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Silicon Milkroundabout As A Wannabe Developer

I’m looking for my first junior front-end web developer role.

I read about Silicon Milkroundabout being a major tech jobs fair in London, and thought it would be a good idea to apply for a ticket – not really expecting to get one only having a half-finished portfolio at the time.

A ticket was duly issued. Panic duly ensued as I rushed to complete half a dozen websites and my portfolio. Weekends were sacrificed in full, evenings and early mornings consumed with code and come 10:30am on the morning, I had what I thought was a decent portfolio with 6 various websites, albeit a couple not quite 100% complete. But good enough to put on show.

The downside was that I didn’t have time to do any preparation as to the companies attending. Having squeezed on the train from Reading with 10 seconds to spare, and a roast dinner and two pints of cider in me, not to mention having soaked up some of the glorious sunshine, I was in a good mood.

Then I checked every company listed as attending on the Silicon Milkroundabout website and none of them were looking for junior front-end web developers. Ahh.

The event itself was held in The Truman Brewery on Brick Lane – an area of London I have fond memories of but that’s another story. My ticket was checked on 4 separate occasions before I entered, and tried to work out a plan.

At first it was a bit overwhelming – one fairly large hall and one medium-sized hall housed 165 companies looking for techies. I walked around in a large loop not knowing what to do, feeling a bit over-awed. I noted where the free bar was. I sat down (not in the bar) and tried to come up with a plan.

I failed to come up with a plan but when I went back into the medium-sized hall, the first company I spoke to were looking for a junior. We had a positive conversation – probably the best conversation I had in there.

I spoke to some very nice people, I spoke to some very interesting people too. I handed 20 CVs out and hopefully made a good impression, most were not currently looking for a junior front-end web developer but do employ juniors so I’d like to think at least a few will keep my details on file.

There were some people that as soon as I mentioned that I had no work-related experience, glazed over as if I had just announced that I’d discovered animated GIFs on Geocities.

There were a variety of organisations there, from huge multinationals to two young ladies running their own food-related start-up.

I spent a bit of time thinking about the design and UX of various stalls as I progressed – some companies seemed awfully quiet and had awfully plain installations with no obvious sign as to what they were looking for in terms of staff. Others were well-designed – and often much busier.

After a couple of free beers and talking to some randoms about their day in the bar, I wandered around a bit more but found by this point I’d spoken to most companies that were of interest, and became more interested in picking up some free jelly beans. At which point I realised that my mission was complete and it was time to go home.

It was a really good afternoon. At the least, I have spoken to people within the industry and taken my first steps towards finding a new job. I had some positive feedback about my actual CV – in particular, one person said I had a good level of experience for someone looking for their first role.

Even if I don’t get a job directly from it, and it is relatively unlikely that I will, I enjoyed it and felt at home with the surroundings and those I spoke to. I felt I belonged a lot more than I do in accounting!

Will I go to the next one in November? Hopefully not. I will be disappointed if I do not have my dream first coding role by then.

I wouldn’t especially recommend it for someone looking for their first role unless you have a super-strong CV and portfolio, with good knowledge of JavaScript, ideally Angular and/or React (one of the latter two being my next subject to learn).

I certainly would highly recommend it to anyone with 1-2 years of work-related coding experience. And at some point in the future, maybe I’ll be back. It really is a cracking event, with great people, very good organisation and a fantastic purpose.

I’m Going To Silicon Milk Roundabout

Please excuse the basic state of the blog styling it will be brought up to date and in line with my portfolio soon.

Those of you that know me will know I’ve been studying towards becoming a front-end web developer for a few years now, but only with a real focus for the last year or so. Those of you that don’t know me – hello.

I applied for a ticket to Silicon Milkroundabout, not really expecting to get one as almost every job listed seems to require huge amounts of experience – I only had a fairly basic portfolio at the time.

I received a ticket. But I decided that I was probably going to be way out of my depth and decided not to go.

Then with two weeks to go, I changed my mind again, realising that I could be throwing away an excellent opportunity.

