The demand for web developers by US businesses is expected to grow by 27% between 2014-2024. This growth rate far exceeds the average for all other occupations, making the front-end engineer one of the most sought after professionals around the world. But, have you ever stopped to think what goes into becoming a front-end developer? How you get started, what difficulties you might face, or even what a typical day will look like?
To find out, we went straight to the source. We sat down with three of our teammates, Kamil Kollman, Przemek Murawski and Filip Duczymiński to get the inside scoop of what life is really like as a front-end developer. Here’s what they had to say:
How did you first get into front-end development?
Przemek: My exploration into front-end began when I was 14 years old. At the time you learned from “e-zines” - independent magazines published only online. In one of them, I found a Pascal course and a reference to Pajączek (the HTML, CSS and PHP editor program). Through Pajączek, I found Paweł Wimmer's famous HTML (and later CSS) course. Creating tables and frames, and using bgcolor attributes - all of these things were very simple and understandable back then.
Kamil: I took a less traditional path to engineering as my educational background is in humanities, as I went to Uni to study journalism, art history, and international relations. On top of my coursework, though, I learned computer graphics and spent some time as a graphic designer in an advertising agency, working on desktop and presentation design. In a way, this background is what drew me in to front-end development - it allowed me to apply my previous knowledge and experience in design.
Filip: My beginnings in coding date back to secondary school, where I developed an interest in computer graphics. During a holiday break I discovered codecademy.com, where I took courses devoted to writing websites/web applications using JSa / Angular / jQuery and of course CSS.
What made you ultimately pursue FE development as a career?
Przemek: At the time there was no clear division between the front-end and back-end of a system, so I started my education with a mix of both. I found an interesting product about simulation games for crisis management centers, but it required front-end development knowledge. I had a little experience in creating user interfaces, so I figured I would give it a shot. The rest is history.
Kamil: Although I was a little intimidated at first to make the jump from humanities to programming, I learned firsthand that if you’re passionate about something, it’s always worth trying it out. Since the very first “hello world” appeared on my console, I’ve fallen completely for coding. Now that I’m a professional developer, I’m convinced that you can never say never - you always have to try.
Filip: What struck me the most was that there is a field where I could simultaneously use my imagination and technical predisposition to create beautiful design content. The joy I experienced combining two of my passions inspired me to pursue IT in my University studies. I’ll never regret making this decision. :)
What character traits and skills are important to succeed as a Front-end Developer?
Kamil: Contrary to conventional wisdom, a front-end developers cannot only be a programmer, but s/he must also be a creative designer and a psychologist of sorts. It is necessary to understand exactly how users will engage with the products we create and empathize with those who see it for the first time. Additionally, English fluency is crucial in order to converse with clients from around the world and understand a lot of the latest learning materials. Above all, it is important to analyze your accomplishments critically and always have faith in yourself.
Przemek: For me, being empathetic to your clients or users and being able to relate to them is necessary to building a working relationship. You also have to be detail-oriented and have a good taste for aesthetics. It's great if the front-end dev understands A or B framework and uses design patterns, but these are not crucial requirements. The most important attributes are learning from your mistakes, remaining humble, and providing your peers with constructive feedback.
What advice do you have for people getting started in front-end?
Filip: If you don’t have prior experience, it’s extremely helpful to find a person who can lead you in your development to speed up your learning process. If you’re seeking a mentor, I would recommend attending local workshops and hackathons organized by IT companies.
Przemek: I agree that the best way to start is to find a good mentor. There is a lot of educational content on the internet, but unfortunately, it is not always reliable. A competent and experienced mentor will help you to find useful information and direct you toward the most credible sources. I would recommend platforms such as Egghead and frontendmasters, which contain knowledge from highly experienced and passionate people from well renowned companies. Addy Osmani and Kyle Simpson have made a huge impression on me, and I have never been disappointed in the quality of their contributions to the community.
Kamil: I have to repeat after my colleagues, having mentors is very important because they can provide key insight into which technologies or frameworks you should master. In addition, mentors can track your progress and correct mistakes on an ongoing basis. For those just getting started, I recommend freeCodeCamp and Codecademy platforms. I also appreciate Robert Martin's, Wes Bos’ and Andre Nagoie’s materials, which all offer knowledge for people at various levels of advancement.
Time for the last question. What do you like the most about being a Front-End developer?
Kamil:I love to take challenges head on, as it’s the only way to improve my skills. I often say that there are no problems in programming, there are only puzzles that require creative solutions.
Przemek: In front-end work, two things stick out to me most: first, I enjoy seeing the results of my work immediately after the feature is complete. Second, the front-end field is constantly evolving, so I know that many challenges and exciting opportunities are ahead of me. I’m certainly not in danger of growing bored anytime soon.
Filip: The thing I appreciate the most is the ability to reconcile technical abilities (programming) with the nature of design, which in my opinion, is in some ways close to art.
Thank you for the words of wisdom! As you can see from our teammates’ experiences, there is no “right” path to becoming a front-end developer. Like Kamil, some people find the profession later on in their path; whereas others, like Przemek and Filip are drawn to it at a young age. We hope these insights inspire the next generation of FE developers!
Want to try your skills as a FE Developer with #VentureSquad? Check out our open positions!