Why Trust Me?
You want to know the makings of a web developer?
Fours hours a day, five days a week, fifty weeks a year.
Multiply that by ten, and you’d have a world-class developer…but until you can find one, you’ll just have to settle for the likes of me 😉
And who am I?
For the past year I worked as a Teaching Assistant on Udemy, answering dozens of questions from students every day. For the year before that, I strove to gain the skills of a full-stack developer; and succeeded.
From the thousands of replies and from my own experience, I put together this guide for you: the best method, path, and resources to becoming a hire-worthy developer within a year.
And why do all this?
Because of curiosity.
The allure of uncharted territory, the skill of virtual wizardry.
Because of the rage-to-master.
The challenge of a new topic to feed on, fresh prey for the mind to rend asunder.
And, of course, there’s the money.
You want to know the fastest path to the skills you need to get a lucrative job as a developer?
Read on then!
Why Choose Udemy?
Udemy claims the lion’s share of your education: a couple Franklins for a couple dozen of its best masterclasses.
You can get better recognized certifications at its rival brand-names; Coursera, LinkedIn Learning, Edx et cetera.
But you’re not paying for certifications; anything less than a university degree is hardly going to impress anyone anyway.
You’re paying for skills, which you’re going to use to build up a stellar portfolio, which is what’s gonna get you in the door of that dream job.
And at ten bucks for a seventy-hour complete bootcamp, Udemy fits the bill like no other.
(Hint: Watch out for the frequent sales.)
Udemy has great instructors. Fun yet professional, comprehensive yet concise, smart yet modest; and all pros who know their stuff, and know to teach it well.
Their courses deliver. Projects are built from the ground up before your very eyes, often by your very hands. The nits and grits of web development, explained with the minute details that you can only hear from a pro. High-brow concepts that boggle your mind, used together in techniques that blow it away. What can I say…I was hooked 😉
Their support rocks. The Q&A is a treasure-trove, and I’m a treasure-hunter. So much so, in fact, that I became a Teaching Assistant myself, adding jewels to the coffers of Jonas Schmedtmann, my first instructor. (He adds some to mine too :))
How To Get The Most Out Of Your Udemy Courses
I. Keep Your Eyes On The Greens.
a) Learn on your own.
After having completed each lesson, code up a sample of your own experiment – you can use CodePen, JSFiddle, or your own code editor to see them in action. After having coded-along each course’s project(s), apply your new skills to an independent project of your own design – you can host it for free on Github, Netfly, or a number of other hosts.. Experience is the best teacher, and if you’re not its best student, you’ll be in a lot of pain. And trust me, the recruiters will feel your pain when they see your portfolio.
Think of it this way: if you were hiring, who would you trust more to build your website? The monkey who “coded-along” with the projects designed by the instructors of a dozen courses? Or the guy or gal who came up with the design and code of a dozen websites on their own?
b) Make sure you understand it.
Ask questions in the Q&A, on Stack Overflow, on Reddit or Quora. Google stuff you don’t understand – look for syntax explanations on MDN, for great articles on HackerNoon, Medium, or SitePoint, for on is Github, for questions on Stack Overflow (again). Check out the documentation of any npm packages, editor plugins and service websites you make use of. Don’t rush along to cover as much video ground as possible; it’s all meaningless unless you understand it, unless you master it, and you can use it when you need it. Also, don’t be afraid to review videos you didn’t get completely or don’t remember well, particularly when building your own projects.
You’re going to get interviewed. If your portfolio impresses and you’re a decent human being with common-sense knowledge of the basics of web development, you’re going to get interviewed on technical skill. It doesn’t matter if you’ve memorized the whole YDKJS book series if you can’t solve a basic JS problem, or if you’ve learned to solve problems like a robot but can’t explain your understanding of the core concepts behind the solution.
c) Network, advertise, apply.
As soon as you gain any worthwhile skill at all, start to make waves in social media – LinkedIn, Stack Overflow, Twitter etc. -, cuddle up to recruitment agencies, streamline a dozens-by-the-day job application process, and show off your expertise on your own blog and on Medium with a gazillion posts.
