How to Code: Web Development

A podcast for aspiring web developers


3: Why are you here?


Robert: [00:00:00] hey, everyone. Welcome back to the how to code podcast. I'm your host, Robert Gus. So in this episode, I wanted to talk about the importance of knowing your why or understanding your why. And the point of this episode is to help you think through the reasons for why you are trying to teach yourself how to code and the reasons why I think this is really important is learning to code is really hard.

It's incredibly difficult, contrary to what you hear a lot online. It is very difficult and a lot of people, frankly give up and quit. Once the going gets tough. And if you have an understanding of why you're trying to do this in the first place, I think it can be a great source of motivation to helping you push through those tough times and through those hurdles.

And when you get stuck and you feel like you're not good enough and things like that ultimately I don't think it really [00:01:00] matters your reason for why you're learning, how to code. Everyone's got different reasons. But like I said, if you take some time to really think it through. it's gonna help you when things get really tough and they most certainly will if they haven't already, depending upon where you are in your, your learning journey.

I think some of the motivations, you know, this is unique to every single person. And if you listen to the previous episode where I shared my story my immediate motivation frankly, was I just needed to get a lot more money because of my student loans. Coming due. And I think that's a totally viable and that's totally fine.

But that, that kind of a motivation is only gonna work in the short term, meaning if you're trying to get into tech simply because we get paid really, really well and the benefits are great and we have like, you know, pretty much unlimited time off. And they definitely are real, those things are definitely real and very common.

If you're only in it for the money though you're not gonna last in this, in this field. [00:02:00] It's just like anything else. I had friends when I was around my college age. I didn't go to college till I was 24. Most of my friends went to college, fresh outta high school. And I remember a couple of my friends were going through nursing school.

And, you know, we would hang out sometime and they would show up with, you know, a stacks of couple hundred index cards and they were studying for a test while we were supposedly hanging out, but they weren't hanging out at all. They were craming for a test. And I remember them saying that They thought it was R really interesting and bizarre how once they got to the point in their program when they were learning how to take patient's blood and inject needles and things like that.

A lot of people in the class freaked out and a lot of them had like a phobia. a blood phobia or they were afraid of needles, which is hilarious. Cuz I don't know what these people were thinking when they're trying to become nurses, but clearly a lot of them wanted to become a nurse because the pay is pretty good.

And you, you know, you [00:03:00] always have a job in healthcare for the most part, but again, it's one of those things where if you're only in it for the money. and you're not in it because you enjoy what you're doing day in and day out. You're just not gonna last. And so those kids didn't last, they dropped outta the program.

And, you know, I see developers who get in for the same reasons and they don't last very long either because not only is learning to code very difficult, but maintaining that knowledge and constantly learning is also very difficult. You have to be a student for life and you have to enjoy that. You have to enjoy being uncomfortable and being okay with not knowing everything, which we'll talk a little bit more about imposter syndrome a little bit later.

But again, so if you're in it for the money, that's okay. Short term, long term, it's not sustainable, but you know, some other potential examples could be, maybe you want a better life for your wife and your kids. [00:04:00] You know, maybe you've been working a career or a job, and you're just not happy doing it anymore, or it's just not paying the bills.

And now you've got a wife and kids that you need to support and You know, that's a totally viable reason too, but again, if you're only doing it for the money to support your wife and kids, you're not gonna last very long. So you really gotta love it. You could potentially just want a better life for yourself.

That's totally fine and valuable and totally viable. You could be wanting to live kind of like the digital nomad life and travel the world. I mean, it's pretty great being able to. From anywhere in the world. As long as you have an internet connection in a laptop, you can pretty much do this job from anywhere.

Or maybe you just want to have some more stability in your life, or maybe your career in tech will provide, you know, some income that will allow you to pursue other passions and interests that you have. That frankly are just not very lucrative. I know that. You know, kind of true for me, I studied music.

And one of the nice things about [00:05:00] being in tech is that I don't have to worry about making a living for music. I still get to do it, but I get to do it for fun. And because I enjoy it and not because I need a paycheck and that really changes things. I also have a friend who uses his career in tech to fund some of his other passions in life and do some work with ministry.

