My web developer story – junior level

My web developer story – junior level


4 min read

Let me start by introducing myself a bit. My name is Honza, I'm Czech and it's been six months since I landed my new full-time gig as a frontend developer in Barcelona.

I was just getting used to the idea of regular hours and more importantly a regular paycheque, when the COVID-19 struck the country. My wife was supposed to come and flat hunt with me and subsequently organise moving home from a rural community in Andalusia. For those of you unfamiliar with Spanish geography, that is more than 1000 km away, roughly speaking or a 10 hour drive (with the very occasional stop for a pee or a snack).

But let's start with the beginning of my dev's career.

My web development infancy

Allow me to back-track for a minute and go a bit deeper into the beginnings that lead me here. It wouldn't be a complete picture without a quick peek into how I became a web developer.

When I came to Spain, I was living in the middle of nowhere in a rural area of La Alpujarra. After a short while, I dawned on me that I wouldn't be making a decent living as a graphic designer here. So I dug deep into my memory and fell back onto what I used to enjoy doing from about 9–19 years old – programming. Jesus holy zombie though, hadn't the world moved on since the times of Basic, Turbo Pascal and Assembler! I had to learn everything about web development from scratch. I did all sorts of online courses (massive shout out to the Codecademy and FreeCodeCamp). During this time I was running my own businesses online as a freelancer, building websites for various small clients.

To be fair, it was actually my wife who got me most of the clients. As an artist, she meets many people and because she is genuinely nice and makes friends easily, she managed to bring in enough leads, that I turned into jobs. This allowed me to practice my coding and with each and every job, I pushed myself to learn and implement new features, technique or just a new approach. Yes, I admit it. I was learning whilst working on paid jobs. And no, I feel no remorse. I always charged a fair price to my clients, and I generally over-delivered.

Shameless plug: go and check out her art at Emma Plunkett's Art Gallery - yes, I made the website and yes there are things that I would do differently nowadays, but it still serves its purpose – it sells art.

Eternal Play, painting by Emma Plunkett,

Eternal Play, Emma Plunkett Art © 2018

Back then I was doing mostly portfolio websites based on Wordpress. I designed and programmed custom-tailored themes to match my clients' individual needs. I started with some very basic HTML, CSS and PHP to be able to retrieve and present the data in a way that matched my designs. As my skills were improving, I realised I needed, more and more frequently, to adjust the browser side of the websites in order to create better user interfaces. That's why I started learning Javascript.

My timid first encounters with Javascript

At first, I found JS very intimidating. It was hard enough to get the code to do what I wanted but it was a complete nightmare to make sure the code worked on various versions of Internet Explorer as well.

jQuery: Novice to Ninja, photo by James Dennes,

Photo by James Dennes, Creative Commons 2.0

That was when I discovered jQuery. What was the saying back then? Oh yeah:

jQuery is like cocaine – just one line can get you hooked!

And indeed, that was my case. It gave me cross-browser compatibility, it simplified the JS syntax and provided me with chain-able methods. There was a fast-growing community providing plenty of Open Source plugins that were easy to use, with very little actual knowledge of the inner workings. I could get satisfactory results between hacking away on the code and copy&pasting code from StackOverflow.

Eventually, I felt confident enough to start exploring what was behind the scenes in jQuery. I read a couple of books on Javascript itself and slowly, I started to rely on jQuery less and less. In this part of my journey, I should mention Sitepoint ex. Learnable and their amazing collection of books on programming and courses. To name just a few, these come to mind because they enabled me to rely only on JS Javascript: Novice to Ninja, 2nd Edition and Simply Javascript. Even though I was still using jQuery on projects that already had it implemented, I was able to use it less and less.