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Salvatore Santamaria
Salvatore Santamaria

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The Top 14 Things I learned In My First Year As A Dev!

The Top 14 Things I learned after 1 year as a web developer

This has been a huge year for me. 5 years ago I had decided that I wanted to become a developer. I was 31, had a new baby, and knew I needed a career change. It took 4 years and a bootcamp, and I was hired as a full time developer 1 year ago today- so I’ve been a developer for a full year now!



Things I did

Wrote 52 blog posts

  • I committed to writing a blog post every week for a full year. I wanted to give back to the community, as well as teach myself some of the many things I didn’t know about development. So each week, I wrote a blog post.

Started a Youtube channel and created 50 videos (Including 30 videos in 30 days!)

  • I’ve always liked making little videos. I was inspired by a lot of the YouTube videos that helped me along the way. I challenged myself to make 30 videos in a month, and met that goal. Sometimes I used my blog posts as scripts, and other times I talked about my experience and opinions on coding bootcamps, and other times I made little coding videos.

Made 13 projects

  • When I was hired, I didn’t know the primary language I would be writing code in- so I had to learn Ruby, Rails, SCSS, HAML and RSpec. I did this by grinding out tutorial after tutorial on many late nights and weekends. I pushed my limits and came close to burning out several times.


Things I learned

I can only improve so fast

  • This has been tough for me to accept at times. I’m a hard worker and have done many things. In the past, I’ve been able to do things like floor my house faster by simply working more hours, or conquering a work project with more hours and help from my coworkers. And while I can get better by practice coding more, I can only learn so much at one time.

I don’t use algorithms in my job

  • I’ve never included Fizzbuzz in a controller at work. But, I’m glad that I have studied some. I’ve found that my framework knowledge has been vastly more important that my Ruby or JavaScript language knowledge.

There’s an awesome community of dev’s on tech Twitter

  • Like many, I had an account for years but never posted (literally). I quickly started making connections after I discovered that so many dev’s use Twitter. I really wish I had known about it when I was struggling to learn code on my own.

Task switching is productivity killer- don’t do PR’s in the middle of a task

  • After I started reviewing pull requests, I got in a bad habit of dropping everything when a new pull request would open. This slowed me significantly. It took my tasks much longer to complete and I would often break my codebase when I had to work with any sort of database migrations.

Looking at code with fresh eyes after a good nights sleep will often reveal the solution

  • I solved so many problems after sleeping on it.

Communication is your most important skill

  • Updating co workers on the status of things is extremely important. ‘This got done, this is how I tested something, that is why something isn’t working’, etc. Don’t understand something? Ask! But, asking the correct question is paramount. Being able to communicate my thoughts and ideas effectively can be challenging but is extremely important as well.

Take details notes with references

  • I’ve always been a notetaker. At first, it just seemed like a good thing to do. But months later, I realized that I need to use a command again, or access something again. And I knew right where to find it- in the ol’ notebook.

Blogging / vlogging is an accelerator to your growth

  • I started my blog as an outlet to share my experience as it was recommended to me. But I found that it forces accountability and growth. I had to research and write about topics. Sometimes I just used the weeks blog post to help write out my notes on a coding challenge, and sometimes I just wrote out my thoughts on a topic. I ended up with a nice body of work, and have helped many people along the way (thanks google analytics, it’s so cool I have readers all over the world!)

Equipment matters

  • I code best on two large monitors, full size keyboard, wireless mouse. I made the mistake of just accepting the single monitor provided at work. I’ve always worked on two or three monitors, and I had learned all of my coding skills on multiple monitors. When we were forced to work from home, I went make to that setup, and it made a huge impact immediately.

Take your performance enhancers

  • Exercise, sleep, good work area (music/lighting/equipment). All of these things contribute to the skill of a developer. I’ve found that being at my best has been more important in this job than in any job I’ve had yet.
  • Plus - do some hobby activities outside of code. I’ve gone through months where I am unable to give attention to any other hobby, and my work has suffered for it. I’m just less excited about working when it is non stop

Writing a blog post every week became a chore

  • After a couple of months of blogging, I felt I overloaded myself. I made a commitment, so I kept at it, but while I often learned a great many things, I wrote a couple of posts that were just… filler. All of the growth I’ve achieved due to blogging was worth it though.

Having a self development plan is the most important thing you can do for growth

  • I should also mention that sticking to that plan is just as important! Software development is so vast, it’s easy to wander without focus. Creating a development plan is key to success.

PR feedback is coaching!

  • A coworker told me this a few months after I started working. It’s free coaching where you get to get better at writing code.

I learned that a lot of example code and useful pages are in Github

  • As a new dev, I thought that Github was only used to store codebases and projects. One day, while Googling, I found some interesting Markdown files containing public notes on some code. Then I began searching Github for example code and more notes. It’s been a very valuable discovery.


Plans for the future

Make some videos on algo’s

  • I’ve always liked algorithms, and as exercises they are important. Coding tests are also a prerequisite to many jobs.

Grow my youtube channel

  • I like making videos, but I can’t help anyone if no one watches! Plus, having a body of work can lead to opportunities. Maybe one day I’ll make a couple of bucks? I hear I can make dozens of dollars of profit from YouTube….

Monetize my blog site- just enough to pay the hosting fee

  • Since my portfolio is up on Github, I’ve been paying a hosting fee- it would be nice for the blog to pay for itself. Also, it’s a cool challenge!

Master Rails and improve my Ruby skills

  • Maybe I’ll never fully master Ruby or Rails, but I will enjoy my journey as I try to.

Finally create my dream projects - Fantasy Football site and Office Crawler

  • I’m in a fantasy football league. We are pretty serious. It’s a 14 team auction league with 2 keepers and I have access to all the scores on ESPN. It would be cool to dig out some stats.

  • And, I’ve always wanted to make an office crawler site, like a dungeon crawler, but in an office as a lowly worker. I’ve had this idea since I finished my bootcamp, and I can’t get it out of my head. So, I’ll have to make it I guess!

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