Starting a career in Web Development: World Youth Skills Day 2019


Hi Jen! Thanks for chatting to me today. So, how did you decide that you wanted to be a developer?
I had next to no exposure to web development or any kind of software code at school and I wasn’t introduced to it by any family members. So I never knew that it would be something that I would like at that stage and I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I was 18, but I was pretty good at Maths and Sciences, so I knew I wanted to do a degree in something analytical, so I decided on Maths. I kind of imagined I would end up as an accountant or an analyst of some kind. But then in my second year of uni, we did an introduction to programming module and I loved it. It was in C++ and it was just an introduction to the basic concepts like variables, for loops and data structures. As I was finishing up my Maths masters in America and I was thinking about jobs, I knew I wanted to start a career in development.

And how did you get there?

I tried to teach myself some form of web development so that I wasn’t completely clueless when applying for jobs, as I’d barely had any practical experience. Then I got a job as a Support Engineer in another organisation, which was an entry-level role, and I started by solving bugs and problems in code and talking with the dev team. From there, I’ve just been learning more, and now I’m here as a Full Stack Developer at C3!

Do you think that more could be done to help young, aspiring developers? 

My school was quite unique for offering no qualifications. It was quite traditional in the sense that it focused on preparing students for careers like accountancy, banking and medicine. I’m hearing that these days, children are developing in primary and secondary schools, which is great! Otherwise, there are a lot of people I know that get into it as they have been introduced by family members or get really into gaming, so start to build an interest in having powerful computers. That was never really the case for me, so it just shows you can get into development in so many ways as long as you are interested!

What is the best thing about being a developer?

Being able to go through the logic and seeing something that you have been working on taking shape.

Now you’re in the world of work, what are good transferable skills to have as a developer, aside from the technical knowledge? 

Definitely problem solving and enjoying solving problems. So if you enjoy puzzles, crosswords and sudoku for example, then that suggests you might enjoy development because a lot of it is thinking ‘I want to turn this data into something. What’s the best way to do that?’. Also, being interested in the future and in innovation, because things are constantly changing. You won’t get bored easily because if you’re in this career, you’re unlikely to be doing the same thing for the rest of your life. This can definitely be the case with many careers, but this one in particular is certain to change regularly. There will always be a new thing to learn.

What does the future hold for you?

In the near future, I’ll still be doing exactly what I’m doing now. I love development! I know a lot of people definitely aspire to lead a team or lead a project, which would definitely be great, but right now I’m not itching to do that because I’m just enjoying this too much!


Hey Adam! So, have you always wanted to be a developer?

I wasn’t sure which area of programming I wanted to get into but I’d always wanted to get into it. At secondary school, I did take GCSE in IT, but this didn’t involve much web development. We were able to experiment a bit using an Adobe product called Dreamweaver, but this didn’t delve as deep as writing code. So I basically learnt everything I needed when I was at college, where I did a National Diploma, which wasn’t just programming, it was also ways of working like devops, databases and system flows. Web development was something I really enjoyed and I just picked it up quite quickly. When I was younger, I was really into creating web pages. I liked making them look nice and found the coding part of this a fun and exciting challenge.

What was the first site that you built?

The first site I built was just a very, very basic page. Nothing in comparison to what we create now! It was using basic HTML, CSS, Javascript and PHP. But then, I suppose the really big one that I made was when I was at University, where I made an online work submission website for coursework which was trying to replace the one that the University was currently using. And that was a year long project. That was lots of work, but so much fun!

What is the best thing about being a developer?

Having to think outside the box and a new challenge every day! I like creating things and when something goes wrong, I like investigating to find out why and what is the best logical way to fix it.

So it’s both creative and logical at the same time! That means there is a lot you can do?

Yeah, I think there is something for everyone. The thing is with web development and programming, it’s not all black and white. For example, you’ve got the frontend, where you can do things to focus more on the visual aspect. With backend development where you have PHP, you are more focused on structuring the site to get code in a more logical way and continuing to optimise. So there is a lot of variety, and every developer will have their own strengths and interests!

What kind of transferable skills do you need as a developer?

I think enthusiasm is one of the main skills you need. If you are interested in how things work, keen to learn and curious then that will serve you well in this job. Speaking about my own experience, Rob (Head of Development at C3) and I will just chat about how things have been done, just out of curiosity. That’s one thing I’m really keen on – collaboration and passing knowledge to others in the team. We always try and discuss our work with other developers to see what other ways there can be to do one thing.

What advice would you have for an aspiring developer?

My advice would be to start playing around with the various languages. Like I’ve mentioned today, you have HTML, Javascript, CSS and PHP, so just take a look online for tutorials on all of these languages and try and practise around on your laptop. Set something up like a blog, that’s always a good place to start. See if you like that and if it’s something you want to do. Something that I believe is lacking in education is knowledge of CMS systems, which is more commonly used in the workplace but not really taught in school or at University. So having an awareness of that would be a good idea before you start applying for jobs.

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