With the church and things like that. And I think that's totally awesome and a totally valid reason and a good reason to want to get in tech. But I kind of wanted to touch back on the point of that writing code is like really hard. and I don't mean to discourage you or to scare you, but just to be realistic and kind of help manage your expectations when you're along this path.

And this journey is that these things are incredibly difficult. Like being a web developer is very hard. And I see a lot of stuff online that says kind of the contrary, like, oh no, you can do it. Like, if I can do it, you can do it. Maybe like, maybe that's [00:06:00] true. Maybe that's not true. I don't want you to think though, that it requires some superior IQ or your IQ has to be over 150 or whatever.

You don't have to be a genius to do this stuff. But there is a certain level of competency that you need to have, and you also had need to have kind of like a certain personality to do this. It's a very. Even though you're working on a team, you're still very much kind of working alone. A lot of jobs now are remote.

So if you're an extremely extroverted person, this could be challenging for you, not impossible, but in my experience. And certainly this is true of me. A lot of developers are very introverted and. You also need to be able to frankly, sit in front of a computer for a very long time and stare and read out code for hours on end.

Some people simply can't do that. Other people, other people can. So it's not [00:07:00] really a matter of you having to be a genius to do this stuff. You, but you do need to have certain kind of personality traits. And you may not know whether or not you have those traits, but you'll kind of figure that stuff as you, as you go.

I think another thing to talk about, even though writing code is really hard is just this idea that you're gonna really struggle in the beginning and we all did. No one just wakes up and figures this stuff out right off the bat. It takes typically I would say for most people, certainly for myself, it'll take a few years before we do really start to feel like you're any good.

And that can be really tough for a lot of people that can be very discouraging. You know, I remember when I was giving guitar lessons during college to help make some extra money, I would tell my students the first day that I met them at the very first lesson and they would come to me wanting to know.

oh, I wanna learn how to play this song by Metallica, or I wanna learn this other song and I would just tell them point blank. [00:08:00] I'm like, it's gonna be about a year before you become a bad guitar player. And a lot of them, like their highest would get really big and they'd really freak out, but I was trying to help manage their expectations.

We're not gonna be playing Metallica your first lesson. We're probably not gonna even be playing. Mary had a little lamb, your very first lesson. It's gonna take a lot of work. And a lot of time before you get to the point where you can start playing the songs that you really enjoy, and that you're really passionate about.

And I wasn't kidding. When I was saying that, you know, it's gonna take about a year before you become a bad guitar player because for your first year, so you can't really play anything at all. It's just kind of noise. and I think the same thing is true with code. I mean, even if you go to a bootcamp and like I shared in my my story in the previous episode, you know, I got my job five months after teaching myself, but I had absolutely no clue what I was doing.

And it was, it was probably about until year two, probably more like year three, where [00:09:00] I felt relatively competent and that I could. For the most part, understand what was going on without having to, to constantly look things up or ask questions to other people around me. And so I just wanted to share that and kind of make you aware of that.

That that's totally normal. That's, that's just how it is for almost virtually all of us. There's exceptions to the rule, but broadly speaking for most people, it's gonna be a real struggle and grind for a while. And that's okay. And people understand that when you're first starting out, they understand that when you're a junior dev.

But it's important that I think that you have those expectations going into this. I also think it's important for you to realize that again, speaking about the whole idea of you. Every single day on the job. Even the most senior seasoned developers learn something new every single day.

So I've been a developer for over seven years now and I'm constantly learning new things. I not only learn new things from my coworkers, I learn a lot of things from them, especially, [00:10:00] but, and I don't even necessarily learn things all the time from even more experienced people than myself. Although that certainly is.

I absolutely still learn things from junior developers and people who don't even have their first job working full time, who are still, still learning these things. And I think there's this common misconception that like, if you've been writing code for 20 years, that you're a genius and you never have to look up documentation, you never have to look up anything at all.

You just have all these things stored in your head. Even the most seasoned veteran developer can learn from someone who's just starting out, happens all the time.

And if someone else knows something you've never been exposed to it and then they expose you to it. Well, then that person taught you and showed you something new. And I think people often con. Intelligence with ignorance and they're, they're not the same thing. So the fact that you're unaware of something does not mean that you're stupid, you're unintelligent.