The problem being that I needed a portfolio. And some business cards. And a new CV. So I cancelled almost everything, spent the bank holiday in front of my computer, much of this weekend, evenings, early mornings and occasional lunchtimes, trying to finish my portfolio – and the websites to go on it.

My portfolio is complete, bar one or two minor issues. Oh and I still need to do some IE adjustments. The websites are not as complete as I’d like but life is not perfect.

Anyway, I’ve absolutely no idea what to expect at Silicon Milkroundabout. I have checked the companies attending and cannot find any looking for a junior web developer. To be expected, I guess, with the laws of supply and demand.

I have no idea what to say or how to introduce myself, I’ve been so focused on finishing my portfolio that I haven’t even had chance to think about it.

Given that none of the companies seem to be looking for juniors, I’m not entirely sure which to go see – I’ve marked down some as being interesting companies to work for but I doubt I can be too fussy!

If it turns out that there are no companies looking for someone with my talents but relative lack of experience, then I at least can hopefully find out more about working in the tech industry, and also what to work towards.

And if I am totally out of my depth – they have a free bar.

I do wish I was wearing shorts right now.

I Need My Indefatigability

A while back I applied for tickets for a job fair in London called Silicon Milkroundabout.

I didn’t think I’d get a ticket, being a novice, yet I have. And then I decided I wouldn’t go because I my portfolio isn’t finished, I don’t have any work-experience, etc etc. And most of the roles advertised are senior roles – only a couple of junior roles.

I was persuaded otherwise by the same person I was supposed to go on a very pleasant country walk with yesterday. So I cancelled on her and had a very frustrating and miserable day trying to fix the bits of my websites that I hadn’t previously completed.

I did at least just about finish my weather forecasting website, bar two issues that I was completely flummoxed on.

So I asked for feedback.

And boy, did I get feedback.

No fewer than 16 criticisms on a website I thought was almost finished.

So now I’m feeling pretty down and it feels like I am further away than ever from my goal of someone taking a chance on me as a junior web developer.

I was supposed to get up this morning at 7am to crack on. It’s now 11am. I’m going out at 1pm. I have no idea how I will get my websites into a presentable enough form for next Sunday. Or whether I should ever bother going – am I going to make a fool of myself?

Time to channel my inner reserves of indefatigability.

Thoughts After 9 Days Of Coding

I took 5 days off work, split either side of the Easter bank holiday weekend and the plan was to do as much coding as possible, and end up with quite a few websites.

Things haven’t quite gone to plan.

For the Easter weekend, I was relying on my Surface to be able to do some coding – I was hoping I’d get 3-4 hours a day done over those 4 days, as I was visiting family so couldn’t spend all day coding.

Unfortunately after an hour on the train, my surface decided to restart without warning. It then proceeded to take 2 hours until it finished restarting, by which point I had almost arrived at my destination.

Frustrating but I managed to usurp it by leaving my charger on the train. Really not helpful!

Then after the Easter weekend, I managed to develop a mild illness, which is progressively getting worse. I did still manage a reasonable amount of coding the last couple of days but my brain really isn’t up to it today – not sleeping isn’t helping either.

Needless to say, I have not achieved my goals.

That said, I have made good progress.

Firstly I have almost completed the website for my first ever client. I am just awaiting some product photographs from him so I can complete it. Though he has gone very quiet! I don’t even know if he likes what I’ve done.

I have also almost finished my weather forecasting website. There is just one thing annoying me that I cannot work out how to fix, which is the jquery that manages the various navigation aspects. I’ve taken a step back so I can think about it.

Then I finished the website for the house/techno event that I help run. That was quite simple, though it took some time to make it look right. I think it is finished, but being a bit of a perfectionist, I’m still not ready to accept that it is done.

My random fruit generator offered me different types of challenges. One I haven’t yet worked out is my wonky flexbox with 5 or 8 items. I also had to get to grips with TweenMax for some animations which had me stumped for a short while. Still a few bits that need sorting so only 80% done.

