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By Aisha Gaines, Practicum Student 

Though the road to becoming a web developer is rewarding, it can be pretty rocky. With so many routes available, creating a plan for success can prove difficult and overwhelming. And just when it feels like you’re getting the hang of things, you find yourself struggling to apply your newfound skills to projects. But guess what? That feeling is only temporary. I have a few tips that can transform how you study and learn. Follow them and your web development journey will surely take a turn for the better!

Step one: Create a coding schedule (HIGHLY RECOMMEND!)

The most basic, but very necessary, step in breaking into web development is creating a consistent schedule. We are busy, life is busy, everyone is busy. So, create a schedule that works for you. Choose specific days and times when you plan to work on Practicum material, personal projects, and general coding practice. Add these days and times to your calendar, just like you would a friend’s birthday party! If you are anything like me, a person who writes events in their calendar and then forgets about them, do not be afraid to set an alarm for your scheduled study times! Sticking to a schedule has been one of the most beneficial steps in improving my web development journey.

Step two: Stop watching tutorials

No, I mean it. Stop watching video tutorials for your own sake. When it comes to web development, learning isn’t done through watching videos, it is done through action. It’s quite simple to watch a tutorial and think you “get it”. However, that isn’t always the case when it’s time to use the new programming concept. Watching a tutorial and simply moving on to the next subject will stifle the programming progress. Instead, after you’ve been introduced to a new concept, practice it! Don’t jump straight into watching a video because the reading material or code was too difficult to understand. Try these steps instead:

  1. Open up your IDE (Visual Studio Code, Atom, etc). 
  2. Follow and type out the code in the reading material, similar to writing notes. Attempt to understand what is being done with the code, and even describe it out loud if you need to. 
  3. After you feel more comfortable with the material, create something or write a few simple lines of code that include this new coding knowledge. It doesn’t matter what you create and it doesn't need to be intricate. 

The goal is to work with the new concepts in order to gain a solid understanding. Doing this after being introduced to something new will make you a coding genius in far less time than scrolling through YouTube tutorials all day.

Step three: Reach out!

Okay… I understand some people are visual learners, myself included. If you’ve already attempted Step two and are still having a hard time, don't be afraid to reach out to a current or former Practicum student, mentor, or tutor!There are some pretty amazing people who are always ready to help.The best part? Many don’t mind jumping on a Slack or Zoom call to walk you through whatever you are struggling with. Not only do you get to satisfy your need for a visual learning experience, but this person will also be able to guide you through your specific questions. It’s also awesome to be able to ask questions while you’re getting help.

I also want to remind you that Pair Programming and Web Co-Working Hours are very helpful for ANY questions, tips, or assistance you may need.

Step four: Join a coding challenge

Don’t be afraid to join a coding challenge. Coding challenges are a good way to revisit older lessons from the Practicum platform (For example, I started the 100 Days of Code challenge!) There are only two rules:

1. Code for one hour a day for 100 days.

 2. Tweet your progress every day using their hashtag. 

My approach was to go back to the very beginning of my Practicum course and code for one hour a day for every concept we studied. This is a perfect time to brush up on areas you haven’t visited in a while, and great for creating mini side projects! Another reason why I really enjoy this challenge? There are many others doing it with you. It is an excellent way to expand your network and see what others are working on.

Until next time

I hope these few tips were helpful and that you are as excited as I am to continue on this web development journey. There is so much to learn and many paths to take in this field, and I wish you the best of luck!

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