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Lou Willoughby
Lou Willoughby

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Finding my spark ⭐️ We all start from somewhere..

Starting out as a developer isn’t easy, you have many ups and downs, late nights and lots of coffee! You make many mistakes, feel frustrated and google becomes your bestfriend 🥴

I’m a self taught developer, like many I don’t have any fancy college degrees, everything I know is from online articles, courses, YouTube videos, help from other developers and lots of practice and there’s still SO much more to learn.

I’ve been developing as a career now for 1 1/2 years and only recently do I feel like I found my spark, my niche and it’s an amazing feeling.

Here’s how that happened..

I started out on the development team as I moved over from being a data analyst. I worked mainly with sql and organised/managed the data for different teams and one day the developer lead offered me a place on his team. I had little/basic knowledge of html and css at that point and I was then at the start of being trained as a full stack developer to work on our software. I was told all this stuff I needed to learn, JavaScript, php, laravel, vue.js, tailwind css as well as learning and working on the software daily. This was an incredible opportunity but also what had I gotten myself into! 👀🥴

Deving has always been something I wanted to learn and do, I remember the first time I made a page say ‘Hello World!’ (Which I now have as a tattoo after my promotion to junior) it was the most exciting feeling! 👏🏻 But then after that it became very stressful, the feeling of being an absolute newbie on a team of experienced developers! Learning so many things at once as well as training courses, all this during the pandemic. It was terrible for my mental health and I eventually burnt myself out. It didn’t feel fun, it felt like a lot of pressure to get good fast!

I remember being asked what do I want to make of this development career, where do I want to be and I just remember saying I have no idea..

It then started when I was given a task to turn a form we had into a modal/form with different fields, tick boxes, buttons, it all needed to receive certain data, change it and then post it on submission that then triggered certain events depending on what you chose. A lot of the backend code was there I just needed to build the new ui. I remember once I finished I felt on top of the world! Watching it all come to life and work! I did that, I built that! 🥳

The more frontend I worked on the more I felt excited and this passion inside of me! Watching these creations coming to life on screen 😍
So I decided to sit down with my manager and we discussed me just pursuing a career in frontend development, I found it’s what I loved doing and I wanted to take on more frontend projects. I thought I’d be in trouble but he was very supportive 🙂

I wanted to try my hand at practicing side frontend projects at home as something different to the day to day but I soon realised I wasn't a designer I’m a developer and had major creative block, this did make me question my skills and did I really know what I was doing!? But at work I continued taking on more ui projects and focusing just on frontend development training and I found this love for JavaScript and Vue.js !! 😍 Even though I still felt intimidated by my colleagues (being the only female on the team didn’t help) I no longer felt this stress of needing to learn a billion things, I felt like I could focus more.

It really got me wanting to do more, learn more, so one night I was googling courses to help me with my training and I stumbled upon frontend mentor a place that sets you challenges on building projects that they’ve designed and it really tests your skills (I’ve written an article previously on my first experience 🙂).

Then one day at work I saw my manager on his dev.to page. What was this!? I’d been really struggling trying to network with other developers and this was dedicated to that. So I made my own account and I found I loved reading other peoples stories and advice 😊
I remember I came across one post about building your personal brand and I felt inspired so I wanted to get more involved in the community and I started networking on my LinkedIn, my Instagram, I created my own profile specifically to document my own progress and network with other developers. The more I got involved the more I felt this passion, this spark in my work ⭐️

Since finding my love for frontend development, I’ve accomplished so much more! Since deciding to focus on one thing I no longer feel this pressure to learn a million things. I feel more organised, more guided. Don’t get me wrong it’s still HARD work, I personally struggle with mental health and lack of confidence and there’s so much I still need to learn and I get overwhelmed with ideas but I know what I want to do now. I found my spark 🤩

I’ve since worked on many ui projects at work, I’ve been working on frontend mentor challenges in my spare time but I also understand balance more, I try to make sure I take time away from it all when I need and not let it consume me. I’m incredibly grateful for all the help and support from my boss, my colleagues and the wonderful dev community.

I now have an answer for where I see myself taking my career.. I am a frontend developer, this is just the beginning but one day i want to build incredible things and help others find their spark.

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