Finally, I made a valiant attempt at my Sunshine Design website. I have big plans for this, though it needs quite a bit of JavaScript and quite a lot of animations. I spent all day yesterday on this and didn’t seem to make that much progress. I’m miles away from actually finishing it.

Most importantly though, I’ve really enjoyed my time coding.

I’m under no doubt whatsoever that this is my future. I can spend 2-3 hours coding, researching, testing things – completely in the zone. Something that simply does not happen in my current non-coding job. I can use my creativity, I am constantly challenged and continually have a sense of fulfillment – excitement too!

There is still a way to go until I have a portfolio that I’d be happy with, and there is only a month until I intend on starting to apply for jobs. Progress has been made.

9 Days Of Coding

I haven’t touched a style sheet or a html tag for over a week now. Various reasons – work getting in the way as usual but also a massive lack of sleep has meant I’ve just constantly been catching up with myself. A heavy weekend on top of that hasn’t helped either.

I am wondering how I am going to get back into it. The longer it goes on, the harder it is to take that first step back into it.

Tomorrow is the start of 9 days off work (I have a non-coding job). And the start of 9 days of coding. The intention is that the 5 working days will remain so, my 7-8 hours of brain-numbingly boring work replaced with 7-8 hours of brain-inspiring fun and creative coding. Along with the odd swear word.

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The first day may be quite tricky. I’m really tired and I need a rest. I think I’ll do well to do 4 hours. Plus I have an Ikea delivery.

The 4 weekend days I will try to make sure I do 3-4 hours studying too. Although I call it studying – it will more likely be actual coding, but coding is a learning process for me so it is technically studying.

So the plan is to finish my portfolio by the end of March. Or at least the websites to go on my portfolio.

First up is to finish the website for my first ever client.

Then to finish my weather forecasting website. The desktop version is 60% complete. The largest test will be to make it work for mobile – this is probably the last time I will do a website without a mobile-first philosophy!

Next up will be a website for the house/techno events I help run.

And finally I want to create a random fruit generator with plenty of TweenMax animations.

Oh yeah and I need to create my Sunshine Design website.

At which point I feel that I will have enough websites, using a variety of different languages/frameworks, etc, that I can use for my portfolio.

This was always an ambitious deadline and I may not achieve it. But I need to work my backside off the next 9 days to come as close as possible – by May I want to be applying for my first junior web developer roles. Wish me luck.

Ups And Downs

Yesterday evening I was quite excitable as I’d made my first ever favicons and they looked quite good. Well I like them, anyway. Here and here if you want to have a look yourself. If you don’t know what a favicon is, it is that tiny picture on the left side of the tab in your browser.

I also finally decided upon a new font for my weather page. I’d originally decided upon “Exo” on the basis that it was striking and a little unusual. But I had some negative feedback and decided they were right.

So then I went through dozens of Google fonts before settling on Open Sans Condensed. It was actually one of the first ones I looked at yesterday – at first I wasn’t so sure so ploughed on through the fonts for another hour (amazing how quickly time passes when designing websites) and at the end had no font.

I started going back over them again and re-discovered Open Sans Condensed. It then made sense. It was lighter, softer on the eye, instructive yet gently persuading. The big issue with running a website asking people to pay money for a weather forecast will be trust. Design is clearly going to be important to win over potential customers and as a web developer – not designer – I am going to have to go by my own feelings, and feedback of those around me, as opposed to a degree in graphic design theory.

So I think I’m making progress, I’m confident that I will get my dream junior web developer job this year.

Then I do something dumb. I forget how to change the title of my website – it was defaulting to show the website address. I asked on a forum, feeling stupid and yes it was missing the tags. Absolutely elementary. I learnt that 4 years ago.

Then someone posted “that is just a test website, isn’t it? It isn’t responsive”.

My heart sank. I have made efforts to ensure it re-sizes, recalculating fonts, boxes and buttons in respect to the width, and repositioning some elements for small screen widths.

