Still A Web Developer – But Only Just

[Written on a Friday evening]

My instincts can sometimes be way off.  But often they are really intuitive – sometimes scarily so.

I am two months into my new career as a web developer.  Employed as a junior with a requirement to do mainly CSS, PHP and WordPress.  Prior to starting, I had never touched PHP, and only touched WordPress through themes and plug-ins.  Never on the developer side.

But I’m reasonably bright.  I work hard and do pick things up, albeit not as quickly as when I was 18.  Too much time in nightclubs or is the pace of social media lives too much for my northern brain?

I am probably being too harsh on myself.  Which is common.  Either I’m a hero or I’m a fuckwit.  Coding simply is not easy.

My employers saw something in me and gave me an opportunity.

All started well.  I struggled with the PHP and WordPress – at first I was just staring at it thinking what the Donald Trump.  But I breezed through the CSS challenges.  Comparing this to my previous career as a credit controller was just a dream.  I used to work with my eyes closed and my brain dead.  Now I am using my brain all day, every day.

Even two weeks ago, my manager said he had absolutely no worries about me.  I still thought that I had a lot to prove.  I had made a mistake on a live site.  I had made other dumb mistakes.  I sometimes struggle to conceptualise what I am doing.  I sometimes spend far too long trying to work something out.  I often go for a far more complicated fix than is necessary.  And I do struggle to communicate technical ideas in human language, with confidence.  And I really cannot draw flow diagrams of how things work.

But since then, the feeling that all was not well started to grow.  I just started sensing things.  I had a project to finish this week, moving a website to WordPress – I had never moved a website to WordPress before, and got the wrong end of the stick with regards to the databases that used to be used – I thought that we were still going to be referencing them.

That was Thursday and I went home thinking, shit, I might get sacked tomorrow.  I was going to ask my manager for a chat anyway as there was one month left on my probation period, or so I thought, and I wanted feedback on what I could improve to ensure I passed it.

I considered getting horrendously drunk but thought better of it (gosh I’m getting old…or mature), and turned up at work on Friday morning.  In bright purple trousers.  Surely nobody could sack someone in bright purple trousers?

Ironically, WordPress suddenly started to click during Friday.  I had so many eureeka moments, both that morning and the latter part of the previous afternoon.  And then the dreaded message turned up during the afternoon, “James, please can you come through and bring your chair”.

It was fairly immediately obvious that I was not getting sacked.  Yet.  But I was getting my probation extended.  They are not happy with my progress with WordPress/PHP, more in terms of understanding the general environment, alongside some of the self-criticisms listed above.

The only surprise was that my probationary period was apparently two months.  I thought it was three.  Other than that I totally agreed with them.  It is hard not to agree with them – I have a huge amount of respect and admiration for them, and boy I love playing Devil’s Advocate.  Even if they had have let me go, I would have had absolutely no bad feelings about them – I genuinely like, admire and respect them both.

I would have been gutted for many reasons.  Mostly for letting them down as they have given me an opportunity that I may have struggled to get otherwise (I would have eventually).  Had it been the company I last worked for, I would not have given a monkeys.  But I am genuinely excited to work for them.  My perfect company – joining as their first permanent developer, watching a company likely to grow very quickly.

I love the company ethos, I love their approach, I highly respect their understanding of business and ability to communicate.  I have somehow landed on my feet – somehow managed the absolute perfect opportunity in the perfect company with the perfect managers…and they buy me beer – everything I have dreamt about and worked towards for for 3ish years.  Can you tell I’ve had a few beers?

I do have a history of fucking things up.  Or at least needing a couple of opportunities to get it right.  From school, two attempts at university, DJing, living arrangements, friendships – I don’t make things easy for myself.  Oh and have I ever had a job without the probation period being extended?  Once, maybe!  Yikes.

Now I have to react to it.  Let’s face it, I could have lost my job today.  My work ethic, team work, general soft skills and personality partly saved the day.  Plus my CSS skills.

Ooh and I just made it to the buffet car one minute before it closed.  Today definitely could have been worse.

