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First steps as a dev: struggles and progress

rivvarivvs profile image Riva ・4 min read


On June last year, I decided to become part of the migration wave that's entering the dev and tech world. Following my love for computers and maths, which I developed as a kid, I started to get my hands dirty on what seemed to be the hard world of HTML and CSS. Sadly, that part of my journey was short and soon after, I dropped it, only to pick it up 15 minutes every two weeks. As you can imagine, not a lot of progress was done during those months. But, looking back, I see that those were the foundational months for me to get close to programming. Slowly entering the tech community world, surrounding myself with even more content, amazed with what could be done with time and motivation, I grew even more interested with the prospect of being a developer.

At the same time, I was going through the most important months of my HRT transition, my comeout to my parents, the ending of my undergraduate degree and my wrist injury that left me unable to continue to work in the vegan restaurant I was working at.

Fast forwarding to the pandemic this year and after the two first months of panic, I was ready to give it a go. How hard could it be, really? Wasn't JavaScript as hard as people made it out to be? Anyway, my first two months were filled with self-doubt because I couldn't complete the simplest exercises of freeCodeCamp. Was I too old for this? Was I missing something that I could see?

I decided to start back again every time, going over the fundamentals and try to get self-motivated. I was also trying to avoid going into a bootcamp. I don't know why but the liberty and validation of being self-taught was the only thing that seemed acceptable to me.

Eventually, after some weeks, I stopped so I could see how far I've gotten and oh, boy...It felt amazing. All the questions that popped up during the past weeks seemed so easy now. All those exercises were done without breaking a sweat.

These days, further down the line, I'm focusing my learning on becoming a more complete developer, already feeling accomplished with the small work I've managed to put together but still feeling intimidated by what is still to be done. Backend is, until now, the direction I'm heading. Both my left and right hands are Node.js and Express writing machines and sometimes I need to pull up a third one to pull together some React code.

Defining my goals

The hard part about seriously defining my goals is knowing that in a few days time I'll be tweaking and shifting them into something else. And that's fine, even though at moments it doesn't seem like it.

At the moment, my future seems to be somewhat devoted to the arts and crafts of the backend world. What I'm still trying to figure out is what does that mean. What should I study or what should I ignore? The vast amounts of knowledge and resources available make the task of choosing what to learn seem endless. In the end, I know that those choices will be my developer personality. So, as my true goal, I'm commited to walk the fine line of knowing a bit of everything and get deeper on my main skill, Node.js and Express.

But what about concrete results?

I guess that a developer's legacy is not what you know but what you build. It's hard to grasp that at first, when you think you already know so much but haven't build anything useful. Am I so worthless? Besides that, the pit of tutorial hell tempts you to copy and paste, feeling accomplished, only to not really learn and understand what you just made.

I've built some of the generic beginner projects. The satisfaction of lighting up my github map with repos about messageboards, tic tac toes, CRUD apps used to be my part-time.

At the moment, I took on the more ambitious project of building something slighty different. I'm still figuring it out how to advertise it, but let's say that what's coming should be a website for developer's cheatsheet that's community maintained. Every single day, another feature pops up in my head. Every day, something goes forward, even if it means that somehow I need to go backwards to progress. The backend is done, or so I think, and now my struggle is react-based.

In the meantime, because one isn't enough, I've managed to start a smaller project on the side so I can get my exercise back on track. An exercise tracker that logs my activity. So far, just a small MERN stack app. I'll be alongside it to see how it grows!


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