If nobody knows you, nobody is going to hire you; simple as that. You have to put yourself out there, not just with a short bio, but with your involvement, your willingness to participate in the development communities, to display your passion for this amazing adventure. You don’t have to lie or boast, just let others know who you are and what you can do; and don’t just tell it, show it.
Finally, learning is a rather long process. You’ll need to be patient. Don’t expect to spend 20 hours watching some guy code and explain stuff and then be able to churn out a perfect website yourself, much less to get paid to do it. But you do need to be aware that getting paid to do it is your chief aim, and you need to choose and plan accordingly from the get-go.
I’ll add here more tips as I have time for them.
Looking Forward: The Journey Begins
Here are the top courses on Udemy that most benefited my adventure learning to code. I placed them in the order that I feel would have been most helpful to me should I go back.
Standing Straight: The Bootcamp Keyhole
From January 1 to February 1
I loved kindergarden as much as anybody else, but your coding kindergarten isn’t going to be kids-friendly. Start by taking one of the following, in order of preference:
a) Colt Steele’s
b) Rob Percival’s
c) Andrei Neagoie’s
Either one of these will suffice to give you an in-depth overview of the journey ahead.
First Steps: The HTML&CSS Doorway
From February 1 to March 1
There you have semantic HTML, organized css, a bag of jQuery tricks, the best web design resources – fonts, icons, favicons, packages etc. -, and basic responsive design, blended together into a one-page company site. You have the philosophy of coupling quality code with quality design. And to top the cherry, you have me, in the Q&A (limited time offer! ;).
Oh, so you want more than the basics? Then I’ll see you in Jonas’s expert course:
Now that’s some cutting-edge css skill-set you’ve given us now, Jonas: using Sass with best practices, enhancing your workflow with Emmet, laying out your sites with grid and flexbox, creating complex timed animations with Bezier curves, and doing advanced responsive design and cross-browser compatibility – with ease. Now that’s like drinking true, quality, well-aged CSS wine, with a fancy flex-box of fine Sass-chocolates, and the bezstier Grid-e oranges.
Does all that moving around of files and folders by hand bother you, and do all those other boring, repetitive tasks seem undignified? Well then, look no further than Brad Schiff’s course:
With a straightforward, even-voiced and clear-headed approach, Brad teaches the command line, working in Git from the command line, task automation with Gulp, postCSS, modular file organization, useful NPM packages, mobile-first development and a whole bunch of other stuff.
Now, do you think you’ve got what it takes to do front-end web development? Think again; all you can do for now is static sites with no buzz; no sparkles. So, what are you missing?
Whether you plan to stick with the front-end, or are ready to dive into the back-end, PHP is a versatile, in-demand, and quite useful language.
So go and grab
Designed by Edwin Diaz, this masterclass shows you everything you need to know to get started with PHP. The approach of learning to create a CMS like WordPress using PHP is quite challenging, but well enough executed.
Alas, PHP is not enough; to create truly dynamic, interactive websites, you’ll need an audience with the king of the web.
From March 1 to July 1
For starters, let’s just breeze through Anthony Aliceea’s aptly-named course:
I know, I know. Theoretic, monotonous, no exercise, no project. Don’t worry, Jonas has you covered once again with:
Oh, now you need help?
Fine, let me introduce to you Colt Steele, one of the greatest teachers at Udemy, and his new course:
When it was released in mid-August, I grabbed it the second it hit my mail-box. And it was a masterpiece, indeed: take it if you think you’ve got what it takes to turn into a problem-solving beast.
Now do you feel more confident in your skills? I did too; but how do you go from here to building a thousand-module app? Enter the awesome nirvana…of frameworks.
Picking Up The Pace: Front-End Frameworks
From July 1 to September 1
Angular. React. Vue. Take you pick; or let your ideal job pick for you. Once you’ve learned one, you can learn any other.
