Photo by Hanny Naibaho

Web Development Pathβ€Šβ€”β€ŠStart with Headphones

By: Timothy Hoang

October 10, 2017

Tags: Code Newbie, Code Beginner, Staying Focused, Self-Motivation

Introduction

Often, I find myself falling on and off the path of web development. I will have short bursts of inspiration to code certain weeks and then fall behind the next. This past week, I was working on the Wikipedia Viewer App from Free Code Camp curriculum but I was not getting the data from my API request to render onto the page. I got frustrated and decided to step back for a bit and focus on other topics. So I ended up reading You Don't Know JS - Book 1 by Kyle Simpson and taking ES6 for Everyone by Wes Bos. Going back to the learning process gave me a sense of control again away from the building process. I'm sure other aspiring developers can identify with this "hop-a-round-itis" and jumping around multiple topics. A lot of advice for newbie developers is to stick through the process and you will become better for it. That's certainly true but it is okay to take a break sometimes too to recollect yourself in the process. One other thing I have in my hands is controlling what I'm listening to (or not in some cases) when I'm coding. Take a step back and pick the courses you want to do, the songs you want to listen to, and where to focus your time. You have my permission to because coding is infinitely more fun if it is interesting.

My Unfinished Wikipedia App
Sometimes, I get frustrated too.

This article will be a mix of self-motivation, choosing the right path, and developing habits that will help you continue along that path. The first thing is to simply put your headphones (or earbuds) on and center yourself to your inner coding world. When I turn on some scores or uptempo music, I fade into a certain bliss and it becomes much easier to focus on coding. The mere act of putting your headphones on over and over again forces a habit. Your mind knows that you want it to go into "code mode" and it's a muscle that gets stronger the more you work it out. Except we're not doing any heavy weights here so relax. Choosing the songs to listen to is very similar to choosing the right courses: pick what you enjoy and works for you. The only recommendation is to have music with no lyrics. Nothing is worse than sticking with a course that you don't mesh well with especially with the teaching style, outdated examples, or lack of enjoyment. Then, the commitment becomes sticking to the process of coding every day and not so much about sticking with the same course if you don't enjoy it. Last, don't forget to share your resources with others. If you enjoy a song or a course, tell others about it. I'm sure they would benefit from it too!

Picking Your Courses

So start by putting on those headphones with some music you enjoy. For me, I especially enjoy coding to "The Island" soundtrack. I made a 30-min playlist which you can listen to when you work. I define the music as complex but inspiring with the last track making you feel like you made a triumphant return home (or made progress bashing away at the keyboard after 30 minutes, your pick)! When I turn this on to an optimal volume to block out the outside world, that's when I really zone in and try to bang it out for 30 minutes without any distractions. Knowing that after 30 minutes I can release myself, it makes it easier to get started. This is somewhat synonymous with the Pomodoro Technique for those who have not heard of it. Except here we are using music to time instead of using a clock, which gives me a teensy bit of temporal anxiety. Remember those days when you were taking a timed test in high school or college? Yes, so I don't like to watch clocks too much while I work for this reason.

My Coding Playlist
I enjoy coding to my playlist.

The same idea goes for choosing a course or path of web development. I'm sure you were lost in the mire of what path to learning the quickest. Choose what seems interesting to you and start doing it. The problem is now there are many resources online to learn development so choosing between them is a challenge in itself. It would be best to get started with something broad like Codecademy, which exposes you to HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Python, Ruby, etc. Try things out and don't get too invested into one specific language yet. Then you can move on to Free Code Camp to get deeper into front-end development. Further along your path, you end up deeper into the language and you find resources like Udacity, Udemy, Team Treehouse, Front End Masters, and the list goes on. The question is where is the best place to learn? Check to see if they have a free trial, check the reviews, and see what feels right for you. To be honest, there might be some courses from each website that are great and some that are not. Take Udemy for example, your course quality might vary but it's generally not bad to go with the bestsellers and ones that have good ratings with a lot of students. The goal here is to find something that you will keep coming back to and not necessarily the best course. It might not be the best course for you.

Sharing with Others

So now you have your playlist and courses already picked out and you're already hitting the ground running? That sounds great and you should pat yourself on the back. The challenge is now to do a little bit every day and making a strong habit. This is where the real people do work. Try in earnest to finish a course you enjoy. The best way to learn is by applying your knowledge to a project also. What really helps me is to find people who are also aspiring developers and talk to them about resources you have; be it good music or courses that you have taken. This helps sparks conversation and talk about issues on the topic. For example, when I was learning about asynchronous javascript request, I loved sharing with my friends about what I was learning and seeing what their experience was. Another time, they asked me if I enjoyed the Practical JavaScript course I took online.

Codeshare Website
We used codeshare.io but glitch works too!

Your friends might also want to be taking the same course with you. This is another way to get through the challenges together and make it more fun. I remember when I was code-sharing with my friend on codeshare.io. We were both working on the same algorithm challenge and using our collective knowledge to work through the problem together. It all started out because we were sharing about the challenges in the courses we were undertaking. Start some conversations with others and this will help open up communications for learning together, keeping you motivated, and helps you feel like you're fighting on the same side. It's like having a gym buddy to help spot you on that bench press. You might not need them but it's comforting to know that they can lend a hand when you're struggling. They also might need your extraordinary web development skills in the future too, amirite?

Maintaining Your Course Path

The further you wander down the rabbit hole, the more topics you will see in web development. If it was overwhelming in the beginning, now it seems that it's even worse. Don't worry! Just keep a log of what courses you did in a google document. You are doing that, aren't you? This will help build a roadmap for you and help point you the way you need to go. Working with the weather app from Free Code Camp Curriculum, I realized I had no experience with APIs and rendering data to HTML from JavaScript. So I referred back to my course path and saw that I had some resources lined up that might possibly help me in working through it. So you see that I'm not only keeping track of courses I have taken but also project the ones I want to take in the future. You and I both know that you have a stash of Udemy courses you bought and saved up for Web Development. Isn't it about time that you brought some life into them?

Udemy Courses
I know you got a bunch of these too.

From time to time, my music taste changes also. I made a couple playlists since "The Island" soundtrack and still come back to listen to it from time to time. I'm telling you it's okay to change paths because you simply can't see past the beginner's fog until you get closer and closer to where you need to go. That fork in the road? You couldn't see it 100 yards out but it is much easier to spot 15 yards away. So keep track of what you're learning and where you want to go. It will be easier to start driving in a new general direction once you've reached your first destination to start thinking about the next. Mark the old item on your list as complete to get them feel goods and then start heading towards the next course on your list.

My Coding Path
That google doc I was talking about.

Conclusion

Start with the things you have control over like putting on some headphones and music. Tell yourself you only have to code for 10 minutes. Once you get to 10 minutes, ask yourself if you can do 10 more minutes. Chances are you will say yes. You're already deep in the AJAX call, the momentum in your mind will actually urge you to continue. Trust me on this one. Time and time again, this has happened to me when I lost track of that initial 10 minutes and then never even bothered to ask myself to do 10 more. I just keep on going!

My Coding Headphones
How I start making magic.

Over time, the same music might get over-played so it's time to switch it up. Don't ever feel that you have to stick to one topic forever. Experiment a little bit and find new things that you like and keep going. Find new music and courses that you like. Along the way, map out where you are in your web development journey and take notes of the things you want to try in the future. The important thing today is that you put on those headphones and pop that music. Cheers to your success, my friend.

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About

My personal website to share my journey in travel and web development. I love meeting new people, learning about tech advances of the future, and sharing outdoor adventures.

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