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How to Become a Front End Developer (Pt. 5)

How to Become a ...

Susan R.
Front End Developer

Based out of Portland, Oregon, Susan says her favorite thing in the world is CSS and the fun she has making it modular, scalable, and compact.

So it’s probably not a surprise to learn why places like Editorially, The Nerdery, and The Regence Group loved having her on board.

Currently head of her own development company, we were ecstatic to have her pass on advice to anyone looking to get into front end development!

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

I went back to school to take a web design course at community college thinking I would go for the design part, but took HTML my first term and then taught myself CSS layout over the winter break. That was it, I loved the code a lot more than fiddling around in Photoshop.

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

Try and find other people who are learning as well. It's helpful to be in a community that's going through the same things you are and to be able to reach out if you need to bounce off some questions or share ideas. In Portland, we have a super vibrant Meetup community, but even if you can't do in-person Meetups where you are, try and find community online.

How do you network/meet other developers?

I've met so many great people through Twitter, probably due to the fact that I’m never afraid to ask questions or reply to anyone on there. It's also made it so much easier when I go to conferences—a lot of times I feel like I’m meeting people who I already know in some way, so that's been fun.

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

Hands down, Google. I use it to find answers for any type of problem I may be encountering. Usually Google leads me to Stack Overflow, but sometimes it may be an individual's site with a blog post on the topic. The community is so great and there is so much out there to learn. I love that about doing this job.

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

I actually don't get that request too often. But recently with my work on Editorially, we had a set design language and I was working so closely with the designer, that I would often style some things up and then just let the designer tweak it. I find that having a style guide and some set patterns is helpful to get work done quickly if you are iterating on a project.

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

Agency work is doing the work and then saying goodbye to it, in my experience. You don't get to iterate and keep making it better as you just pass it off. But you usually get to try new things more often, and they may be open to new technologies. In the corporate world you are usually iterating on something and the pace is slower, but you may have a hard time introducing a new technology, which can be frustrating. I think there are advantages and disadvantages to both of these situations.

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

There’s going to be quite a few, but the multi-device world is the trend I'm most interested in. I want to make sure people can get the content from the site or application I'm working on, no matter how they choose the access it. So I've been keeping my eyes on the progressive enhancement discussion along with how responsive web design can play a part in all of this. We are at the beginning of this, and it's starting to get really interesting to me.

What brands/companies are doing cool stuff right now from a front end development perspective?

I think Vox Media is doing interesting work with all their sites, but I keep an eye on The Verge. I also have been watching the BBC closely as they've been going through their responsive redesign and blogging about it. I think there's some really innovative work being done there to reach as many devices as possible, but also give people a great experience.

Thanks again to Susan for helping usher in the next generation of fantastic front end development talent!

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, be sure to connect with a Vitamin T agent.

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