It simply just means you just don't know. And then as soon as someone exposes you to that thing, well, now, you know, so then you're not ignorant of that thing anymore. [00:11:00] And that's kind of just how learning works. But getting back to knowing, knowing your why, and some of your motivations for wanting to go through with this, I think also it's important for you while you're on long this journey to also be willing to give back.

And to help others along the way, even if you've only been starting out for a few weeks, couple months, and you really feel like you have nothing to offer and you still are struggling and you don't really understand what's going on, you still actually have valuable pieces of information that you can share with other people.

You know, being a quote unquote expert does not mean that, you know, the ins and outs of absolutely every single thing and the. Excruciating detail. It simply means that, you know, more than the other people in the room, basically you're the most knowledgeable you have the most experience about this thing.

And that that can be true of someone with 20 years of experience. That can be true of someone with one year of experience, because if you have one year [00:12:00] experience and you're helping out someone with six months of experie, Then you have more experience than natives. So it doesn't necessarily mean that you have to have years and years, and years of experience just means you have, you understand something more than the person you're trying to teach it to.

And so with that, it's really important. I think in tech to also be, be, be willing to give back. Because a lot of us benefit from the open source ecosystem and how there's, you know, hundreds of thousands of developers all around the world, creating free software. That frankly, I wouldn't be able to do my job.

I wouldn't have a career if these people weren't giving away this software and these libraries and all these tools and things for free and virtually all of these tech companies that are making, you know, millions and billions of dollars are making it off the backbones of people who have completely contributed all this code and all these tools for nothing.

And. Because of that, it's important to kind of remember of where you've [00:13:00] come from and to remain humble. And, you know, to also remember how hard it was for you in the beginning while you're going through this. So you can have some empathy for the next generation of people and the next generation of developers who are trying to get into this field so you can help them out.

Another thing in regards to understanding your why, when you're teaching yourself, how to code is. It's also really important that you do not neglect your other responsibilities in life when you're learning how to code. So if you have a wife and kids, let's say they still come. It's very difficult as I would say, especially as men as we wanna provide for our families.

I know I certainly do, and it can be very easily to lose, focus and mess up my priorities and thinking that, oh, I gotta work more. I gotta make more money. I gotta do this. Instead of, you know, spending time with my children, spending time with my wife every single day. So do yourself a favor and do me a favor and don't neglect your [00:14:00] responsibilities in life when you're teaching yourself how to code.

That also means if you don't have a wife and kids that also means you know, respect your employer. If you're currently employed, don't be learning how to code on the job. When your employer is paying you to do something else, like you should be honest and. Not take advantage of that. If you have some downtime at work and you know, that's an okay time to do it then great, but your employer is paying you to do something very different.

And that thing is not to probably is not for you to learn how to code. You're doing something else and trying to change careers. So you need to do that on your own time and give your employer the time that they are paying you for, because that's what they're giving you a paycheck for. And you need to honor that.

I think also you don't wanna sacrifice your relationships just to get a better job, meaning again, prioritize, keeping your relationships healthy. You know, it can get very, very tempting to just wanna put your head down and grind it out [00:15:00] like I did for three months. I really don't recommend you do that.

But, you know, making sure to keep your relationships balanced and healthy and don't miss out on opportunities to spend time with people. When you think like, oh no, I just gotta focus. I gotta study. I gotta do this thing. You know, family and relationships and people are far more valuable than the skills you need to get into tech.

So just keep those things in mind. I think also too, when you're trying to figure out your why, when the things get. It's just to remember that, you know, this is, this should be fun for you, although it's gonna be really difficult in the beginning. You should still be having a good time, even though it's really hard.

If you're not having a good time temporarily, then just take a break. Just just stop what you're doing. Walk away. Maybe it's for 30 minutes, maybe it's for the rest of the day. Maybe you just like, you kind of burnt out. You've gone too hard. Maybe you just need to take out for a day or two, maybe a week who knows, you know, take the time, whatever you need so that when you come back to it fresh you're back [00:16:00] enjoying it.

Because if you're not enjoying this, even though it's really hard in the beginning and you're struggl. You're gonna be miserable in this field. Like, don't do this thing if you don't actually get some satisfaction and fulfillment out of it. And I think it's also important to realize you don't have to be learning how to code like 24 7 and on the weekends and all the time, like absolutely all the time.

