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Luke Stenis graduated from Austin Coding Academy’s Full Stack Web Development program in 2016. Upon graduating, Luke landed a role as an “Implementation Engineer” with Austin-based content production company, Invodo. During his time at Invodo, Luke also worked as an instructor at ACA, teaching the 10-week “Intro to Web Development” course.
Luke currently works in Salt Lake City, Utah, as a “Digital Analytics Implementation Engineer” with PluralSight.
Are there certain characteristics that make you a better web developer than others?
Breaking into the tech scene can be very intimidating - it seems like every day there is a trendy new JS library to learn and another class of coding school graduates to compete with. If you spend any time scouring job boards, you’ll also see this reflected in entry-level or junior web development jobs requiring a wider knowledge base from their applicants than in the past.
So, naturally, you would think that candidates with the deepest ocean of knowledge would always land the job.
This may come as a surprise to you – as the web developer role spends most of their time in front of a computer screen, handling highly technical issues with complicated code.
Over the last decade, I’ve been on both sides of the hiring process for tech roles, and have witnessed the smartest candidates get passed over for someone who is a better “fit” for the role or company. I’ve seen the sharpest web developers crumble and crack under the pressure of deadlines, or lose their patience and professionalism from constructive feedback.
Great code doesn’t always translate into a great hire. While it definitely helps, there is more to being a successful web developer than a mind rich in technical knowledge. Here are seven characteristics common in web developers - other than technical skills - who are successful at their job:
A passion for knowledge
Technology is always evolving, and the skills and abilities needed in today’s tech scene can get outdated quickly. It’s important to have a passion for learning and the desire to keep up with the latest trends. As newer versions of languages, libraries and frameworks roll out, you will be expected to not only know these changes, but be a subject matter expert within your company. Don’t confuse this with technical skills - you can still love to learn without being the sharpest crayon in the box.
This goes beyond a willingness to educate yourself. You should embrace the inevitable challenges that come with the job, and develop a great habit for researching possible solutions. If you love the work and the challenge that it presents, you will be successful at your job.
A web developer rarely works alone. Good software is commonly built by a whole development team comprised of many dynamic roles. Being able to take on a team mentality can be critical to the success of a project.
Outside of the immediate team, web developers will also be expected to work with business owners, sales and marketing staff, and other developers outside of the team or company in order to achieve a wider project scope. In these cases, the ability to lead or act as the representative of your team in a meeting or other professional scenario is a soft skill that helps you stand out.
Creative problem solver
Developing code for a software program or designing website from scratch is incredibly difficult – much like trying to solve a complex math equation or write a novel. A great developer thrives on finding ways to make things work, no matter the challenge, and sometimes needs to get creative to find a working solution. You want to try to avoid the phrase “It can’t be done” when you are pitched a new project.
A great working knowledge of the language or framework you are using is a must. If you understand the limitations or abilities of the code you are using, you can awaken more creative and efficient ideas for solving problems. And the light bulbs will turn on faster and brighter.
Ability to plan for everything
Rather than jumping head-first into a project, a wise and cautious web developer will first learn as much as possible about the desired end product. Once this step is completed, the developer will then plan out the entire structure of the project before typing out one line of code.
This is a critical step - as one little oversight can throw a project deadline off by weeks or even months. Complete your wireframe the entire site and get approval before creating your first template. Ensure your routes and controllers are properly configured. If you don’t properly plan for as much as possible, you better have…
Great debugging skills
In my current job, I identify and solve issues on large, e-commerce websites. Basically, I help fix bad code written by their in-house developers that they couldn’t solve themselves. What I found more shocking than how simple the mistakes are – was how often the developers themselves did not know how to properly debug their own mistakes.
Writing and developing code is only part of a web developer’s job. They are also expected to identify the root of a problem quickly and effectively. Instead of spending hours making blind changes, developers need to have a solid handle on the variety of Web Developer Tools provided by modern browsers such as Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge.
“Accelerated Failure” Mentality
“Fail Fast”, “Fail Better”, “Fail Forward” are all popular mantras used by startups and tech giants in Silicon Valley. If you aren’t failing, you aren’t learning.
Rarely does code get written correctly the first time. This is why we plan for everything and know how to debug anything. It’s important to see bugs and errors in your code as a challenge rather than a sign of defeat. Successful web developers embrace the challenge of failure and tend to bounce back with bigger and better solutions to these problems.
A great developer can look beyond the project they are working on and see the big picture for the business. A savvy business sense can lead to new applications or automated processes focused on more saving time and money for a company.
You don’t need to an MBA or a passion for macro-economics to be business-savvy, but showing an interest in areas of the business outside of your direct scope can lead to a better understanding of your company’s big picture.
It isn’t easy becoming a web developer - and to excel in the industry takes more than an encyclopedia of coding knowledge. There are certain characteristics that successful web developers share not commonly taught in many CS degree programs or coding schools. You need to have a variety of soft skills on top of your technical abilities to stand out in the crowd when applying for a job in the tech industry.
Teaching these soft skills is one way our program stands out in the crowd of coding schools. Our program not only teach our students the technical skills every full-stack web developer needs, every campus provide workshops and break-out sessions in order to provide a wider educational foundation in soft skills proven to help any fledgling web developer succeed.