Getting a 'modern' dev job after years as a wordpress dev

Hi everyone,

I’ve been a Wordpress developer for about 10 year, sometimes for an agency, sometimes freelance. Doing this generally involves turning a design into a website, coding the front end from scratch, using PHP to customise bits of Wordpress if I need extra functionality and using Javascript (often jQuery) for other front end functionality.

In retrospect I had stagnated. I was also playing music so that took a lot of my energy. I didn’t put the time in to progress my career. Lockdown came and I reassessed things. I heard about things like React. I discovered that a new version of Javascript had come out in 2015 and it had completely passed me by. Could I have been anymore out of touch? I discovered freecodecamp, then I discovered CS50 and became obsessed. I finished CS50x, started CS50w and I’m continuing with freecodecamp. I’m currently juggling a part time Wordpress job and freelance stuff.

What I really want is now is a full time dev job. I’m not even sure what type, maybe more backend? Something with more programming involved. When I first learned the idea was to avoid using Javascript and try and do everything in HTML/CSS where possible. Well that changed!

I’m not quite sure where I am now. I mean I can write an app from scratch in PHP and MySQL, but I don’t think I do it in the ‘proper’ way. I think other developers would wince at my code. But it works.

So, after that self-indulgent rambling, my question is: Will I be able to get a ‘proper’ dev job with these skills? Will I need to start at the bottom again and get a junior job in the area I want? I sometimes get a little bit demoralised seeing these posts where people do freecodecamp for 3 months then get a job… I’ve been studying hard for 6 months (+10 years experience) and still feel I’m a way off. I’m in the UK if that makes any difference (I think it does, the salary’s seem to a lot lower here than in the US)

Thanks!

Get a solid handle on browser JavaScript by building a few small projects; maybe complete the freeCodeCamp front end libraries projects with vanilla js and then do the the calculator and 25 + 5 clock again with React, demonstrating a strong understanding of the component lifecycle and how to use hooks optimally. Once you’ve done that, do the back-end projects and keep going with Node.js until you can think of a full-stack app project, plan it, build it, and document it well. At that point, you’ve got a good shot at a company picking you up. Document your journey with a blog and YouTube videos if you can.
In short, get good enough that they can’t ignore you.

2 Likes

We’ve all been there with that feeling. That feeling is OK to have. To me, the two most obvious path would be to search jobs that use PHP, which means you may have to learn the basics of Laravel or whatever is dominant now in PHP land. The other path is web dev, since you’ve built sites, you know what they should look like. Framing the context around your experience is important. I would focus talking about projects you’ve done, your responsibilities for those projects, and then talk about your recent self re-education. Do not talk at all about when you learned about es2015 or when you started using spread operators until they ask you about it, and if they do, spin it as, “I’m adaptable and love to learn, when I saw how you can do this with [insert shiny JS feature] I started using it where appropriate.” Apply to jobs, keep studying, and be OK that it takes long and it is hard. Good luck.

1 Like

Thank you @willjw3 and @dannycodes those are both great answers and both possible paths.

I think it is a case a keeping going in the direction I’m going, getting my Javascript more advanced, and having learned the basics of Flask and Django from CS50 I think that puts me in a good position to use Laravel. Also remember that I have other stills like working with clients and designers that are useful.

Thanks, I feel much more focused now!

1 Like

This. Is. Fine. Yes, undoubtedly, 10 years of just WP Dev will have introduced a lot of bad habits. But you can build stuff that works.

You will feel that, and it’s not a terrible thing. You’re very realistic about where you’re at, skills-wise – you know where you’re lacking, you know where you want to improve. When you get stuck, you’re going to be able to ask the right questions.

You’ve worked in development for 10 years. You can work with people on software projects and deliver. You are in a good position here, those are super important skills. You can fill in all the technical skill gaps yourself, but you can’t self-learn 10 years of process, working with other developers, working with clients, talking to people, figuring out their problems.

I’d definitely look at modern PHP – it’s going be the language you’re most familiar with, so it should be the fastest for you to skill up in. But be a little bit broad at this point while you’re not sure, you’ve a little time at least to try as many things as possible.

JavaScript is…the same really, just with significant improvements to the language itself – similar to modern PHP. So re that, this is good:

And as a reference to every 2015 feature, imo this is great – it’s quite dry but it covers everything, with examples:

He has a load of other books, the ES2016/17 on in particular is useful because it covers async functions.

The sweet spot for React (et al) is being a front-end GUI for a web API. So whereas WP produces server-rendered HTML pages, with a React app, you have have one HTML page and you get the data in the form of JSON or whatever, and React renders it to HTML elements. The obvious example for you I would guess is Gutenberg. Thing in a browser that behave like desktop/mobile apps, anyway.

So if you want to play around with it, FCC has a section of the curriculum on React. I’d be a little bit careful there though – although front-end doesn’t move as fast as the stereotypes would have it, the React API has had some quite significant changes (imo significant improvements, but YMMV) since that part of the curriculum was written.

Note that most of the frameworks use a similar model that builds off the ideas introduced by React (Vue/React/Svelte/Ember/etc), so switching from one to another once you’re comfortable with one is not normally an issue (Angular uses a slightly different model, but I haven’t looked at it for years so can’t compare too much).

Welllll…building absolutely everything as a SPA is currently fashionable. Everyone wants apps, and the JS frameworks let companies build apps pretty easily, so as a tool they’re important. But they have some significant downsides, and sites/apps built of server-rendered HTML are still extremely viable. There seems to be a tentative move towards exploring this space, trying to get the best of both. The Next.js and Gatsby JS frameworks are very popular, and libraries like Alpine.js can do similar things to jQuery but much more informed by modern SPA practices. And frameworks that don’t use JS, and are programmed all using {language} are starting to show promise (Blazor for .Net, LiveView for Elixir’s Phoenix framework, Lightwire for PHPs Laravel framework, Stimulus Reflex for the Ruby on Rails framework).

2 Likes

Thanks so much for the comprehensive reply. It does give me more confidence that my experience counts for something. And I’ll be getting to the React section of the syllabus soon so I can see what that is all about. Thanks.

1 Like

Oh, just one thing that might be helpful to explore as you look at React. Because it’s designed to work as a front-end to some web API, it might be an idea to put together a headless WP instance, and then code your React app against that. That’s going to give you close-to-real-life, back-and-front-end-in-sync stuff to play around with. And if you put your toy WP instance/s onto a server somewhere, you can set it up so you have to deal with stuff like CORS, handling requests in the browser, authorisation and authentication and so on. Could be useful, and lets you use your WP experience straightway while you’re learning other parts of the stack