Make sure you keep some time open for yourself for your own sanity and mental health and especially for those relationships and those other important people in your. And so next, I kind of wanted to talk a little bit about, you know, when we're talking about this whole, this, this idea of understanding your, why is just kind of squashing some of the really bad information that's out there online.

Like I, I hinted at this a little bit earlier, I spoke about it about this idea that you'll still see people saying, oh, like learning to code is like so easy. Like anyone can do it. And [00:17:00] you know, I, I think people are well intentioned by saying those things because they want to motivate you. But I think it also creates like really unrealistic expectations because you go into it, think with this mindset of saying, oh yeah, like it is like, it's not gonna be that bad.

It's gonna be. Anyone can do it. I can do it. And then it gets really, really hard. And then you, you don't even realize how hard it's going to get, and then it just smacks you right in the face. And then you start having all this self-doubt saying, well, everyone said it was easy, but it's not easy for me. So maybe I'm not smart enough.

Maybe I'm not good enough. And maybe I'm not cut out to do this. and we all go through those things. That's frankly, it's just called imposter syndrome where you feel like an imposter, because you're trying to do this thing, but you feel like you have no idea how to actually do it. And even the most seasoned, you know, developers still struggle with that.

I still struggle with that on a regular basis. We all do. And in a way it's a good thing because it keeps us humble. I mean, if you ever get to, [00:18:00] to a place where you feel like, oh, I'm the best, like I have this all figured out and like, I don't really need anyone's help. Like that kind of ego is not gonna get you very far in life.

And no one wants to work with people like that. I have worked with a lot of people over the years who have egos like that, who are kind of like my way or the highway kind of people. And they, frankly don't last very long. They either quit or they just become so frustrated where they're working with their teammates, that they, they leave or ultimately the teammates become so frustrated with that person that they ultimately get, let go.

And I've, I've seen that happen before. So don't be that person. You always wanna check your ego at the door, but getting back to some of the misinformation stuff, I quickly just wanted to share, like just. A sample of some of the stuff I've seen out there. And I see this a lot, but this is just one example I've seen recently.

So I came across this blog article. I will link to it in the show notes and it's on a blog by [00:19:00] it's a blog by sta and sta is a, they have a, at least they used to have a very, very good blog. And they are basically a company that. Provides hosting and servers for WordPress websites. And back when I was doing WordPress, like they were the best of the best.

I don't know if they are anymore, but they were some of the best. And I really looked up to these guys and had a lot of respect for them. Because they did really good work, but here's just an example of something they published recently on June 24th, 2022. And again, I'll link to in the show notes, hopefully the, it doesn't change after the, this has come out, but the name of the blog article is called how to become a developer from scratch and find a job.

And so when I saw that, I was like, oh great, I'm gonna read this because maybe I could get some good information and tips and stuff that I can share for this podcast. And with some other people I know who are trying to get into this. And so here's the very first paragraph of this article. Again, [00:20:00] it's called how to become a web developer from scratch and find a job.

If there's one job that's easy to pick up with no prior experience or education at all. It's web development. That's the first sentence. If there's one job that's easy to pick up with no prior experience or education at all. It's web develop. So right off the bat, very first sentence. These people are portraying learning how to become a web developer as like one of the easiest things in the world.

It's easy to pick up. You don't need to have any prior experience, which that's true or education at all. That's kind of true, but like this stuff is very slippery and very misleading. And and the second sentence says you can get started right now. And in a few weeks or months of studying practice, you'll have a working understanding of how to develop a website.

Maybe you'll understand how a website works in a few weeks or. [00:21:00] but the there's a lot of variables and there's a lot of nuance in there that they're not really getting to. And that's just one example. You see this stuff constantly on social media and everything and everywhere else about how, oh, it's super easy.

And like, no, you, no, anyone can do it. And that simply just isn't true. Not everyone can be a doctor. Not everyone can be a lawyer. Not everyone can be a teacher, not everyone who has a lot of knowledge and expertise in an area can teach it to another person like, you know, pedagogy and teaching skills are very, very different just because you know, a lot about something doesn't mean you can communicate that to other people very well and in a compelling way that they can learn from you.

