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A quest to become a front-end developer

A quest to become a front-end developer

By Liam Ablett

Hi, I’m Liam and I have been a Junior Front-End Web Developer here at twentysix for three months. I thought I’d share a little bit about my quest to become a front-end developer, how I came to work at twentysix and what I’ve learned since joining the team. 

Where it all began

I began self-teaching web development in late September 2018 and was quickly sucked into the world of HTML and CSS. I began with online learning websites like CodeCademy and FreeCodeCamp. I was glued to my screen, working through challenge after challenge until I had exhausted the sites and finally found myself on the daunting section of JavaScript – which I avoided. I continued trying to nail HTML and CSS; I loved styling and making something out of nothing, but JavaScript kept coming up. So, I went to Udemy, bought a course called ‘The Web Developer Bootcamp’ by Colt Steele and set to work. 8+ hours a day (sometimes forgetting food) 5 days a week. Again, I worked through video after video working alongside Colt and his adorable pets. I started again, relearning the basics of HTML, CSS and this time working through the mighty challenge of JavaScript. 

Fast Forward a few months and the course was coming to an end. Learning some NodeJS, Manipulating the DOM, bootstrap, jQuery and much more - everything had been covered and I had an overall understanding of what was needed to follow this career path. Or so I thought. I ventured out on my own, excited to apply my newfound knowledge. I picked a website template and sat in front of my code editor and began crafting an absolute masterpiece of a website. I joke of course. Well, kind of. The page looked good, a replica practically. (Just don’t resize the page or open it on another browser). 

I knew the basics and could put together a static page. I was even able to pause a video and apply code before Colt was able to speak, guessing what was about to be asked. I felt like a coding wizard. Despite being able to understand and eventually put together a responsive page, I often asked questions like: Where would you use this? Why do you use this? I couldn’t grasp how certain things would be used to in a real website. Building pages on my own, I never saw how Loops and Arrays were used. Everything was on ‘click do this’, which is fine, but I needed to understand where this was applied in the real world and how to utilise it properly. 

That’s where twentysix came in 

I already knew someone in the company and asked if they could enquire about work experience. They quickly responded and enthusiastically accepted, setting up a meeting to get to know me and what I wanted out of the month I would be working at the company. On my first day I sat beside the head of Front-end, Ryan Michael, and was given tasks to complete and live builds to look at. I was excited and nervous, feeling out of place and out of depth. I was given a blank canvas to play around with, feeling more nervous as my screen was exposed to the office around me. I changed a h1 to red. I flexed a couple of items. Someone would walk past and I swiftly reverted the changes hoping no one would see. I got anxious about not knowing enough despite being there to gain experience in the industry. I pulled Ryan to one side and spoke to him about feeling out of my depth. He reassured me and came up with a task to build a to-do list and walked me through things needed to achieve to get the list working. Which was great, and I was instantly at ease and comfortable experimenting and asking question about anything I didn’t know. I was told I could speak with any member of the front-end team and took full advantage to look over their shoulders and ask questions. Everyone was willing to help and explain any questions I had. Some questions were answered with, ‘I’m not sure’, and I saw google pop up on their screens. I paused and wondered why they didn’t know. I was told it’s impossible to know and keep everything stored in your head. If you know the basics and understand them, googling for a prompt here or there is perfectly okay. Relief, a weight lifted, and my confidence reinstated!

After, I was given some designs to work from and build. I was able to apply what I had learned and completed the task. A website build was given to me and I was asked to build a footer. Challenge accepted. The designs were loaded, and I went to work on it for my last two days. Completed. Responsive. Done. The last two weeks compared to the first two were polar opposites. Ryan and myself had seen improvement of my understanding of how things worked and my speed at which I was picking up on things. 

I asked the question

At the end of my work experience we had a meeting, and I asked the question (despite being told there were no job opportunities on the back end of my month there) were there any job opportunities? The response wasn’t what I expected. I was expecting something along the line of ‘continue learning, you’re not quite ready for a role in front-end, but take some time to improve.’ Instead I was met with: ‘If we had a position open for a junior role, I would hire you, I feel you’re an upper junior and would have no problem finding a job.’ I was shocked. I went home with a confidence boost, took what I learned from my work experience and built better pages.

Whilst continuing to learn I sought out and applied for a junior role elsewhere and was accepted for an interview. I got to the last stage, and on the morning of my final interview I got an email from Ryan asking how things were going. He said there was an opportunity for a junior role at twentysix. I cursed at the email, shaking my head but smiling at the same time. Of course, the opportunity is available now! I organised a meeting later that day with Ryan after attending my interview (which went well, and I later found out that I was accepted for that role). At my meeting with Ryan, he made it clear that this was a job offer and not an interview. In one day, I had two options to become what I had worked so hard for. Of course, I accepted the offer to return to twentysix. 

Life at twentysix

My first three months have been amazing. Before I started there was a plan of work progression laid out so there were no surprises coming into the role. I knew I wasn’t coming in to build the biggest site in the world on my own. I was instantly put on a project and talked through what I needed to do. It was mostly HTML and CSS, positioning elements to fit a static screen but it was a learning curve to work on such a unique project but also a good easing in task. It had quirks that I was told no other project had and google wouldn’t be my friend for things directly relating to the project. 

The team are friendly and patient, I can ask any question without feeling judged or embarrassed. I have since met over ten deadlines on multiple versions of the project. Despite it not being a massive e commerce site, I have learned more from continually working with the things I’m most comfortable with and building on those blocks and introducing the harder things gradually than I would have being thrown in the deep end and told to build a site from scratch. Ryan is willing to help me wherever he can and if he is unavailable, I can go to my assigned mentor Jamie or any other member of the team. Everyone is approachable and will take time to help me. I have so far had every resource I need to help me learn at the company and I feel there will be opportunities for me to grow and continue my career as a front-end web developer here at twentysix. I am grateful for the work experience in the beginning as that had opened doors that seemed otherwise closed. Even if the position at twentysix never opened I was still able to be confident enough to apply and progress through interviews and get offered a job.

I don’t think there would have ever been a good time to start a job in front end development. There’s too much to learn for there ever to be a good time. I think if you have a good understanding and willingness to continue to learn, there’s no harm in applying for a role in web development. So far twentysix have been welcoming, engaging and an easy-going place to work. I look forward coming to work and I am excited to work on larger projects, and I often find myself looking over people’s shoulders and feeling excited to work on the type of things they do in the near future. 

Take a look at our jobs page or get in touch to find out about our latest job opportunities. Don't forget, you can follow us on Instagram @twentysix_digital and use #lifeattwentysix to see what we get up to behind the scenes. 



The Author

Liam Ablett

Liam Ablett

Junior Front-End Developer

Liam works within our 10-strong front-end development team here at twentysix. He enjoys bringing designs to life online, paying particular attention to detail. He's constantly learning and finding new ways to improve and apply the best practices to his work.