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Dominic Ross
Dominic Ross

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A Most Unexpected Journey - How my "first year of code" went:

If you can’t fly, then run,
if you can’t run, then walk,
if you can’t walk, then crawl,
but by all means, keep moving.

  • Martin Luther King Jr.

The end of 2022 will see me reach my first full year of coding (sort of). I count this as my first full year because previously, I wasn't focused, it was just "something to do". If you'd told me on January 1st that I'd know what a Docker container with Ansible file was and that I'd soon shift my focus from DevOps to Front end Development, I would have scoffed. But to understand how I got here, I need to look back at where I started and where I've been to fully understand.

A map is no use if you're heading off in the wrong direction:

When I started this year, I was about halfway through my DevOps Bootcamp with Purple Beard (which you can read about here) and believed - or rather, hoped - that by summer I would be a junior DevOps engineer with a company working from home and loving life. At the time, I was still a Telephone Engineer for a large national company but was struggling to walk due to complications from a previous disability. My manager at the time decided that if I couldn't walk, I couldn't work, so I was off sick at home.

I eventually decided to cut my losses and went to work for the local hospital as bank staff, helping the temporary staffing team.

By the time I'd finished my DevOps course with Purple Beard, I'd realised that having the DevOps skills alone wasn't enough to get a job as a DevOps engineer (something that hadn't been made clear at the beginning). I needed a new direction in which to head so that I could make use of my newly found skills. I had previously studied web development but lost my bottle when it came to JavaScript, thinking I wouldn't be able to understand it. I decided to revisit the idea, as I'd always found Web Development fascinating. I went looking for my old course, only to find it had gone, disappeared in my absence. I started looking for other resources and found the Scrimba Front End Developer Career Path, which is a prescribed course from basics of HTML, through CSS, on to basic Javascript and eventually one of the most popular frameworks out there: React. By the end of the course, you should have enough knowledge to get a junior role as a Front End Developer. This has been proven week in and week out with students sharing their success in getting new jobs on the Discord channel and the highly successful Scrimba Podcast.

A blond haired child in a ploughed field looking at a paper map at arms length

New heading entered. Engage!:

I started my Developer Career Path in March this year, not long after my Bootcamp ended. There was a new enthusiasm for an old path that needed refreshing and I made quick moves forward.

What made Scrimba different was the way the lessons are conducted. Previously, I was watching videos of anything between 5 to 30 minutes long where the teacher talked about a subject. The problem was, there was no motivation to do the code that the teacher was showing you, so it quickly became death by video.
On Scrimba, the entire lesson is taught in what is called a Scrim, which is an interactive playground made in Imba and similar in function to what you get on CodePen where you can type HTML, CSS and Javascript and it will run in the browser window. It even has a mini browser so you can instantly see the effect your change has on the code. The other impressive feature of this is that the entire window is also a video of the teacher's scrim, so you will see them enter code in real-time and you can pause, mess with the code and then press play and it will go back to the original code the teacher put in and continue teaching you new concepts. For me, this was - quite literally - a game changer, as I now had the motivation (and ease of use) of typing the code in the browser window and seeing the effect and if I got stuck, I could just hit play, all my changes would disappear (but are saved if you go back to the moment you paused the scrim) and the teacher would show you their solution to the puzzle.

The entire course is built to slowly build up your knowledge and skills and let you express them with projects at the end of each module to practice and embed your new skills. To date, I have 5 projects I've built from scratch, with nothing but a Figma design to go from. These include A hometown homepage, a unit converter, a scoreboard, a password generator and an Instagram clone based on classic art. The other projects I've created have all been created while following along with the teacher.

Warning, Obstacles ahead:

“Being challenged in life is inevitable, being defeated is optional.”
– Roger Crawford

If I were to speak to my past self and tell him what had happened this year, he would be shocked at the turmoil we'd faced: changed jobs twice, off work for multiple months because of layoffs or sickness, moving home, finding out our Bootcamp wasn't quite what we had hopped... He'd be forgiven for feeling defeated. But this year has given me a lot to reflect on and (believe it or not) be thankful for.

I'm now working in IT as a support assistant (back in the IT industry after 19 years), a good third of the way through my Scrimba path with a good understanding of JavaScript (It's not as scary as I once thought) and a path heading in the right direction. It's not all roses, sure. But it's going the right way, slowly but surely.

I hope to use this blog more in the new year to help log my altered journey, and I hope you'll follow along. I wish you a very happy holiday (whichever you celebrate) and a prosperous new year. If you ever want to connect, come follow me on Mastodon.

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