How to become a web developer in a few easy steps
April 29, 2019
For those not in the field, a web developer (also sometimes called a front-end developer) is a person who builds the part of a website that a user sees when they open their browser. This includes the text, images, colors, layout and interactions on a webpage.

So, where do developers come from…? Are you wondering how you can become one? We’re here to help!

Hello, my name is Rachel and I’m a Senior Software Engineer here at Vulcan. I’ve been a developer for 9 years, and in my current role, I work on a project called Skylight which is a web application focused on increasing ocean transparency and enabling customers to identify suspicious behavior, like illegal fishing. In my day to day, I typically write code in JavaScript, Python, HTML and CSS to build out new features, fix bugs and prototype new ideas.

Sounds fancy, did you need like 10 years of schooling for that??

Try less than one year! Now, co-workers, don’t be alarmed, I do, in fact know what I’m doing, I just learned the majority of it on the job. And as this is my second career, it’s actually entirely unrelated to my undergraduate degree which was in Creative Writing. I spent my 20s working in non-profit jobs.  In my early 30’s, as a hobby, I started working on a project to build a website that showed how all the local bands in Seattle were connected. Thanks to some evening classes at Seattle Central Community College I learned HTML, CSS, JavaScript and PHP, and in about 6 months I was eager and excited to try out my new skills. I started making not very good websites for my friends’ bands and businesses. I wrote every advertising agency in Seattle seeing if they would accept a part-time intern. One, amazingly, wrote me back, and I spent the next few months frantically learning on the job. It was amazing, and terrifying. I immediately realized how little I knew and spent my evenings and weekends furiously catching up using online resources.

Slowly I started getting better and moved on to temp work as a web developer at different companies, growing my skills and confidence, and eventually landing a full time job. I couldn’t believe it.

Wow, what a weird way to become a developer!

Not really. My story is actually pretty common in this field. According to the 2018 Stack Overflow Developer Survey  only 50% of professional developers have a degree in computer science (2% of those are in web development). So how did the other 50% end up where they are? Well, in similar paths as myself. 78% are self-taught and 10% participated in a bootcamp or online training course. 

In fact, the only part of my story that’s weird is that I identify as a woman. That same survey shows that 93% of developers are male. In my entire career as a web developer only once have I worked on a team with another developer identifying as a woman. Likewise 74% of people surveyed identified as white and 93% identified as straight. 

So what’s going on here?

The American Association of University Women (AAMA) has studied the issue and found that it’s multifaceted and caused by everything from conscious stereotypes to implicit bias to the cultures of STEM related departments in schools and businesses. Thankfully things are starting to change, there’s a wealth of STEM programs encouraging young women and people of color to participate, and many companies like Vulcan are embracing a DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) programs to ensure their hiring practices and culture encourage and support diversity. 

Sounds awesome, I don’t know anything about coding, how can I learn more?

Any of these steps would get you in the right direction:
  1. Take free online classes (a quick google will yield dozens but here’s a few I’ve liked)
    1. Code Academy: https://www.codecademy.com/ (HTML, JS, CSS, Python)
    2. MIT Open Courseware: https://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm
    3. Code.org: https://www.girlswhocode.com
  2. Sign up for a community college class on the evenings or weekends
  3. Attend local development conferences and Meetups. There’s hundreds, but here’s a few great ones:
    1. Women who code: https://www.womenwhocode.com
    2. Py ladies: https://www.pyladies.com
    3. Black girls code: http://www.blackgirlscode.com/
  4. Sign up for a coding bootcamps - You can find them ranging from 3 months to a year and they’ll get you set up for an entry level job in the field
  5. DIY!  Make a website for your friend’s business or band.
Interested in reading more about our work at Vulcan? Check out more of the blog, and visit Vulcan.com.
 
About the Author
Rachel R.
Senior Software Engineer
Rachel is a Software Engineer based in Seattle, WA. She is also a sometimes local musician, gardener and co-founder of the Seattle Band Map.

Category Tags
Engineering Culture
Women in STEM
About the Author
Rachel R.
Senior Software Engineer
Rachel is a Software Engineer based in Seattle, WA. She is also a sometimes local musician, gardener and co-founder of the Seattle Band Map.

Category Tags
Engineering Culture
Women in STEM
Build a better future
Working at Vulcan