Career Inspiration: Holly – Web Interface Developer

It’s Saturday and that means it’s time for another Career Inspiration interview. The aim of these interviews is to help those of you looking for career ideas, a career change or simply an insight into what others do.

It’s very hard to know what you want to do in life and I’ve always enjoyed finding out about what others do and the journey they took to get there. I hope you enjoy today’s interview with Holly, a Web Interface Developer.

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When did you realise you wanted to become a Web Interface Developer?

I started building websites and playing around with code when I was 14. I’m entirely self-taught. I always wanted web development to just be a hobby because I thought if it was my full-time job to build websites I would find it boring or lose interest in it.

It was in my final year of university that I decided I wanted to become a web developer. Or at least, I knew I wanted to give it a try as a full-time job. I didn’t have a relevant degree (more on that below) but I did have 7 years experience of building websites in my free time, so I optimistically applied for a job as web developer after graduating and I got the job!

What did you study at university and why?

I studied Geography at university which is obviously not relevant to web development at all.

I actually wanted to be a geography teacher which is why I chose to study geography at university. I’d also really enjoyed the subject at school and college, and I thought it would be interesting to study as it’s such a broad subject.

Unfortunately my health took a turn for the worse in my second year of university. I was born with hip dysplasia, which means I don’t have a full formed hip socket on my left side. My condition didn’t bother me that much when I started university, but then it started to deteriorate to the point where I was in too much agony to walk. I now rely on steroid injections into my hip to manage the pain, but it soon became clear to me that being a geography teacher was going to be difficult. Geography is a physical demanding subject, and standing for long periods of time while I taught would be a no go.

For over a year I felt completely lost. I was studying for a degree in a subject that I was no longer interested in and my career aspirations had gone completely out of the window. But I did still have an interest in web development and I was starting to help out fellow bloggers with their coding issues.

As I mentioned previously, I didn’t have a relevant degree but I thought if I could practice my coding skills and build a portfolio then I might stand a chance when applying for developer jobs. After applying for over 90 jobs (not all developer roles) after I graduated I started to lose hope and thought I would have to back to university to gain a relevant degree before I could get my dream job.

I feel so fortunate to be given the chance I was by my employer as they really were taking a risk employing someone without a relevant degree, but I like to think I’m proving that I was worth the risk.

Please tell us about your current role. 

I’m currently a Junior Web Interface Developer and my job involves coding the front-end of websites (the bit you see as a user). As a junior I support the other developers with “big” website builds and work on smaller projects on my own. I’ve still got a lot to learn!

I work for a company that specialises in tourism websites and destination management, so I spend my days building websites for tourism boards e.g. cotswolds.com and visitliverpool.com. I also code email newsletters for Communicator.

What is a typical workday like?

I work 9 to 5 so the mornings usually start with a team catch up meeting where each member of the team discusses what they are working on. It’s good to know what everyone else is doing to prevent multiple people working on the same project.

Then I get started on whatever project I happen to be working on. Our designer will pass on the page designs to us once they are approved by the client, and from this we can start to build a website.

We begin with a basic framework for a website (header, footer, navigation, content, etc) and from there we add elements such as social media feeds, videos, product searches, and then style them to match the design. Once the website has been built it is tested before being handed over to the client to populate with content. During this time we also resolve any issues that the client finds with the website.

I also spend an hour a day doing support work. This involves resolving problems and issues with website that the client has reported on live websites. Sometimes it’s just a simple fix but most of the time it’s more complicated!

What is the most challenging part of your job?

There’s a meme floating around the internet that says:

“My code doesn’t work. I have no idea why.”

“My code works. I have no idea why.”

I feel this perfectly sums up how challenging coding can be. Websites are incredibly complicated and even the smallest issue (such as a space between words, or not closing a HTML tag) can break an entire website. It can be incredibly frustrating!

Also, we build a lot of websites that are in multiple languages, and this can be very challenging. We build a lot of websites for Norwegian clients and even something that might seem quite basic, like having extra letters in the alphabet, can cause major problems for our system.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

I love it when a website I have been working on goes live. I get a real kick from hearing positive feedback from the clients, and I always send a link to the website to my family and friends so I can show it off!

Also, as I mentioned before, it can be so frustrating when something breaks on a website, but I find it so rewarding when I find a solution to the problem; especially if I find that solution by myself without having to ask the lead developers.

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What advice would you give to others thinking of a career as a Web Interface Developer

Learn to code as soon as you can! There are so many incredible resources online to help you to learn such as Codecademy, CodeSchool and W3Schools. I even have some tutorials on my website which are aimed at teaching bloggers to code.

Once you know the basics, practice, practice, practice, and keep on learning.

I would advise studying a relevant degree at university like Computer Science or something more specific to web development, but it is possible to become a web developer without a relevant degree. You just need to prove you have the skills to build websites with a portfolio, and also prove you have a genuine passion for web development. I think the fact that coding was a passion of mine really helped in me getting this job.

What do you think the next revolution in web interfaces will be?

I think it will also be interesting to see how websites will adapt to new technology such as smart watches, Google Glass and virtual reality headsets. Websites are going to be interactive on a whole new level.

What keeps you motivated?

I really do love my job so it doesn’t take much motivation to get up and go to work each day. My fellow web developers keep me motivated. They’re all such lovely people with great attitudes to work that are so infectious. I love looking at the websites the more senior developers are working on and it drives me to become better at my job so I can someday build websites like they do.

What direction would you like to take your career in 2016?

I’ve been at the company for less than a year so I’m probably not ready for a promotion just yet (you usually work as a junior for two years) but I’m taking the appropriate steps to drop the “junior” from my job title as soon as possible.

I’m about to start my first “big” project soon which is daunting but exciting. Hopefully I will be able to show off what I’ve learned so far. Also, in May I’m off down to Hertfordshire to the offices of a company we recently merged with to learn how they build their websites and I feel really privileged to have been given this opportunity.

Thank you so much to Holly for taking part in my Career Inspiration series. I wish her lots of luck with her career throughout 2016. You can find Holly over on her blog, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

If you would like to take part in my Career Inspiration series then leave a comment below or drop me a message on Twitter.

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