I checked on my phone and the font does need re-sizing for mobiles but apart from that I do not understand how it isn’t responsive? I know the photographs do not resize. Maybe I need totally change the layout for mobile. Or maybe I am just not getting something. That junior web developer role then seemed further away than ever.

The next website I make I think I will do it mobile-first, and then upscale it.

Emotionally there are lots of ups and downs doing this, especially with the pressure of needing to find my first job this year. I cannot stand my current career and the morons I deal with – though that is just one of the many drawbacks of chasing payment for a living.

One hour I’m full of confidence – the next hour I’m dejected and despondent. Onwards.

My First Client…Hopefully!

I’ve been studying lots recently – benefit of having a month-long detox and not going out drinking!

I’m slowly getting towards the point of having a portfolio, so I can start applying for my first junior web developer job – but it seems I may have inadvertently ended up with my first client too.

A colleague of mine asked me what I thought of her partner’s website for his small business.

I won’t name and shame but quite frankly, the design reminded me of a Ryanair plane and the website itself was customer-unfriendly and not at all appealing.

I gave a list of constructive criticisms, just to be helpful.  I wasn’t trying to get any business.

A week later, he has asked me to rebuild his website.

It’s only a small job – financially not worth it for anyone but a junior, but having an actual client will help me vastly in my development by having to think about what the client wants, as opposed to doing whatever takes my fancy.

There are more questions than answers right now as to how to proceed, but my first step is to outline my proposal to him, then if he agrees, do the basic framework – check he likes the design when it is on-screen, then complete it.

I’m rather excited, it seems that slowly the pieces are coming together, and all this time spent studying, practicing, coding – all these weekends staying in, all the sacrifices I’ve made, may finally be about to start bearing fruit.

Who knows – the website itself may garner further leads.  Though I’m not counting any chickens until I have a finished website and and running for him.

I will indeed be a web developer.

My First Ever Meet-Up

I read plenty of advice along my journey to becoming a web developer. Some of it stating the obvious. Plenty of it repeating what I’ve already read. Some of it surprising – some of it conflicting. In fact, I read far too much advice.

Probably the best bit of advice I read was code more, study less. But that’s the topic for another blog.

One suggestion that I’ve seen repeatedly advised is to join a meet-up ground with other web developers.

There is nothing in my town, Bracknell. Well, it isn’t my town but I happen to live here temporarily. Actually there is one meet-up group called Bracknell Web Development Meetup, but when you click on it, it then asks you to create it. So a phantom group that doesn’t really exist.

I’ve also searched the nearest local town, Reading, for meet-ups for front-end developers – there are some developer groups but none seem appropriate to the languages/frameworks I am learning – mostly for very developed developers.

I was invited last night to a PHP meet-up in Reading. I’ve never touched PHP, other than nervously amending something in footer.php on a WordPress-based blog that I run. I know nothing about servers. I know nothing about back-end development whatsoever.

So I went. A strange choice, perhaps, but a good friend was giving a presentation on some websites that he runs, including TheAudioDB, which is a very successful site, plus they offered free pizza and beer. Albeit I’m on detox.

And the second presentation was on Drupal 8 – and I’ve used Drupal 7.

Unsurprisingly, a lot of it went over my head. I do have a keen interest in what all of my friends do in their spare time, so the generalities of running successful open-source websites that my friend runs was interesting and impressive.

The technical side was wooooooooooooooooooo la la la la la la la la let’s play with my hair for a while.

It was a good presentation with enough for the technical-minded and the newbies alike – which could not so much be said about the presentation on Drupal, which used so many terms I had not heard of, and was for an audience…well it was for the majority of the audience.  It was aimed squarely at back-end developers.  I should not be surprised.

I wanted to ask a question at the end about the poor theme choice available for Drupal 7, and whether this improved in Drupal 8, but I decided that I might look a bit out of place asking a front-end question, so I left it.

I did get chatting to someone on the way out who had also used Drupal, albeit briefly, and concurred with my thoughts on the basic Drupal themes.

