Career advice about modern Frontend web development for OLDER guy

Hi good people,

I rarely ask questions, so here we go… I think about switching careers, but don’t have enough info about everyday work situation of modern Frontend development, so before I embark in this journey I have (a lot!) of questions. Also, I would ask you, more experienced people to try to quantify some things. I know in this field is hard to quantify but I would like you to try.

First some background. 44 years old guy, worked mostly in fields of construction, and electricity until 5 years ago, but have solid knowledge of OOP PHP and wordpress from 15 years ago (was working that when I was injured for 2 years) and learned that because I had some computer knowledge from high school. Some AutoCad experience and 3D. Currently my main job is IT support, AD, networks. Some Linux knowledge. I was offered to go for system admin path. I am more interested in programming (coding) and I am interested and fascinated with Front-end development.

I am asking this question because I want to find accurate information about real everyday life situations, tools, how hard and what speed is needed for frontend developer being 44 guy with some IT experience.

I am afraid I am too slow for competing with youngsters to switch career, so I am here to determine is it the fact and try to quantify am I fit for being Frontend dev.

I am currently learning more advanced Javascript and then start React. I have absolutely no knowledge about React, zero. I am interested in this particular job post, and I need info what is this and how much time is needed to learn all of this, how hard it is and is it even worth it or I should stick to my current job which isn’t bad at all. Very interested in Next.js!

This job requirements are:

    • excellent Javascript (few months or learning?)
    • excellent React (few months learning more?)
    • TypeScript, Redux and Redux Thunk, Redux Saga, Less, (have no idea… )
    • cross-browser development, polyfills, API integration (how long?)
    • CI/CD testing experience required (again have no idea)

Questions are:

Do I have what it takes, can I learn it, is it worth going for this career, or is it too complex to STAY competitive in this field?

Am I too old with my 44 years and I would be ridiculed by 25 year old colleagues.

What are all things that mid/senior frontend developer realistically should know?!

Most important question for me: how does one working day in frontend developer looks like, what tools does he use, what code he inputs? How complex it is?

Can you even quantify hours, days, months learning needed to apply to this job starting from my position?

I have no idea what to expect so I really need your thoughts. I don’t know if I should ask these question somewhere else (Quora), so if you know better place please refer me. If you want to write more about what should I know about working in frontend development looking from my point of view - please write.

Also I want to learn Next.js. If there are people working with Next.js (side question, is there one course zero-to-Next.js you recommend) can you describe your day and give examples of what you code. Trying to quantify quantify quantify these things, for better judgment…

THANK YOU!

My situation was similar - a little programming experience, years ago. Except I was in my late 40s. I did it is possible.

It is harder, for sure. It is already very difficult to get the first job. It will be a little harder for you. Can you keep up with the youngsters? Only you can say that.

I am interested in this particular job post, and I need info what is this and how much time is needed to learn all of this, …

Well, I’m assuming that it will be filled by the time you are ready.

  • excellent Javascript (few months or learning?)

That depends on what your current level is.

  • excellent React (few months learning more?)

That depends on what they mean by excellent. I would be thinking more like 6 months to start to even pretend to be “excellent”.

  • TypeScript, Redux and Redux Thunk, Redux Saga, Less, (have no idea… )

TypeScript is just an extension of JS. If you have experience in a strongly typed language and some OOP, that will help. If you have solid JavaScript, then TS is not hard to learn. A large part of it is declaring variables with types and using interfaces.

Redux is state management for React (OK, technically doesn’t have to be for React). In React, passing data around from component to component can become a pain with large projects. Redux is one solution. It’s common to learn Redux while learning React (or shortly after).

Redux sagas use JS generator functions to make dealing with asynchronous actions easier to deal with. (Redux thunks are another popular approach.) For all of that? I think you’re looking at 6-12 months, depending on how good you want to be.

Less is an extension of CSS. If you have good CSS skills and understand coding fundamentals, it shouldn’t be hard to learn.

