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Path to Junior Developer

Path for junior developer to choose

Congratulations on making the exciting decision to embark on the path to becoming a Junior Developer. You’ve landed in the perfect spot to kickstart your aspirations.

Brace yourself for an invigorating article that will equip you to conquer all essential topics. With each step you take on this path, you’ll be one stride closer to realizing your dreams of becoming a Software Developer. 

So ignite the flames of personal growth and embrace the power of self learning. Now, let’s dive in.

Junior developer

The Junior Developer Role

The Junior Developer role is the entry level position for a Software Developer. As a Junior Developer, you assist the development team with all aspects of software development tasks.

This includes attending meetings, assisting with design, implementing features, fixing bugs, and many other software development related tasks. The Junior Developer role is about learning to develop software in a professional environment with real world business related issues.

That said, an entry level position requires some pre-requisite knowledge to be successful in interviews and once hired. Most companies are going to expect that you possess some fundamental knowledge of development when applying for Junior Developer.

If you recall in my previous post where we learn about software development, the traditional path for an entry level software developer is to get a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. 

Don’t fret if you don’t have a degree or are not in a position to get one. Take the path of the self-taught software developer. This is the path I took to improve my professional life, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve made.

Now that you have an understanding of the Junior Developer role, let’s explore the path to becoming a Junior Developer.

Junior developer study notes

Junior Developer Roadmap: Essential Topics

Computer Science

Understanding how computers and computational systems work is essential for a software developer. Computer science explores the foundations of data structures and algorithms, design principles, practical applications of computational systems, and many other topics.

Not only will you enhance your problem solving, analytical, and technical skills it also opens the doors for new career opportunities and enables you to navigate the digital world with confidence. 

Failing to take the time to learn about computer science will have detrimental effects on your career and capabilities as a software developer.

Unfortunately, I experienced this firsthand. I didn’t have any guidance to point me in the right direction when I was learning to develop software. Naively, I dove straight into learning the C++ programming language and completely skipped this entire topic. 

Sure I picked up some useful tidbits here and there while learning to code, but it wasn’t enough, and I paid for it dearly while on the job and in some pretty embarrassing job interviews.

Had I taken the time to study at least the basics of computer science it would have made it much easier for me to understand the programming concepts I was learning and would have improved my interview experiences during the early days of my career.

Programming Languages

If you want to land a job as a Junior Developer, you must learn at least one programming language. However, it is important to choose the correct language for your goal. You may even need to learn a combination of languages depending on what you’re trying to achieve.

For example, if your goal is to become a web developer, you must learn HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Even if you plan on using a website builder such as WordPress, it’s essential to understand them.

You will have a better understanding of what’s going on under the hood of your website.  You will also be able to fix issues like display bugs or performance issues will be much easier. Let’s take a look at another example. 

Let’s say you’re interested in becoming a backend developer dealing with only server side facilities such as data storage, security, and other processing related functions. In this case, you may need to learn a programming language such as Python, C#, Java, or JavaScript.

Whatever the case may be, the best thing to do is to research the flavor of development that piques your interest. Check out online job boards such as LinkedIn or Indeed and investigate the requirements for a junior developer job in that domain.

Database Knowledge

Storing and retrieving data plays a vital role in software development. Just think about it for a minute. How do websites such as Facebook and YouTube manage storing data for millions of users?

They store the data in a database and retrieve it when it’s appropriate to display it to the user. Databases provide an organized way to store and manage large amounts of data. Understanding how they work empowers you to design and implement efficient ways to store and interact with large sets of data.

There are many different database technologies such as relational, NoSQL, key-value, graph, and several others. The database technology leveraged for an application depends on the business requirements around the product.

For example, let’s say we want to implement a feature similar to Facebook where we not only need to keep track of our personal friends but also the friends of friends to help our user expand their social circle.

We may decide to use a graph database for this application instead of a relational database due to its ability to handle highly connected data.

I’m going to make a direct recommendation and suggest that you first learn about relational databases. Relational databases are widely used in the industry and the odds of running into them are almost certain.

Relational databases use SQL (Structured Query Language) to perform operations against the database such as storing, retrieving, and manipulating data. Relational databases and SQL are industry standards that every developer should be familiar with.

Version Control

First, let’s point out that nearly every software company today uses some form of version control (also referred to as source control). If they’re not, then they should be! 

Version control is a highly important software development practice that facilitates tracking the changes made to files. Having the ability to track every change made to a code base and access to the documented history of who made changes at any given point in time is an incredibly valuable asset. 

It allows us to pinpoint when a bug was introduced and even roll back our code base to a given point in time.

Second, if you follow my guidance, version control will be important to YOU as well. As an aspiring junior developer, you will utilize a version control system to manage your projects and show off your capabilities to potential employers. 

Many potential employers will request to see your GitHub (a cloud-based version control system utilizing Git). It serves as a major talking point in your interview for a Junior Developer job and shows passion and enthusiasm for the craft. 

Don’t be the candidate that doesn’t have one to show off.

While many version control systems out there have their own merits, Git is one of the most popular and widely adopted version control systems in the industry. 

Due to this fact and the reasons stated above, I’m going to make another direct recommendation for which version control system you should learn and that is Git.

Resources for junior developer for developing a software product

Junior Developer Roadmap: Learning Resources

Now that we’ve discussed the essential topics that you need to explore, it’s time to discover some resources to help you learn them. Keep in mind that I have absolutely zero affiliation with any of the recommendations in this blog post. 

