2020 and Web Dev is merging with A.I. — What would I do if I had my study time again?

© Sameer Patankar — Yorkshire, U.K. 2020

Six months after I quit all other work full-time, and I gave myself to MERN stack. I had a coder-buddy who had taken the C#/.NET route, and throughout this period I’ve been putting in the hours — diligently, consistently. Night after night, day after day. I’d been preparing myself job hunting in the job-rich, but applicant-glut space of the U.K./Lancashire post-COVID-19 lock-down web dev scene. I was building up to showing off real MERN stack web app skills.

Then I had an epiphany of sorts: I was touting around for work experience but after a series of conversations with a data-scientist who leverages traditional web development languages and tools as part of their data-gathering exercises, I had to stop and take stock of where I was at -not a week off from coding, but still coding and married to MERN week off — a proper hard-stop and review the state of my coding, my life, my vision for the future.

The result was a series of conclusions about what I’d done right, but also what I’d do again if I could.

  1. Quitting a toxic work environment when I planned to do so was the very best idea. It was stymying my creative flow, and the hours worked were ruining my health and not leaving me much time to actually code and learn.
  2. I had probably got myself stuck on the wrong side of the line when it comes to tutorial hell. There is a truth that we as humans love safety, and tutorials and getting those hard studied for certificates is true safety. I mean then I don’t have to expose myself to StackOverflow or show that I’m pushing out tiny code changes to my Git repos with code that shows I’m a total noob right?
  3. We can’t forget the past as you’ll always end up at some point having to review, modify, or rebuild products coded using languages that were once the right tool for the job.
  4. What was I actually wanting to build with these new found skills myself? Honestly, as much as I love building stuff that looks cool and works in interesting ways, the idea of designing and building sites for people who want to sell the next ‘me too’ service or product was going to make me eventually do something irrational!
  5. I had planned this career-change partly because I needed to future-proof myself for societal changes that were already upon us. Was what I was doing moving towards that grand aim, or just a swan-like manoeuver to stay still on a rapid river about to head over the falls?

After a few more nights of very disturbed sleep and anxiety, coupled with the usual imposter-syndrome that every coder, good or bad seems to live with; I decided that if I had my time again I would keep elements of my learning framework, but heavily tweaked. I also decided that my day-to-day coding output needed to look very different.

How would I change my learning schedule from March 2020 to six months later at the end of August 2020:

  1. Complete 2020 Web Development Bootcamp — London App Brewery — Udemy.com: I would have finished this, once through without any repetition, and being O.K. with not knowing everything inside-and-out. ,I would have finished this prior to finishing my full-time work. This would have taken the full year before ’19 to ’20, but it would have been a great introduction to more intense stuff to come.
  2. From the beginning of the six month full-time study period, spending 20/30 minutes every day learning to use one design package and just drawing, whatever you want. Express yourself creatively, use it to centre yourself, and learn how to take design concepts to execution along the way.
  3. March to end of April: Advanced CSS & Sass by Jonas Schmedtmann and Modern JavaScript from the Beginning by Brad Traversy — both on Udemy.com. Both courses featured enough learning of HTML to know when you need to Google for more. Intense but needed for the future.
  4. June to the end of August: Complete 2020 Data Science & Machine Learning Bootcamp — London App Brewery — Udemy.com, and the HarvardX CS50 Web course hosted by EdX.
  5. Whilst taking the data science course, you need to start working projects on Kaggle. Learning how manipulating data works in practice. No stress, just allotted time, and self-directed learning using the tools and mathematics you’re learning from your own courses and where self-directed learning is taking you.
  6. Take a full week off between points three and four, and don’t be worried about the time! You got this!
  7. Now it’s time to build & job hunt! September to the end of November: build out web development projects using the data you’ve had access to or are now deciding to get access to. Start the Flutter course: The Complete 2020 Flutter Development Bootcamp with Dart — London App Brewery — Udemy.com. Develop that C.V., get as much help as you can, then start sending out one tailored application every few days. Use any rejections to spur you on to your end goal.

This does sound like an advert for London App Brewery courses hosted on Udemy.com (also an ad for Udemy) — for that, I apologise. It’s not meant to be, but this post is about what I’d do and these courses are the ones I’d choose given my past experience. There absolutely are many other choices and many other platforms. You have to choose yours.

This schedule cuts out ending up in tutorial hell, building in overlapping teaching. Don’t build in overlapping teaching, build on builds! Take the leap and learn once, then build on everything! It’ll be slow and halting, and you can go back and learn stuff, but honestly..Kanye had it right when he rapped about sleeping in a coffin full of certificates!

I had bought and started courses on becoming a Senior Web Developer, Web Projects in JavaScript, GraphQL, and complete back-end development bootcamps. All, actually good value, but not ones I’d have started and tried to complete from start to finish. They are all good references, dip in for a quick video and coding exercise if you feel you will need them as you build. I have one exception that I’m undecided on, whether it goes in this list, or on the bullet points of the must-do courses. A short course on React testing: React Testing with Jest and Enzyme by Bonnie Schulkin — Udemy.com. I’m going to try it out and see how I feel. Again, you have to do what is right for your aims and goals.

So what does this now mean for me? I can’t follow that schedule listed above as I played it differently. I’m going to concentrate on finishing off the HarvardX course, and the data science course. After that, I’m just going to play with data and find ways to represent that data using MERN stack as I know how. I’m going to dip in and out of the back-end course as I need. Once I’ve finished those courses, I’m going to do one more full course — the Flutter course, then it’s all build from then on in.

My one takeaway from all this, take the time to take time planning. Good luck everyone.

Former scientist, former constructionist, new coder.

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