So not everyone can do absolutely everything and that's totally fine. We're all created uniquely and differently with different gifts and skill sets. And that's a good thing. That's why we have plumbers and doctors and you know, all different types of occupations and fields is because people are gifted with different abilities.

So not [00:22:00] everyone can do this because not everyone is gonna even enjoy it. Might even be miserable doing it. And vice versa. I know that I personally wouldn't wanna do a whole lot of jobs and occupations cuz I wouldn't enjoy them whatsoever. But I think even with that said, and I'm not trying to scare you, I'm just trying to set your, manage your expectations and be real realistic about all these things is that, you know right now when you're teaching yourself how to code, you don't have to learn absolutely everyth.

Your job right now is to learn enough skills to get a job. That's it. That's what you need to know. You don't have to know every library, every framework, every piece of technology, every cloud provider and all the services and all the things like that. You don't need to know absolutely everything. Your job right now is to learn enough skills to get your first junior developer role.

And the rest of the skills that you need to know, you'll learn on the [00:23:00] job. That's just frankly how it works. That's how absolutely all of us do it. You will never absolutely know everything that you need to know. The most important thing for you to realize is that you don't have to know it all.

You just have to know enough to solve the problem. That's staring you in the face. That's right in front of you, meaning. If you get a, when you become get your first developer job and you get your first ticket and it's to implement a feature or to fix a bug or whatever, you only have to know enough to be able to implement that feature or to fix that bug.

And you're not gonna know everything you need to fix that bug or to implement that feature, but you're gonna figure it out. And that's, that's what being a developer is all. That's why they call it engineering. I mean, you're constantly asked to do things that you've never done before and your job is not to have all that information ready to go, and you can solve that problem right off the bat immediately, cuz you know how to do it.[00:24:00]

Sometimes that happens. But oftentimes you're tasked with a problem that you've never done before. And then it's your job to be resourceful and figure out what you need to know to solve that problem. A lot of that involves searching Google. A lot of that involves asking your teammates or maybe looking through the code base for other areas where you know, those things have existed and you can get ideas that way.

So again, just to reiterate your, your job right now is not to learn at all. It's simply to get enough skills to get a job, and you're never gonna know everything. You're only, you only need to know. Enough to solve the problem. That's right before you. And right now, if you don't have your first developer job, your number one problem is getting your first junior developer position and job.

You don't have to worry about all the technical stuff. You don't even know what that job is gonna be and what you're gonna have to do on in that [00:25:00] job. And the specifics of it, the problem before you right now, and this is only for people who don't have their first dev job and trying to break into the industry.

Is getting your first job. And so you need to acquire the skills, the, both the technical skills, the soft skills, the interviewing skills, the resume skills, et cetera, to simply get your first job and get your foot in the door. Now, all those skills I will cover in future episodes. We can't get into it right now.

It's kind. It would be a little bit off topic and this podcast would go on for hours and hours and hours on in. So I will touch on those things obviously in the future and help get into the more specifics of the skills and the things that you need, and then provide some advice and resources on how to get those skills.

And so finally, just kind of wrapping up this episode. I think also when you are trying to understand here, why something that I think is, is really important that I'm just kind of gonna throw in here. That may seem a bit unrelated or off [00:26:00] topic, but it's this concept and this idea of you really need to be taking care of your health when you're teaching yourself how to code.

Like I said before, it can be a very lonely kind of isolating job, especially if you're working remotely. You're gonna spend a lot of time indoors. There are times when I don't leave my house for a few days, if not more. But. If I'm not careful, and if I'm not aware of it, and that's what I mean about taking care of your health.

So if you've never thought about your health before, and this is advice that obviously spans beyond learning how to code, this is just good advice for living a healthier, better life. If you don't work out, you need to start working out. And this is to me, this advice, frankly, really isn't optional.

You may be like, oh yeah, whatever. Like, I don't really need to work out. I just need to get a job and learn tech and learn Java script and whatever and get, yeah. Except like how good are, are those skills of learning Java script? Let's say you do get that job and you are making $150,000 a year and you've quote [00:27:00] unquote, you made it.

You, you got out everything that you wanted, but you're sick. What are you gonna do? What, how are you gonna take, if you have wife and kids, how are you gonna take care of your family? If you're sick all the time, or what? If you get really sick, you have some chronic disease or you get diagnosed with something that's pretty severe now, what are you gonna do?