I truly believe that every recommendation suggested here will be a helpful resource during your journey to becoming a Junior Developer. I also encourage you to research and discover other learning resources to help you along your path. 

For now, let’s dive into some free (and “technically” free) resources that undoubtedly get the Underdog Developer’s stamp of approval.

Kahn Academy

Kahn Academy is a free online learning platform covering a diverse collection of subjects such as math, science, computer programming, and economics among many other topics. 

The platform offers a wide range of educational resources including instructional videos, practice exercises, quizzes, and more.

Their Computer Programming course lays a good foundation in web development covering essential topics such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and SQL. They also have a great foundational course Computers and the Internet for those with less experience with using computers.

I do find that I’m not that impressed with their Computer Science course, it’s just a bit too light to be useful for a beginner. There are better free resources available that serve as a better introduction to computer science.

Overall, I do wish that they would expand on their computer science offerings. However, they do have a stellar AP/College Computer Science Principles course that is an excellent starting point.

The Odin Project

The Odin Project is an open source online curriculum that teaches full stack web development. They cover all the essential basics of web development topics including HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and Git.

Following their Foundations course, they offer two learning paths for Full Stack Ruby on Rails and Full Stack JavaScript

Both learning paths end with a Getting Hired section that covers information such as interview preparation, creating a resume, and other useful information for landing a Junior Developer job.

The Odin Project is an excellent resource to learn about Full Stack Web Development; however, if you’re a Windows user I’m going to recommend that you use a virtual machine running a Linux distribution such as Ubuntu if you want to follow along with every lesson. 

This is certainly not a deal breaker and you can refer to the Installation Overview section of their Foundations course for a list of supported options. If you’re already using a Mac or Linux operating system then you’re good to go.

Free Code Camp

Free Code Camp is another online learning platform offering certifications covering a range of topics such as Responsive Web Design, Data Structures and Algorithms, Relational Databases, and many more.

Free Code Camp uses a top down approach when working through their curriculum. They recommend starting from the first certification on the list and working through all certifications in order until you’ve completed all certifications that they offer. 

To earn the certification for a given course you will need to build 5 projects that pass all their tests. This is what I love about Free Code Camp.

Its focus is a hands-on learning experience and lots of practice. This is great because learners will build up their project portfolio while progressing through each certification. 

I don’t have anything negative to say about this platform other than the certificates of completion don’t hold much weight on your resume, and that’s okay. We’ll cover how to build your resume to stand out from the crowd in a future blog post.

EdX

EdX is another online platform; however, their courses up the ante. Up until now, the free resources focus heavily on web development. 

EdX, however, has a fantastic collection of authentic computer science courses from very reputable sources and universities such as Harvard, MIT, and others. The best thing is that many courses on this platform are either free or “technically” free to explore.

They have one of the best computer science courses that I have personally taken. CS50’s Introduction to Computer Science is a renowned online course published by HarvardX (free online courses from Harvard University) that is suitable for both beginners and individuals with or without prior programming experience.

It is a hands-on project based approach that allows learners to apply what they’ve learned to real world scenarios. If you don’t have a degree in computer science or that your computer science education was a bit underwhelming then this is hands down one of the best free courses available to learn computer science.

Onto the “technically” free part of EdX.org. Many courses offer a Verified Track that contains real graded assignments and exams as well as a certificate upon completion; however, this is a feature that you pay for in most cases.

The good news is that you can still take part in most courses on EdX for free by choosing the Audit Track. Although you will still have access to participate in all of the assignments, you will miss out on the certificate and grading in most cases.

This learning resource walks a fine line of being “technically” free, do note there are some programs on EdX like degree and certificate programs that do not have an Audit Track. 

That said, there is still an abundance of free and “technically” free courses on EdX that deserve your attention.

Coursera

Coursera is similar to EdX in that most of the content is “technically” free with the option to pay for the certificate at the end of the course. They have a vast collection of courses and specializations from beginner computer science courses to advanced topics such as software design and architecture. 

Similar to EdX, the courses are published by reputable sources and universities such as Google, Atlassian, Meta, and more.

I generally like using Coursera as they have many solid courses in computer science and software engineering; however, I do find that it is sometimes difficult to find a peer to grade your submitted work. 

This can sometimes slow down progress and I do wish that they would improve on this in the future.

Junior developer using textbooks to learn code

Junior Developer Roadmap: Take Action

This is the moment to strategize and implement a plan of action. Feel free to use the basic curriculum template below to help organize your learning curriculum. 

Additionally, I’m including two example curriculums below for you to reference. You can use the example templates as is or customize them as needed.

Basic Curriculum Template

Phase 1: Pre-requisite Courses

Phase 2: Computer Science Course

Phase 3: Programming Language Courses

Phase 4: Database Course

Phase 5: Version Control Course

Example Curriculum: Web Developer

Phase 1: Kahn Academy: Computers and the Internet

Phase 2: EDX: CS50’s Introduction to Computer Science

Phase 3: The Odin Project: Foundations Course

Phase 3 (contd): Odin Project: Full Stack JavaScript

Phase 4: Kahn Academy: Intro to SQL

Phase 5: Coursera: Introduction to Git and GitHub

Example Curriculum: C# Developer

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. As always, feel free to discuss the topics in the comments, and don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter. 

Subscribing to my newsletter is the best way to stay informed about my latest posts, news, exclusive content, and more. Don’t miss out.

Until next time, happy learning.

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