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How to Become a Front End Developer (Pt. 3)

How to Become a ...

Matthew W.
Front End Developer

Want to know what advice a self-taught front end developer has to offer? Then check out this week’s interview with Matthew W.

He’ll let you know how he got to be great at what he does as well as advice for up and coming developers.

How did you start coding and what was the first language you learned?

I started coding around 2002. I first learned HTML and Javascript, but I feel Actionscript was the language that allowed me to become a really good front end developer.

If someone wanted to learn to code, what would your one piece of advice be to get them started?

Really look at your goals and find a language that allows you to learn how to do things in the space that you’re most excited about. If you are a creative/designer type, then choose something that allows you to express yourself in that way.

Next, there is no magic to it.... I say just start building. Come up with something simple that you would like to work on. Even if it's just something like drawing shapes on the screen with code.

Search for resources online that will help you learn the basics of the language. There are tons of resources out there. I am a very visual person and I like to watch someone explain the language to me, so my first stop is to search for video tutorials on that language. Finally, I just start building stuff. Even if it's just calculating 2+2. Start simple and work your way into the language that way.

It might not work right out of the gate, but that’s okay. I like to tell people who are learning programing that what I do all day long is start with functionality and then to keep changing things until it works.

How do you network/meet other developers?

I use Twitter. Search for people who are coding in the languages you are most interested in and just start talking to them. I also attend local user groups. I even started a user group years ago because there wasn't one in my town for the language I was most interested in.

Also, be on the look out for local developer events. Companies in your town throw events all the time. You can also search Twitter for this kind of thing.

As a developer, what resource do you rely on the most to do your job?

My first stop is usually Google. I even use it to help search API docs. If that doesn't yield what I'm looking for, I usually hit up my developer friends on Twitter and Stack Overflow. Also YouTube is a great place to search for quick little tutorials on how to program functionality on certain platforms.

How often do clients request or expect you to have design skills (and how do you feel about it?)

Often clients get confused and think that because you’re a UI developer, you must be great at using Photoshop, too. It doesn't bother me one bit. In fact it gives me an opportunity to educate clients about the development process and how I can best help them.

Agency vs. corporate environment for development, what are the pros and cons?

More often than not, I work for small startups and agencies. I've done a few corporate gigs as well, but I prefer the agency and small startups.

In my experience, agencies and small companies tend to allow you a little more freedom to be creative and corporate jobs usually do not. But as far as pay goes, you usually get a better wages working on the large corporate jobs.

What do think the biggest front end development trend will be in 2014?

I think we’ll continue to see more and more rich web applications with HTML and Javascript. Also, innovations around the mobile space will continue to trend upward. We are only scratching the surface of mobile UI development at this point.

Thanks again to Matthew for taking the time to share his knowledge with everyone.

If you’re curious to know what a FED job description looks like, check our Quick Hire page.

And when you’re ready to get a front end development job or find your own front end developer, be sure to connect with a Vitamin T agent.

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