Preparing for Your New Career in Development: Where to Start?

So, you've made the decision to start a career in software development - exciting! Whether it’s your first career or you’re changing from another path, you have an important choice to make. Where to start?

Written by Nology Team - 03.06.20

Beginning the process of learning to code can be a daunting decision due to the abundance of different technologies out there spanning frontend, backend, UX/UI, DevOps, Testing and more...

Shea Murphy, Software Development Coach at _nology, shares his thoughts about the best route for you to take while building your skillset as a software developer.

Start with the basics: HTML and CSS

If you’re completely new to coding and don’t have a background in computing (don’t panic as you’re in good company with many accomplished devs these days), then the basic languages of the web are the ideal starting point. 

Picking up HTML and CSS will allow you to start building and styling web page content and both have a more gradual learning curve than most programming languages. It also means you’ll have visual output for the code you’ve produced, allowing you to easily validate whether the code is working and providing job satisfaction for the hard graft you’ve put in. There’s nothing better than looking at a slick, well designed page you’ve built as a direct result of the time you’ve invested in learning new syntax and concepts.

Bring your website to life!

Once you have your website looking nice on your computer, it’s time to get it up and running online so you can show it off to the world. This is a lot easier than it sounds and can be done following simple online tutorials. Even the hosting can be free if you are flexible on where your site lives.

Add some interactivity

Now your masterpiece is on the web and the next step is to make it interactive. This provides the perfect opportunity to learn your first programming language, JavaScript (JS). There’s a number of benefits to learning JS before other programming languages. The syntax is very logical and readable and JS is everywhere. It’s in web pages, native mobile phone apps and even self-driving cars. It’s also hugely popular in the industry for both frontend and backend development. Once again the learning curve is not as steep as many other programming languages as JS requires less configuration and compilation to run than say Java or C#. This means once you’ve made the effort to get your head around some of the basics you can just layer it onto your HTML and watch that menu open/close all day long. 

Test your code

If you can learn to program you can learn to test your code. Testing is a particularly sought after skill nowadays and so this list wouldn’t be complete without it. If you want to know why I think testing is so important I’ve written another blog on the topic, which you can read here.

With some well tested, functional frontend applications in your portfolio you’re well on your way to your first dev role. However, without data persistence how is the user supposed to save their high score on that browser game you’ve knocked up, or keep their favourite recipes in their personal cookbook? That’s why the next step is to build a working knowledge of some simple databases and authentication. This will take your app to the next level allowing users to sign in and maintain their interactions across devices or when they leave and return to the site.

Integrate backend functionality

The final piece of the puzzle is to get confident with APIs (application programming interfaces). APIs handle communication between two systems or applications. They manage the conversation between your browser game and the database of high scores. Learning to send/receive data from an API, and even better to build one yourself (yet another use of JS) will help you stand out from the crowd when applying for jobs.

The languages and concepts I’ve mentioned above are in my opinion the best route into software development, both in terms of feasibility for coding novices to learn and in terms of demand from the industry. With these combined technologies and skills you’ll make a valuable addition to any dev team and can build well rounded applications from top to bottom. 

At _nology, we run a 12 Week Software Developer Course that equips you with all of the above and more. You can read a detailed syllabus here. This syllabus is the result of many long discussions amongst our technical and business partnerships teams and employers from the industry to make sure our trainees start their careers ahead of the curve. 

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