How to become a front-end developer


Front-end developers are responsible for the look and feel of a website or application, working with back-end designers and developers to produce a product that meets the client’s needs. For anyone interested in becoming a front-end developer, the role requires in-depth knowledge in areas such as web performance, system building processes, CSS layout engines, and computer fundamentals.

Learning these skills is essential. When it comes time to write a front-end developer resume, employers will want to know as soon as possible that you’ve mastered vital front-end developer skills like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Having a good sense of design doesn’t hurt either; If you’ve already created a portfolio of user-facing websites (whether for an employer or just for fun), include them when applying for jobs.

What skills do I need to become a front-end developer?

According to Lightcast (formerly Emsi Burning Glass), which collects and analyzes millions of job postings across the country, the front-end developer technical skills most often requested by employers include:

  • JavaScript
  • Front end development
  • Software engineering
  • React JavaScript
  • Manuscript
  • Software development
  • Web application development

In addition, many job postings list the following “soft skills”:

  • Teamwork/collaboration
  • communication skills
  • Writing
  • Problem solving
  • Creativity
  • Repair
  • Planning

This all makes sense: front-end developers should communicate progress and other details to organizational stakeholders (including customers) and collaborate closely with back-end developers and other technology professionals on project details.

How much can front-end developers earn?

Lightcast estimates that the demand for front-end developers will increase by 12.1% over the next 10 years. Over the past 12 months, employers have posted about 42,504 job openings for front-end developers, suggesting strong demand. The median salary is $97,052, but this can increase significantly with experience and mastery of skills.

What does a developer journey look like?

Shadi Rostami, senior vice president of engineering at Amplitude, says her journey started when she recognized what she didn’t want to do. “In Iran, in the ninth grade, you choose your path. Whether it’s medicine, art or engineering, that’s where you decide your future,” she says. “I chose the path of medicine – the path my father wanted me to take and the path my brother took – and about a year and a half later I decided that was not the path for me. me.”

Instead, she ended up being the first girl in Iran to participate in the Computer Olympiad, an annual competition for high school students competing in one of these subjects: math, physics, and chemistry.

This led her to pursue an engineering degree at the Sharif University of Technology in Iran, and later earn a Ph.D. in Computer Engineering from the University of British Columbia in Canada. After that, Rostami worked for startups for a few years, then headed to Palo Alto Networks, where she spent more than a decade deepening her experience in development and became vice president responsible for development, quality assurance, DevOps and data science.

All of this led to her becoming Senior Vice President of Engineering at Amplitude. “I kept asking myself, how else can I grow? What else is there to learn?” she says. “I saw this growth opportunity at Amplitude as SVP of engineering and I grabbed it.”

Besides her formal schooling, she learned by working with teams to create new products. “Experience is often the best teacher,” she adds. “When I decided to go down the management route, I also took several manager training courses.”

If you want to know how to become a front-end developer, keep in mind that there are many different paths to get there. John Rood, senior software developer at Codecademy, says that at the very beginning of my career, he wasn’t necessarily focused on front-end development.

“I’m a self-taught developer, and for years learning to program was just a hobby for me,” he says. “I spent time one summer taking a free course on C++ that was available through MIT. I put it on my resume, but didn’t imagine it would help me land a job as a developer.

After graduating from college, he landed his first tech job at a nonprofit. He had applied for an IT support position, but they hired him as a developer because they really needed programming support. “Once I started working, I really dove into learning front-end development for the first time,” Rood says. “I’ve used tools like Knockout JS and Twitter Bootstrap, and learned from other developers through pair programming. For example, my knowledge of C# comes almost entirely from being around other developers and learned from them.

Become a front-end developer by building your knowledge base

Another source of learning came from attending developer conferences. Root has been to GOTOpia Chicago, DEVIntersection Conference, AWS Summit Chicago, Esri Developer Summit, and International JavaScript Conference New York (to name a few).

“For someone just starting out as a developer, attending these conferences is a great way to network with other programmers and learn about what’s going on in the space,” he explains.

Contributing to open source projects is another great way to grow your experience and get involved in the developer community. “Even though this is just a small fix to the documentation, people really appreciate open source contributions, and it’s a great way to showcase your work,” he says.

When it comes to landing your first job as a front-end developer, it’s also okay to start small. Staying patient and looking for these opportunities can eventually lead to more serious developer gigs.

“There are plenty of organizations out there that are in desperate need of programming talent, which is a great way for someone with less experience to get their foot in the door,” Root says. “Even though I wasn’t making a lot of money from the nonprofit, I was able to gain real programming experience and grow my resume and portfolio.”

Remember to focus on skill development

Root says HTML, CSS, and JavaScript are the essentials of any front-end development career. From there, it helps to know the different component frameworks like React, Vue, and Lit.

“With front-end development, there is some overlap with design,” he adds. “So it can be really helpful to understand different design systems.”

For example, Google has Material Design; IBM has Carbon; at Codecademy they use Gamut. “As a developer, these systems will help you create interfaces with intentionality around layout, color, typography, and animation,” says Root.

Rostami says the technical skills that have helped her the most throughout her career stem from a deep understanding of computer science, computer engineering, and software engineering. “Knowing these disciplines is key to becoming a successful developer,” she says. “But the ability to code isn’t the only important technical skill developers need to learn.”

Understand the customer experience

Rostami says soft skills are often overlooked, but they’re essential if you want to succeed as a developer. “The role of development and engineering is to help your business win,” she explains. “Doing this requires many soft skills, including collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking.”

From his point of view, empathy is one of the most important skills that characterize a successful developer. “You must have the ability to deeply understand the customer experience in order to effectively identify their frustrations and then resolve issues to meet their needs,” she says. “Without empathy, you end up building to build, which not only hurts the customer experience, but the business as well.”

She adds that Amplitude hires developers who think about the broader business impact and not just their own coding perfection: “Another important skill is having great agency and problem-solving ability… Whether you’re deciding to debug a production issue under a lot of stress or looking to unblock yourself while you’re stuck setting up an environment or developing a new product, you need to be able to problem solve.

When it comes to programming, teams can grow faster than individuals. “In my own career, I’ve definitely grown the most being part of a team and working alongside other developers through pair programming, because they’re ultimately trying to grow their careers too,” adds Root. As a front-end developer, it’s always important to follow the market and pay attention to trends.

Beware of impostor syndrome

“Being a woman in a male-dominated field, it’s easy to succumb to impostor syndrome,” Rostami adds. “Having a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset is essential to succeeding in any career you choose. Successful people adopt a growth mindset: they try new things , succeed and get out of their comfort zone.

With a growth mindset, you won’t allow people to limit your development or your ability to learn new things. “Be authentic, say yes to any opportunity to learn, and technical skills will follow,” Rostami says. “If I could give my younger self any advice, I would say always act like you belong.”

With that in mind, look for mentors who can help build skills and say it’s important to always be curious. “Today I may be the head of our engineering team at Amplitude, but I wasn’t always,” Rostami adds. “And that doesn’t mean I know everything about engineering or that I know every answer to every meeting.”

As part of a team, it is essential to allow people to step forward and demonstrate their own expertise. “We have to make room for others, even when we can do things or know things ourselves,” Rostami says. “We should always be in a constant state of learning.”


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