootcamps might be on hold in 2020, there are plenty of online bootcamps too, like Thinkful.

4. Be continuously learning

The tech industry moves fast, so if you intend to work in it, you must be prepared for continuously learning. There are many developer podcasts that will keep you in the know and can be game changing to your career. I love the Front End Happy Hour podcast because there are a couple episodes geared towards junior developers, which is helpful to someone early on in their career like me. In the podcast, you hear from developers from big companies like Netflix, Twitch, and Atlassian. Other popular developer podcasts include Syntax and Shoptalk Show.

5. Find an internship that will learn with you

Tutorials, college, bootcamps, and self learning are great and all, but I know from experience that you’ll learn so much more in a real life job scenario. When seeking an internship, you’ll want to make sure that the company has a growth plan and truly wants to teach you (hint: not all of them do). I’ve seen a lot of people go to internship programs only to be handed lots of grunt work without the opportunity to learn much at all.  

When I began interning at Ample, my supervisor started me out with a very expensive client’s Google Tag Manager. At the time, I thought to myself, “This is SO boring. Why am I not coding?” But once I showed my worth in that small task, I was given a task to build a new micro site for a client. I’ve been kicking ass ever since. 

I’ve come a long way since making “Hello, World!” appear on my screen. I’m still using the knowledge I got from that first “boring” project today.. and I didn’t even have to give up the rock star dream — I shred code during business hours, and guitar in my time off. Becoming a developer is no simple task, but I can attest that everyone starts somewhere. It’s up to you to find your success. 

I found mine at Ample. They took a chance on me as an intern, and today I’m a full-time web developer. Want to learn more about Ample’s careers? Check out our careers page or contact us with questions today.

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