How to choose your path

Introspection time. I’m trying to decide which part of web development or even computer science, I should follow. The fact that I don’t know yet may mean that it is too early to make up my mind, or it may mean that one never knows for sure what is their right path.

I have done front end and back end, and I can only say I enjoy programming. I prefer working with JavaScript and PHP over HTML and CSS. This week I’m spending a lot of hours developing an app, and I’m learning a lot about databases, this is a new thing in the mix. I find it enjoyable thinking about how information is going to be stored in tables and the different relationships among these, It is not like programming, and it is definitely not like HTML or CSS. It is interesting in its own way.

Funny enough, everybody assumes that if you are the artistic type, you are going to choose web design and front end. And while it makes sense in a way, this has not been my case at all. And well, honestly, figuring out how to vertically center a square in CSS has little to do with drawing with ink on paper. The thing is, you come to web development with certain preconceived ideas but then you find new things (like databases in my case) that you didn’t know anything about.

And while finding your way around you can’t help but wonder; where should I go IN DEPTH?

You may say: “well, you don’t HAVE TO choose, you can be a full-stack developer.” And yes, you may be right. or no, I don’t know. There are things like Cybersecurity, Data Science, Machine Learning, Network something-something, Linux expert whatever, etc etc… you know, there are many things. And we can only “get” what they really are about as we continue learning.

Anyway, my question is how do you choose your path? or how have you chosen? What makes YOU prefer one thing over another? What brought you towards web development? and what things did you discover that you previously knew nothing about?

Your turn


Hi, I thought I had replied to this but maybe I just thought about replying. Anyway, my path was a strange one.
I’ve always been into computers but not programming so much. In the early days you would spend hours typing a program into a computer only for it to fail or be disappointing at the end.
I did get a job as a Computer Operator which lasted several years before I decided to go for a proper qualification at University.
Since then the Computer Operator / Help Desk / Support role was naturally what I tended towards because of my work experience. From here, my employer recognised I wanted to do Programming and eventually I got more development type work.
One thing that helped was using some bought in Helpdesk software which had an SQL database back end. Here I got familiar with how to use databases and db tools.
Eventually I got placed in a new development team focusing on programming and started to learn that full time. I bought a Wrox book and tried to learn coding from that (on the job).
As it was a new small team and we were learning together, we were learning all aspects of web and application development.
I personally don’t have a preference for any strand (front end/back end) - but I know if you focus on a specific topic you become very valuable in that sphere.
Right now I am choosing to learn many different things as there are so many new tools, libraries, frameworks etc that I’ve never had the chance to look at properly before.

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I’m feeling like I’m on that “never knows for sure” path as I can’t say for sure I’ll like something until I try it. It could be not what I pictured.
So I can’t say what I want to do, other than I have leanings toward Cybersecurity and machine learning. I’ve been interested in these areas from the beginning. But I can, without a doubt, say that I don’t want to do tech support/help desk as I didn’t find my experience in this area fulfilling at all.
I do know I enjoy front end and backend, but I still need to do some more digging before I determine where exactly I’m supposed to be.

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To be honest this is one of the parts of the whole process I have found hardest.

I started off designing websites, but then academically studied Computer Science which was a more tradition software development cirriculum (C, Pascal, VBasic).

Forward to the present day, and 10 years after I started Computer Science (and 10 years with absolutely no programming) I started back with Python. I rethought, and decided to go with web development to compliment my experience in web design, but I have a real itch to cover network security as well!

My aim at the moment is to get a job in web development, and then start focusing on learning netsec in small bite-size pieces.

Have a think about what makes you happy, what you enjoy… Put together a five year plan if you need to! (That really helps me).

If you are enjoying databases then surely back-end or data science is going to be the way forward for yourself. If that is the case, then I would start picking up Python. It is diverse enough that it will see your success in various different sectors and not just those mentioned above and if you change your mind you wont have wasted time.


Ah, pretty strange, what bring me to the code world is similar to the experience written above by @JohnnyBizzel; it differ the works ( i was working as CAD operator ) , the rest is similar: my boss heard i always wanted to start a career as programmer and inserted me in a company project to start learning ( and sharing the acquired knowledge) vba first and after ( and within those tiny programs we started to use SQLserver as dbms).
Now that work is gone and i’m trying to build my path towards the back-end world, even if i wanted to start with the front-end stuff to have an idea of the whole development context)

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I didn’t choose my path, instead the path chose me… as the Dude would say!

I think it’s a bunch of little experiences and knowledge I’ve picked on since college ( quite minor and insignificant, but later turned out to be important stepping stones later)… all shaping me to where I need to be… plus adding life’s unexpected twist and turns that forced me to take some route instead of another.

Even the bad and difficult parts of my life turned out to be important to get me where I am today. If a door closes, you go to the next open door (or to the next one that’s easy to break or climb over).

@Layer Interesting you mentioned CAD, I was a CAD operator too and while I’m good at it, it was “below” my education… so during lunchtime, I would read the advance topics of the user manuals and learned AutoLISP programming, DCLs, automation and all that. The utilities and automation tools I’ve created (to make my work easier) spread throughout the company and now suddenly was being used by everyone (engineers and operators)… management became aware of it, that my boss authorized me to do instead programming work fulltime – I was more valuable to the company doing this kind of work instead of CAD.

Just like that, I suddenly became the company’s programmer/developer, and when the Network Administrator position opened up, I applied for it and also got that job. So I went from CAD operator in a cubicle, to having my own windowed office with a door, taking care of the whole company’s networking needs, product evaluation, purchasing, budget, etc. (I implemented email, ftp, lotus notes domino, Novell Netware, Windows NT, website, intranet…) all self-learned.

It was while working and learning how to make our company’s website and intranet site that I became interested in web design and graphics. Again, self-taught but with lots of guts/hustle and jumping before I look, I opened a web design and hosting business on the side to make extra money… (this was late 90s, dot-com era) and pretty soon was making more money with my side business than my day job.

Long story short, I quit that day job and went full time in my own business doing web design/development + hosting… 18 years later, still doing the same thing (without the hosting part). I’m full-stack, UI/UX + graphics, video editing, etc… whatever the client needs. SQL has been a very important skillset for me, because I think that separated me from other designers/developers that just make pretty static websites, or simple WP sites.


I chose web development because it seemed like the easiest area to get started for someone who doesn’t have a technical background. Then I decided to focus on the front end because it is much easier to figure out what to study. In fact, on the front end, there is really only one major decision: which Javascript framework are you going to learn. On the backend, there are half a dozen languages to choose between and they each have big ecosystems. But as long as you pick a mainstream technology and learn a coherent set of skills, I don’t think it matters much what you pick - just as long as you enjoy doing it.

This map is the best visual guide I’ve seen to full stack web dev:

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