How to become a developer: A beginner’s guide
Seven stepping stones to building a successful career in development
It’s a pretty good time to become a developer – everywhere you look the world is getting smarter and companies are pouring resources into their digital offerings. Whether it’s creating well-designed, user-friendly websites, incorporating emerging technologies such as AI or venturing into the ever-more complex and sophisticated world of video game development, the job opportunities for developers are huge.
And the events of the last year or so have only fast-tracked digital transformation. According to Dell’s Digital Transformation Index 2020, a survey of more than 4000 business leaders across the globe, eight out of ten organisations accelerated their digital transformation programmes in 2020.
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Mobile, in particular, is a huge area of growth, with 218 billion app downloads recorded in 2020, compared to 178.1 billion in 2017. With all of this growth set to continue, now is a smart time to embark on a career as a developer. So, what does a developer actually do? And how do you get started on this career path?
A day in the life of a developer
On a typical workday, developers wear many hats, but, because they also write code, they’re programmers before anything else. However, the bulk of their job lies in designing software architecture for commercial products and services.
From planning stages to implementation, developers supervise the entire software or web development process. They work closely with programmers, leading and instructing them on the programming languages to use for building an application.
Directing testing procedures, updating product documentation and customizing off-the-rack computer programs are other important aspects of this role. Post-deployment, it’s a developer’s goal to ensure the program continues to function unerringly and pass feedback to the programmers along the way.
How to get hired as a developer
Now that you understand the finer details of the craft, let’s cover the seven steps to becoming a developer.
1. Pick a niche
The road to becoming a developer begins with selecting a niche.
There are plenty of options to choose from, so we broke down the various types of developers you’ll see more often and a bit about what they do to help you make an informed choice.
- Frontend web developer: Builds user interface, aesthetics and layouts of a website — basically everything a user sees and interacts with on a webpage.
- Backend web developer: Maps websites to corresponding servers and databases by devising a functional logic between them.
- Full-stack web developer: Plays the role of both frontend and backend developer
- Mobile developer: Optimizes applications for mobile devices and possesses an intricate knowledge of iOS and Android operating systems
- Game developer: Designs and implements interactive gaming experiences on iOS and Android platforms
- Application developer: Creates custom applications suited for computers, mobile phones, and tablets
One thing is evident: No two developer roles are the same. This is also why two developers may learn different programming languages. Besides, a big part of selecting a programming language to learn is acknowledging the use-case of it.
For example, Python is an excellent choice for web development, but the same isn’t true for mobile computing.
Once you have your preferred niche in place, you can move to the next step: learning.
2. Learn to code
There are a few ways to learn how to code.
The traditional way would be to get an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in software engineering or computer science.
An associate’s degree program can offer you basic education in computer programming, and it takes as few as two years to complete. A bachelor’s degree, on the other hand, takes four years but gives you all of the skills you need in the field and a deeper understanding of other subjects, including information technology, database systems and network administration.
That said, heading back to college may not be a viable option if you already have a degree in another field. This brings us to the nontraditional way of learning: Enrolling in a coding boot camp. Boot camps are short, intensive training programs offering hands-on learning for select programming languages.
Depending on the program structure, a camp can last several months, and you get a certificate in the end. Many companies hire boot camp graduates along with college graduates, making boot camps worthwhile alternatives to classroom learning.
3. Prepare to learn new skills
Technology is always evolving and so are coding techniques. Be prepared to remain on top of developments in the development space and broaden your skill set. This is a crucial supplement to your education and background knowledge of the subject.
Luckily, there are certification programs to help you on the way. Here’s a checklist of developer certifications you don't want to miss:
- Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer
- Cloudera CCA175 Spark and Hadoop Developer Certification
- Amazon Web Services (AWS) Certified Developer – Associate
- SAP Certified Development Associate
4. Join a community
Online communities are great for networking and connecting with like-minded individuals. StackOverflow, GitHub and CodeProject are popular forums for starting a discussion, sharing solutions and asking for help when you’re stuck on a line of code.
Consider them the social media of computer science where you can make valuable contacts while learning.
If you aspire to move out of the virtual realm for a change, opt for meetups and technical conferences. Better yet, participate in hackathons and coding fests with your code buddies and see who wins the challenge.
5. Get creative
Put your skills to test by building personal projects from the ground up. It could be a chatbot, a game or anything that challenges your mind. Once you complete a project, share the finished code with a coding network or community for constructive feedback and comments.
Recreating existing projects and adding your own twist to them is beneficial as well.
6. Learn more as an intern
Nothing beats the experience of solving a real-world business problem as an intern. Because many internships are part-time, you can continue your education or regular job while picking up these valuable skills.
7. Make a stellar portfolio
How do you stand out from tens of thousands of applicants applying for the same jobs you are? The answer lies in a portfolio.
A portfolio, which is a compilation of documented work and projects, gives potential recruiters a look at your abilities, which may increase your chances of getting hired.
The way ahead
A developer is, first and foremost, a programmer and programming languages are the meat and potatoes of all things related to web and software. While there are many languages to choose from, start by selecting at least two. Python, Java, PHP and C# are some of the most in-demand programming languages.
As you master new languages, apply them to real-world problems to reinforce your skills and motivate yourself to keep learning.
One line at a time, code your way to the developer job you’re striving for.
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