How do you jump start a career in front-end development? And what are some of the things you should know before working in the field?
Nathan Gell (above right) recently joined iconic ad agency J. Walter Thompson as a junior front-end developer in its Melbourne office. Although his background is actually in marketing, he quickly discovered his passion lay elsewhere – coding. After returning to school to study it, he landed his dream first job at JWT. Here’s what Nathan’s learnt about the industry so far. Some of his insights might surprise you.
Expect the unexpected
Say the word ‘development’ and chances are you’ll think of a team pitching on big website builds. In reality, roles can be incredibly versatile. So be prepared to be flexible. In Nathan’s case, he mostly works on a string of small, day-to-day projects. These include coding HTML banner ads, building eDMs, and working with creative teams to solve digital problems. The fast turnaround allows him to work on diverse projects – and pick up fantastic skills along the way. “I haven’t yet had a big website build, which I guess would be different if you were working at a digital agency or brand,” Nathan explains.
Get your creative juices going
OK, time to bust another myth now. Being a front end developer is not about being a tech geek. In fact, it’s highly creative. It’s about design and offering users an amazing, memorable experience. Whether it’s exploring new tools, technology, plugins or language, you’ll be learning new things every day. You’ll also probably work with a host of other creative minds to bring ideas to life in the online space. “The creative team will give us their ideas on how they want an animation or banner to look. We work together to deliver the final product,” says Nathan. The upshot is if you’re naturally curious, front end development might be the perfect job for you.
Stay on top of your game
It takes a certain personality to master development. Be prepared to learn quickly and be open to new things – all the time. You need to have an out-of-the-box approach to problem-solving. To keep his industry knowledge fresh and on point, Nathan goes to several meet-ups a month. He also enjoys listening to podcasts. In his spare time, he builds products and programs as his creative outlet. “I enjoy it. My hobby is programming.” At the end of the day, do what works for you.
A short cut to success
It’s not always easy to make a career change into development. For a speedy way in, you can try an intense boot camp (for developers). Nathan says: “If you want to do it in a couple of months, boot camp is very good because they teach you a lot in a short amount of time. One of my friends just finished a boot camp and she was successful in getting a job.” For a more leisurely approach, you can put yourself through an online course, once you’ve sifted through the maze of content out there to choose a quality offering.
Plan a few steps ahead
Have you thought about your next career move – and how you’d like to grow into that role? While you might be loving your current position and have no intention of leaving it, it’s smart to look at the big picture. Keep building your skills so you can make a fluid transition. Nathan has mapped out a very clear line for himself. “In the future, I’d like to be a full stack developer, so working on the front end and back end. The front end allows me to be very creative visually. But the back end is where the real code happens. So that’s my end goal,” he says.