Not a wasted evening but clearly, going to a PHP meet-up when I’m learning HTML, CSS & JavaScript is not the way forward.

But I will go to one again. I’ve found some in London – not ideal given the travelling and cost involved but it’s an investment into my future.

Those I’m now registered with include London Web, London Digital Design And Technology User Group, ShoreditchJS, Pencil Web Development Training, Find A Tech Job In London (could be very useful in the future!) and, curiously, Developers Who DJ. Yes, I am also a DJ.

Maybe I’ll try them all out and have the subject of my next blog post.

I’ve also found a meet-up for Spanish-speaking lesbians.  Not sure if I’ll get approved despite the long hair.

Coder’s Block

I haven’t done any studying, nor work on any websites for two weeks now. This is highly unusual as normally I am quite focused on this.

Partly due to it having been my birthday, so there were lots of excuses for going out. But during the week I am not waking up early as per my plan, nor am I getting home and studying. I just simply don’t feel like it. I have no enthusiasm for it – which is strange because I rather enjoy it.

I want to study but yet I cannot quite bring myself to do so right now. It all seems a bit daunting. I am questioning whether I am ever going to achieve my goal of being a web developer, professionally at least.

The pressure is actually on now, as my comfortable-yet-dull non-coding job has an element of uncertainty over it, and I may not be able to rely on this for that many more months. So over the next few months, I really do have to focus on ensuring I have a few websites to populate a portfolio, ready to try and get that foot in a door.

There is a good plan too. I’m on detox for the next 5 weeks, so there will be no hangovers, no drinking, no caffeine comedowns – the brain will be able to be as sharp and focused as ever. March I will be staying in for as much as possible, so I can save up for some vinyl decks (DJing being my other passion), and also having a week’s holiday so I can do nothing but study and code.

Yet I keep going home from work and thinking about studying. And then not studying.

I’m guessing I have coder’s block. I assume it exists, like writer’s block. Or footballer’s block. Yes let’s use a football analogy as I’m sure all my potential fellow coders reading this love football.

A few years back, I remember when my team, Hull City, were chasing for promotion, and all they needed to do was win something like 1 game in 4 and they were promoted.

The goal was in front of them, literally, they knew what they had to achieve to fulfil their dream. But the pressure was on. And we kept losing or drawing to the most dismal of teams with awful performances.

This is kind of where I am. I’ve been vaguely studying web development for 4 years, albeit very occasionally until a year ago. Now I feel I am almost at the point – the goal is in front of me, I am within touching distance of being employable. Yet I’m just going to do my ironing tonight then maybe read a book.

Tomorrow I will be back on the case. There is no option. I will be a web developer.

Regular Expressions

Many Saturdays are now study days.  And today was no exception.  It isn’t over by a long chalk.

I have two rules to stop myself losing concentration.  Firstly that is to study in either 30 minute or 1 hour chunks, taking a 15 or 30 minute break from studying afterwards.

There is no point in studying when I’m losing concentration.  If I’m coding, I can go a lot longer without needing a break.

Secondly and I will get onto the subject shortly, I like to mix up what I am studying.  I started the day gently, reading about virtual reality coding in Web Designer magazine.  Then I dived back into the Bonfires on Free Code Camp, which really are quite taxing for the brain.

I spent about 2 hours on just 3 bonfire challenges, and one repeated source of confusion for me was the use of regular expressions.  It expected me to use them, without ever having taught me them.  I hadn’t done any kind of tutorial on them, though I had read about them so was aware of their existence.

Cue a bit of Googling, and a touch of procrastination, I found RegexOne.  15 lessons on regular expressions, with a task on each one to be able to progress to the next one.  Followed by some additional challenges which I am about to do.

Interactive online tutorials are for me the best way to learn – and though I am not going to be writing long regular expressions off the top of my head tomorrow, I now do have an understanding, and also a good resource to refer back to when I’m next challenged on regular expressions.

Do you have any other sources to practice regular expressions?

Time to go make my salad…[\leaves+oil\tomatoes+bacon]