Three months is what I have now to prove myself.  And I know after the amount of success and understanding that I had today that I can and will be able to do so.  I am going to spend more of my spare time studying again – screw enjoying life and London, it will have to wait.  I am going to double-down on my WordPress understanding – and find a blog that I can make my own theme for as practice.  Ooh like this blog – which is an unrepresentative shambles.

I am going to find some meet-ups in London related to WordPress and also buy a book or two.  I do not want to have it on my conscience come late January (my birthday – that could be an interesting present) that I didn’t do everything possible to succeed.

But I know the seeds of doubt have been sown.  When I have doubts about something, it becomes even easier to find reasons to entrench those doubts.  I am now battling against the flow, I now have to persuade two people that I am going to be their superstar, that currently think they might have to let me go.  I believe I will be, or can be, but persuading them might be harder than proving it.

As such I will also have to hedge my bets. Update my CV, update LinkedIn, sign up again for all the fucking job alerts and reactivate my profiles in case they turn around next week and say no.

The worst thing now will be fearing another fuck-up.  What happens if I notice that I’ve done something wrong? Do I ignore it and hope they don’t notice? Or admit to it and hope I don’t get fired?  I’m an up front honest person so the latter suits me more, but I’ve already noticed how I am responding to situations with trepidation instead of confidence.

I am not sure how to sum this up.  I do know that the really rough looking woman on the train keeps looking at me and smiling.

I am still a web developer.  Just.

It Was Never Going To Be Easy

Becoming a junior web developer was never going to be easy.  Getting the job was relatively easy compared to the studying required for it.

Keeping the job, and passing my probationary period is going to be tough too.

Last week started easily enough.  One of my main tasks was to ensure that print stylesheets of the main websites that I have been amending, were transformed from relative abominations to clean and legible print stylesheets – with necessary information only.

I had some frustration as page-break-inside was not stopping Chrome from splitting images as it should – I spent hours trying to research how to ensure elements didn’t print over two pages, and in the end had to settle for the less than optimal solution of manually positioning said elements.

Then I was set an SEO-related task, which had some PHP coding requirements involved – not my strong point. Ironically though the PHP was straight-forward and it was the CSS that caused issues, as it ended up requiring the carousel to be implemented on mobile devices too to stop the header appearing twice on SEO.  I’m no SEO expert but I’m assuming that having a header twice may cause Google to penalise you.

This was fun and games to sort out the carousel, as it took me quite a while to realise that it was Bootstrap (not my choice to use it!) that was over-riding my mobile carousel settings – Bootstrap apparently doesn’t want a mobile carousel, but that was the only way (I knew of) to fix the SEO issue.

Eventually I completed it, tested it on all kinds of different screen widths and device types, and it was pushed live.

Except I hadn’t tested the actual menu by clicking it, of which I had changed to the same colour as the menu text.  Shit, shit, shit.  Panic ensued to correct it.

Not my finest moment.  Why did I not think to test the menu button?  Absolutely fucking obvious and I am still frustrated with myself now.

Then on Friday i was set a tough challenge to re-code the archive pages so that they had their own SEO meta data, as opposed to automatically taking the meta data from the first link on the page.

I spent pretty much all day trying to work it out and could not find an answer.  I tried various functions, discovered various things and did a hell of a lot of reading.  I didn’t even get down-voted on Stack Overflow for asking the question.

So frustrating as I really wanted to fix this, especially after my cock-up on Wednesday.  I still feel that I need to prove myself – after all, I have a 3 month probationary period to pass.

On the bright side, I have been set a project which will take me until around Christmas, to redevelop the company website, along with the very impressive designer that we have, and new account manager/content writer.

I have two new colleagues, and a further one starting tomorrow who is a mid-weight PHP developer so he will be able to help me when I get stuck.


I’ve done plenty of good work too and am really enjoying it, despite the occasional day-long frustrations.

Just need to double-down on my efforts, particularly learning PHP and make sure I pass my probationary period.  I should do – but I am taking nothing for granted.