Free Code Camp to Frontend Developer - My Journey

It’s been a while since I’ve spent a lot of time on this site. Four years to be exact. Time flies!

I’m Rhett Griffith. I’m 34 years old, and I’m a web developer for a digital media agency in Alabama (US).

I wanted to share a little bit about my background and my experience here and how it helped me land a job in web development.

I went to college in Troy, AL (US) and received a music degree focused on audio / recording studio / live performance. I graduated in 2012. I interned in radio shortly after and used that internship to get another internship in graphic design at a father and son, two man marketing firm that does advertising for the radio station. Afterwards, I had another internship selling basketball tickets, creating flyers, and building terrible email templates for my university’s athletics department that never worked in internet explorer (surprise!).

I was stalling, though I didn’t know it at the time, and I just didn’t want to face the real world. It was a failure to launch.

After my third internship, I got a job at a local newspaper building ads in adobe illustrator. I did that for about for about 18 months. Then, the marketing firm from my internship called and asked if I wanted to build no-code WordPress sites.

Of course I said yes, but I wasn’t allowed to tinker with any code, css, js, or otherwise (for fear of breaking something…crazy right?). They eventually stopped selling websites and my job became billboard, t-shirt, and ad design. I hated my job, and my life wasn’t much better making peanuts doing work I didn’t enjoy. There was an eventual mutual parting of ways. Thankfully, it was amicable. They’re good people.

I found out about freecodecamp and decided to go all in. With no job and only a line of credit from the bank, my back was against the wall (don’t underestimate the power of “burning the boats”).

I had almost no background in programming at this point outside of AOL Instant Messenger subprofiles back in 1999 (lol) and the wonky email templates I made for Troy Athletics. Four months after quitting my job (with one week of credit left), I was finished with freecodecamp’s now legacy Frontend Development Certification. I applied for a job at Strategy6 (a web development firm) which had just been bought out by my current employer, PushCrankPress, a digital media agency.

I walked in, gave the receptionist my resume, and waited for the owner to show up. I had a few interviews with him and took an HTML / PHP test. I remember him asking me if I was a family guy, and me making a dumb joke about the tv show. He didn’t understand the joke, but he hired me anyway, haha.

Anyways, I’ve been there for about four and half years now. Since I’ve been here, we’ve gone from simple wordpress sites to fullstack frontend / backend systems, as well as database management systems. We’ve built many API’s that connect different areas of our client’s businesses and help them keep track of inventory. Of course, we’ve also built simple websites and landing pages for local businesses.

It’s been a great ride, and I can honestly say the programming fundamentals I learned building the javascript projects here were 90% of what helped me on the job. We wrote and still write a lot of PHP, and many of the concepts are extremely similar. The fundamentals of programming don’t change much when you switch languages. A loop is a loop, if statements are if statements, etc. You get it…

One of the things I want to say is that your path doesn’t have to be well defined, and sometimes, there are jobs where you may not think to look. Don’t just look for Apple, Google, or even just companies that only do web development. There’s a local law firm here that builds websites for 53 other firms. A guy I know from a freecodecamp facebook group worked there and got a react job a year later making six figures. I work for a digital media agency, and I love the work here because everything is custom built, and we have over 100 clients from very different industries. It’s a blast! You can follow us on twitter if you’d like @PushCrankPress.

A little about my experience on freecodecamp: when I was here, they had chatrooms where you could get help on what you were working on. Not sure if they still have the live rooms, but it was great. There were newbies and there were experienced devs as well, and the help was great. The checkmark system was brilliant. It was an instant dopamine hit that made you want to keep going. I didn’t like any of the other learning platforms nearly as much, though codewars was a blast, for sure. If there are ways I can help out here on freecodecamp I’d love to lend a helping hand when I can.

You can check out three of my freecodeamp projects here (almost five years old now):

codepen.io/particleparadigm/pen/

ids = [yXzyzd, VWXpXo, mwVyQG]

The forum will only allow me to post two urls, so I’ve dropped the codepen IDs into an array. If you know, you know. Just attach each one separately to the end of the provided codepen url. You didn’t think you had to do any work today :rofl:

I’m currently trying to help developers understand some of the more intermediate concepts of web development from a practical approach. You know, what you’ll actually see on the job, not just “tutorial hell”. It’s a work in progress, and I’m not there quite yet, but in the meantime, if you’d like, you can follow my journey on twitter at @NetrunnerCodes. My DMs are always open!

Thanks for reading and best of luck!

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Hi Rhett, thank you for sharing your insights from your transition into tech. It sounds like you’ve got a ton of opportunity ahead of you.

This is an awesome tail of persistence, and following the rabbit further and further down the developer rabbit hole.

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