  • cross-browser development, polyfills, API integration (how long?)

I don’t know much about cross-browser - I do mobile. Polyfills? Aren’t those handled by your web bundler? API integration? Isn’t that just part of learning JS? I mean, you do it on any non-trivial web page. There are certain patterns and techniques, but it is part of all web dev work.

  • CI/CD testing experience required (again have no idea)

That’s a weird thing to say. What is CD testing? Maybe the mean CI, CD, and testing?
CI is continuous integration, so when you merge code it gets integrated into the app. CD is continuous deployment, automatically deploying updated apps. Testing is writing different types of tests. They will probably at least want some basic unit test writing. To learn basic CI/CI, assuming you understand git and the rest? Maybe a month. To learn basic unit test writing? A month, maybe two?

Realize that I am pulling these numbers out of my butt. They mean nothing.

This does not sound like an entry level position. But keep in mind that the “required” lists for these jobs sometimes get inflated.

I think the most important thing is to keep learning. Keep learning and keep building. Once you have your first fullstack app, start applying. But keep learning and building things.

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kevinSmith, thank you for you comprehensive response. I was looking for opinion from person that had similar story as you, and I got one. Thank you, hope your response and my question would be useful to other persons also. If someone else can say something more, please feel free to chip in. Maybe some Next.js dev for some specifics. Thank you Kevin, i know have to think about this even more, and do more resarch

Hello! I have faced the sideeffect of the war and it is easy to predict that it would be job shortage. That is why I have started to learn by myself html, CSS, JavaScript. In the future I would like to learn React. Your post is great as it explains a lot. I’ve got a lot of time and concentrate my mind on the practical. I know it should be some theory and it is the easiest part if you have managed to understand the concept in the practical task.

Hopefully some people with Next.js experience will pipe in. I’ve used it a few times. Basically it is a library (bordering on a framework) to allow React as SSR. It is popular and could be a useful thing to learn. It is not required for all paths, but it could be another tool in your belt. But the hardest part about getting good at Next.js is getting good at React. I would focus on that. If you are solid in React, you can pick up the basics of Next.js in a week. And learning as “I know React and I also can use Next.js” is more marketable than “I only learned React in a Next.js environment so that is all I can do”. But than might be getting nitpicky - I’m sure there are plenty of people that have done it in that order.

I have faced the sideeffect of the war and it is easy to predict that it would be job shortage.

I’m sorry to hear that. I hope you and yours are staying safe. I hope the madness ends soon.

That is why I have started to learn by myself html, CSS, JavaScript. In the future I would like to learn React.

Just keep learning. There is no “magic path”. I think FCC offers a pretty good path - it worked for me. Just keep building a learning. The first 6 certs on FCC offer the foundations of a MERN stack, which is a marketable stack. There will be some side trips (FCC is not comprehensive and side research is sometimes needed), but you get a good foundation. After that, I just keep building increasingly complicated projects than forced me to learn new libraries and ideas. I did some open source and group projects. Then I did a few freelance jobs and those led to a “real” job. It wasn’t easy, but it can be done. #ymmv

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I use Nextjs for side-projects.

Functionally its just a framework that leverages React built by Vercel, to support a hybrid approach to React development, where there are Server-Side Rendered and statically generated elements (for SEO and performance) that is then hydrated on the client-side so the user can interact with everything. Its kind of a “best of both worlds” technology that again is based around React.

So you could use it for “static site generation” situations, like portfolios, or another target use-case is e-commerce. Or just using it like a more traditional client-side heavy app.

Learning wise you don’t need to know anything specific about Nextjs, besides why it exists, and what situations you’d want to use it over other React tooling frameworks. Ultimately if your a React pro, you’d use Nextjs like any other tool, but you wouldn’t “focus” on Nextjs if it isn’t necessarily important. If you know React, then you could leverage Nextjs.

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Thank you all good people for advices!