I picked Angular to be my first because I could then work with a friend of mine, I liked the versatile data binding, rigorous use of TypeScript, and other details of the technology, and because it opened up great freedom of design.
Anthony Aliceea proves helpful yet again with his
I know what you’re thinking – “that stuff’s out-dated, man!” However, it’s as good an introduction as I’ve ever seen to the core Angular concepts, terminology, and documentation, and the contrast between old and new enables a better grasp of modern-day Angular.
by Maximilian Schwarzmuller, one of the greats. The course is regularly updated, so once you’ve taken it, you’ll be able to stay up to date on the Angular front; and learning with Maximilian is pleasa, his calm and even-voiced approach fitting in well with my preferences.
Since you can’t really use Angular today without a thorough grasp of Angular, let’s expand on that with Maximilian’s
Next up, let’s learn Ionic with Paul Halliday’s
That’s some hands-on learning you got there Paul! Each section accompanied with a small app to see it all in action, and an excellent main project to weave it all together. Nice bonus lectures too.
We’re not satisfied with the basics though, are we? Time to hit the nail on its head again with Paul’s advanced class,
It shows us how to use Cordova in order to integrate native mobile features into our apps.
While we’re in the habit of collecting frameworks, why not give Bootstrap a glance? If nothing else, it would let us rapidly prototype websites to be coded by hand afterwards. And we’re in luck; Colt Steele’s
Just came out in October. It’s so well-made, you can breeze through the whole framework in a couple of days, and have a cool project to show for it.
Building more momentum, how about taking a shot at Laravel, the go-to PHP framework? LinkedIn Learning comes to the rescue once again with its high-quality, on-demand courses.
Since PHP goes hand-in-hand with WordPress, let’s learn to hand-code themes, plugins and dynamic sites with the all-popular CMS. You’ll never run out of jobs with this one, so go over to Udemt and grab Brad Schiff’s
And prepare to spend the better part of month learning WordPress development.
I’d say we now know quite enough to be just about competent on the front-end. Just in the nick of time, since the back-end looks so enticing; and is just a little Node away.
Up And Running: Back-End Networks
From September 1 to December 1
First off, let’s attend a brief orientation session with Aliceea’s
His clarity of explanation remains unsurpassed (as does his talent for boring the Dickens out of me).
Next, let’s repeat the JS learning path by taking
By Maximiliam Schwarzmuller (since Jonas is running a little late with his Node course planned for 2019).
The creme de la creme of Node courses I’ve flirted with, it earns Maximiliam a spot on my list of favorite instructors. While it beats Azat Mardan’s courses over at Node University, I think it’ll be beat by Jonas’s course once it’s released.
Since every good round deserves a second, Maximiliam had better deliver with his
And deliver he did, although I feel that he merely dipped his feet into MongoDB in this one.
I for one love deep-diving, so I couldn’t resist putting the last piece into place in the MEAN stack puzzle with Maximiliam’s
Finally, I felt that I’d put off for long enough Colt’s
This, together with the PHP I had learned, really helped me crack the back-end in several places.
Taking Flight: Workflow Mastery With DevOps
From 1 December to 31 December
Now we’ve done it, right? We’re finally there: a full-fledged, full-stack developer…right? Well…kinda.
There are always micro-skills to improve on, and they really make a difference in the aggregate. Throughout my journey, there are quite a few other mini-courses that got an A in my book.
Those include “Web Design for Web Developers: Build Beautiful Websites!”, “Introduction to Web Technologies”, “EMMET Faster HTML & CSS workflow – Best Tool For Developers”, “npm – Mastering the Basics”, “Chrome DevTools: Debug Code Like A Pro”, “SEO Training Course by Moz”, and “Writing With Flair: Become An Exceptional Writer” (what’s that last one got to do with coding? Well, you’re reading all this coding stuff right now ;).
And of course, from my main courses I got some hefty glimpses into cool tools, such as:
– Gulp for task automation, which allows for greater speed and ease of development.
– Git for version control, which allows for greater speed and ease of maintenance, as well as co-ordination between developers and teams.