So I throw this in there just to say that, you know, In order to sustain yourself in this career or any career for that matter, you really need to start thinking about your health. And so when you're teaching yourself how to code, do yourself a favor and do me a favor, please. If you're not working out, you need to start working out three days a week, at least.

It's not that difficult. You don't have to like crush yourself for an hour every single time or for hours on end. You know, even if you only work out for 30 minutes, three days a week, it's better than nothing. I think it's also really important. And this is something I've done personally very recently it's to make sure that I go for a walk every [00:28:00] single day for 20 to 30 minutes, I typically do this after lunch.

The reason being is that if I don't force myself to get outside I go to the gym four days, a weeknight right now, but the gym is indoors. So I don't actually see a whole lot of sunlight because I'm working from home. And even though I do go to the gym four days a week, I'm stuck inside again underneath floor sun lighting.

Your body needs sunlight. Your body needs exercise. It's good for cardio. It's good for your circulation. Your body makes vitamin D from the sun. It's also helps sunlight helps regulate your sleep cycles and things like that. So there's all kinds of these crazy important benefits. And it's really not that difficult.

I don't care if you live in the city or the country wherever I live in a small town in Pennsylvania. And I just walk around the block a couple times for about 20 minutes. Every single day after lunch.

So, but just kind of keep those things in mind. You should be working out three days a. [00:29:00] Ideally in taking a walk for 20 or 30 minutes every single day. And you don't have to like be bench pressing 300 pounds. There's lots of, I mean, YouTube is full of lots of good stuff. You can do exercises from home.

You don't necessarily have to go to the gym. Something that I recommend to people is. You know, resistance training is really the best training in my opinion. And if you can't go to the gym or you don't feel comfortable at the gym, get yourself a set of resistance bands, they basically look like very large and thick rubber bands, and those things are incredibly useful and valuable.

Cuz you can build muscle and work out from. The comfort of your home at any time you want. And that way you don't really have any excuses of, oh, it's raining outside. Oh, it's freezing cold in the winter. I don't want to get in my car and drive to the gym. Well, you don't have to drive to the gym. You only have to do is pull out those bands and do some exercises.

And there's tons of content on YouTube and resources out there for how to work out. So. Again, [00:30:00] stressing the importance, working out really. Isn't an option. You need to start taking care of your health. Ideally, you're gonna work out three days a week for at least 30 minutes. Each time you need to walk 20, 30 minutes a day.

It also helps clear your mind when you're stuck on bugs and things like that. And then also start paying attention to what you're eating. And, you know, all these things, what people don't realize too about exercise is the tremendous benefits it has on your mental health and your cognition and your ability to think clearly.

And it's gonna help you become a better, better developer and problem solve because of all the, you know, unbelievable benefits than exercise in health and eating right has to do with your cognition and your brain function and your ability to think. So workout three days a week, walk, 20 to 30 minutes every single day and start eating better.

And a lot of people get tripped up with nutrition and nutrition really isn't that difficult. People like to make it difficult. It's not [00:31:00] that hard. You don't have to understand how the body processes things. It's just. You know, what good food is, you know, what bad food is, you know, eat your fruit and vegetables.

It's not that difficult eat organic when you can eating, you know, a big Mac for lunch is not ideal when you could be eating like a clean protein, like some chicken or, you know, a salad or you know, some chicken rice and broccoli or whatever. Everyone understands at a basic fundamental level that certain foods are better than other foods and eating a bunch of processed stuff that comes into can or microwave meals and things like that are not healthy for you in the long term.

So that pretty much wraps it up for this episode, guys. I hope it was valuable. I hope it was helpful. I know I rambled on a little bit in certain parts, but I hope I provided some value and I'm, I'm not wasting your time here. I will look forward to talking to you in the next episode. Still not sure what it's gonna be about.

I have a lot of topics in trying to order these things is a bit [00:32:00] tricky, but it'll be a good one. I promise. So talk to


Host Robert Guss is a self-taught front-end developer currently working as a Developer Experience Engineer at Cypress.io. We discuss learning how to code, strategies for getting your first job, web technology news, interviews, testing, and more on this show.

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Robert Guss