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2020 In The Rear-View

Daniel Hintz
Junior full-stack developer with focus in JavaScript (ES6) and Ruby. Experience with React, Redux, Rails, among others.
・6 min read

2020 is finally over, and what a year it's been! As I was sipping on my year-end champagne last night and contemplating the year, I thought it would be fun to write an article about the past year - my struggles and victories and what I've learned from them - as well as my future goals for 2021.

The Struggles

There were a lot of struggles in 2020. I was working full time, but getting hired as a developer out of a bootcamp requires a LOT of work, so my biggest struggle right out of the gate was (and still is) time management. I learned to spend 30-45 minutes at the beginning of each day sipping on my coffee and literally breaking the day into chunks. For each chunk, I block off time in my calendar and set an alert for when it's time to pivot. Game-changer.

Related to this is just the sheer amount of work that I have on my plate! I have projects that are half-done, many more that are finished, but need major overhauls now that I've levelled up my knowledge. There are frameworks and even other languages that I am dying to learn. It's been tough to prioritize and slowly chip away at the list, but I am getting there, piece by piece. I've had to adapt the above time-management strategy to a week-by-week schedule in order to set and focus on my weekly priorities to avoid getting lost in the sea of to-do's.

There is also the major challenge of staying motivated and positive. There was a lot of rejection this year while job-hunting. Most companies did not even bother to reject my applications, I just never heard back. In fact, in my 4 months of job-hunting, I only got 2 interviews, neither of which progressed to a second interview...talk about disappointing! But on the bright side, through connecting with others in the field, I learned that the software engineering community is unbelievably supportive! Seriously, not only were people very happy to share their stories, which all involved similar hardships (aka I'm not the only one!), but I had people that I barely knew offer to help push my resume directly to hiring managers, share awesome resources, offer to pair-code, and on and on. I'm pretty good at staying motivated in the face of failure, but this super-positive community kept me from feeling totally defeated.

The Victories

It's actually been difficult to reflect on my victories due to the very top-of-mind lack of success in my job hunt so far, but when I stop and really think about it, I've actually accomplished a ton over the year that I'm very proud of. Firstly, I graduated from the Flatiron program, which is deserving of celebration in itself. I've also built and launched my personal portfolio site which, though there's plenty that I still need to do with it, is looking pretty damn good! I also launched one of my projects, a recipe finder, and have been steadily improving it over the course of the year. It might not be the prettiest site on the internet, but the functionality is pretty cool, and I've found myself using it several times already.

Upon graduation, I felt like the tiniest little fish in the giant ocean. I dreaded putting out a blog because "I didn't know anything that anybody would want to read about," but now after 20 weeks, I have almost 250 followers, and nearing 10,000 views! This community has been super supportive and have shown me that, even though there's an infinite amount that I don't know, there are actually plenty of things that I do know which are more interesting that I would have originally given myself credit for. I really can't say enough how much I appreciate of all of you who have been reading my posts and providing constructive commentary! I've actually started looking forward to opening up DEV and joining in on conversations whenever I can.

Finally, I've overcome what I call "technical paralysis." Flatiron doesn't really teach anything about algorithms, so when I graduated and started engaging in the real-world and preparing for technical interviews, I was horrified to see the types of things that I can expect in the whiteboarding sessions. When I took my first practice interview, I got so frustrated and overwhelmed by the problem that I completely froze up and entirely forgot the basics of JavaScript while I was on the call...not a good look. Through countless hours of study and practice though, I am now quite proud of my ability to think more programmatically and solve these algorithmic problems step-by-step. Though I still have a very, very long way to go, the support from the developer community has helped me become confident in my ability to pass the interviews. I now feel "good enough," and during my last practice interview I was able to sound intelligible and confident, even in the face of not knowing the answer.

Technical Level-Ups

Obviously, I've already gone over a lot of general learnings from the year, but as I reflected on the year, I realized that I've come a very, very long way in terms of technical knowledge since I graduated. It's worth documenting all the self-learning that I've accomplished in addition to everything up above. This is not an exhaustive list, but it hits the highlights.

  • CSS Variables and their applications in website theming
  • Major improvements in understanding of CSS styling. A big moment was understanding the relation of a relative positioned element to everything downstream from it.
  • While we're on CSS, I've gotten comfortable using Flexbox, CSS Grids, and combining the two
  • I've used and customized Bootstrap, and I've decided I prefer to create my own styling whenever possible
  • I'm no longer scared of this
  • I've learned how to test code, including in some complex scenarios
  • I've learned how to measure the performance of my code
  • Authentication is now a breeze - I've even combined Rails' Devise with JWT
  • I can build an API without a corresponding front-end thanks to Postman. And thanks to this community, I've also learned about a potentially better solution: Insomnia
  • I've used Rails' Action Mailer to send assign custom communications to site events
  • I've learned some basics of PHP (more to come on this)
  • Through research and experimentation, I've built a complex program in VisualBasic, despite not knowing the language
  • I've learned to break down a problem and think about it programmatically to devise algorithms
  • I've learned about Big O Notation and can calculate it
  • I've really levelled up my Git skills, pull-requests, resetting HEADs, managing multiple branches and remotes, and more
  • Basic DevOps stuff - putting a site online, buying and setting up a domain, etc.

Wow that's a lot - it's easy to lose perspective, but man I've killed it this year! 😄

2021 - The Best Is Yet To Come

2021 is going to be my year! I've come too far to stop now. But what is on the horizon for me?

  • My number one goal, of course, is to find employment as a developer. It's been tough going, but things are starting to look a little brighter.
  • I will continue to get more involved in the developer community. I can't wait until I'm on the other side, giving advice rather than receiving it!
  • I will begin contributing to OpenSource in earnest. Once I've finished checking off my personal priorities, this is top of mind.
  • I WILL learn a new language. Depending on the requirements of my job, I may need to learn a language for their specific stack. If that's not the case, then I will be self-learning starting with PHP. At the moment, I plan to move on to Java after that.
  • I will learn jQuery. I've already used it a bit, but I'm nowhere near fluent yet. With this and PHP under my belt, I'll be able to work on the vast majority of the existing content on the internet.
  • Lastly, but perhaps most importantly I will enjoy the summertime! I moved to the beach 3 years ago, but my journey into development has taken all of my free-time ever since. This year, the worst will be over and I'll finally be able to kick back and relax, at least from time to time.

So there it is, 2020 gone, 2021 has finally come. Happy New Year everyone, I hope you're all as excited as I am. See you all on the other side!

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