– ERB – Embedded Ruby -, which allows for modular HTML file architecture.
– Emmet, which allows for greater speed of writing HTML code.
– SCSS, which allows for modular CSS file architecture and greater speed and flexibility of writing CSS code.
– Webpack 4, which allows for modular JS file architecture, and quite a few other things if really mastered.
On top of all that, one last piece kept nagging me. If I were to to nail this puzzle in 2018, I had to get DevOps-serious.
And that’s all folks: a developer’s one-year journey from code-illiterate to full-stack developer. Let’s give a vigorous round of applause to my Udemy instructors on this one. I might even add a course of my own to it one day.
You know that saying, more passion than time? Well, you do now: and it carves my next year’s learning path. It’s more DevOps, it’s Docker and Kubernetes, it’s React and Vue with all they’ve got.
What’s more, it takes us through the hot spots: Blockchain development skills, in particular as relevant to smart contracts, and Machine Learning knowledge, in particular as it applies to self-driving cars. They both seem fun, interesting, and pretty well paid.
I guess we both know how true it is that “there’s more to do than can ever be done” in web development, much less in a year. But I think you’ll also agree that we’ve come a pretty long way in quite a short time 🙂
But wait, did you actually still think we were “done”? Oh boy, we’ve barely begun on that nice career. Because once we’ve got the skills, we gotta put them to good *cought:auction…ehem…action.
Looking Back: Parting Questions
Beyond Udemy: Additional Resources
Ah, good ol’ Codecademy.
What coder wouldn’t rememeber their kindergarten?
Especially one that takes the shape of a robot teacher.
But then again, so do its competitors: Treehouse Team, FreeCodeCamp, Pluralsight…
(Don’t get me wrong here; their support and community are quite good, but not built into the courses themselves)
Their strength lies in structure: step-by-step explanations, concepts building upon one another, exercises to test each increment of understanding; neat, orderly, precise.
Their weakness is also structure: static, simplistic, conveying no passion, inspiring no action; the anatomy of dead code, not the physiology of a living program.
To become a web developer, you need more than that; you need to be immersed in code as it emerges into being.
Eager for that next course? Not so fast. Courses only take you so far. After a while, you find that nothing beats a good book (or ten). Now it’s time to pick up
Which is like an expanded, updated variant of Anthony’s course.
If you want to know the limits, check out:
Now, since limits are there to be broken, there’s no better tool to revolutionize your understanding than the series”:
But since you don’t want to settle for the theoretical minimum, the next best thing to read is:
Books, books, and more books…when will we get to chew on the meat of programming: actual problem-solving? You ain’t gonna be interviewed on book references, you know.
Alright, fine. Take what you’ve learned, and go play on
Just beware the 4- and 3-kyu katas; they can be a bit addictive.
Oh, now you need help? Well, if you didn’t do much math before, it might be time to start thinking math now. Grab a copy of George Polya’s
“How To Solve it: A New Aspect of Mathematical Method”
And learn to think like the best problem-solver: a mathematician. (Polya’s other books are also worth a glance)
If you’re into maths, check out Unizor as well. It’s a gym for the mind, just what a programmer needs to get into shape, and a good warm-up for the weary code warrior.
Now, Udemy and I go way back, but this time I gotta hand it to Todd Motto over at
He knows to teach this stuff better than any Udemy instructor I’ve come across. Covering the latest Angular, TypeScript and NGRX, his courses remain the golden standard for learning Angular to this day.
LinkedIn Learning has a neat one-month free-trial, which should give you enough time to dive into some of its many excellent PHP courses.
And if you’re too penny pinching to shell out ten bucks for one of those, the last course’s author has a great article called “Learn to code in 2018, get hired, and have fun along the way” . He just goes right over and spills the beans on all of his course’s sources there. It’s a bit like this article, only way better (hat’s down to you, Andrei Neagoie. 🙂
The bucks passes on to you now (hopefully quite literally 😉 – what courses and resources do you think contributed most to your development as a developer (pun unintended but smilingly retained)?
Let me and the others know in the comments box!