Featuring Insights From Pedro Martin & Matt Studdert
Read: 4 Minutes
Maybe you’re curious about becoming a front-end web developer but want to know what you’re in for before making the leap. Or perhaps you’re weighing whether it would be financially worthwhile to invest the time and money in a career switch. You probably already know that front-end web development is one of the fastest-growing fields out there. So if you want to hear from the insiders why everyone seems to be clamoring to hire this role, read on. Knowledge is power.
We asked our resident experts what it takes to become a star front-end web developer (FEWD). Pedro Martin is a software engineer at Red Badger, and Matt Studdert is the founder of Frontend Mentor. Both are also GA instructors — and both of their answers were surprising.
Martin cites empathy as being the number one characteristic needed in FEWD, and explained that the role demands you consider every decision you make from your user’s perspective.
“You must understand the diversity of all humans consuming the content, so you can build a human-centric solution with accessibility as the core,” he says. “You must understand the intention of the client and adapt or influence the content accordingly. And you must understand that delivering software based on the web is a team effort.“
Similarly, Studdert claims emotional intelligence is most important since a developer’s process of problem-solving is often trial-and-error.
“Starting your journey in web development is to go from error to error, from problem to problem. So at the beginning of your journey, you should be resilient and emotionally intelligent enough to not get frustrated.” He adds, “Most of us have been there, and we can relate to that struggle.”
So about that problem-solving. Just how advanced do you have to be at writing code? To make it as a FEWD, do you have to be a pro at programming?
If you can improve your problem-solving skills and your coding, it will help you massively as a developer. Boosting your value in today’s economy ultimately gives you more freedom, more choices, and more money. (More on that later.)
But writing code isn’t all there is to it. Collaboration is crucial. “As a front-end developer, you’ll be working mainly with UI and UX designers to improve the visual side of the site. You’ll also be communicating with back-end developers on how to integrate with the API. Other team members, like product managers, project managers, and product owners, will be people who you’ll be talking to throughout each week. And if you’re working at an agency, you may also be in meetings with the client and need to present work to them.”
One of the great things about becoming a FEWD is that you can take your skills almost anywhere. While salaries vary widely from country to country, even region to region, one thing is clear: developers are in demand.
“The demand for programmers with all levels of experience is not being matched by the supply,” says Martin. “Here in London, you can start at £30,000, and from there, the sky’s the limit. When I started 6 years ago, it was £24,000, so in only 6 years we have an increase of 25% on the starting salary.”
The advantages of working on staff are many — especially for those just starting out. Here in the U.S., salaries for front-end web developers range from $80K to $115K, according to Glassdoor, though these amounts can vary by geographic location and from country to country.
“Working within a team is especially crucial for new developers, as it’s critical you learn good practices and build up your experience in a professional setting,” says Studdert. Not to mention more stability and the benefits that come with working for a company.
The usual downsides of going freelance apply here, too, like less consistent workflow, having to do business management work like accounting, and time spent chasing clients. But the freedom to decide when, where, and how you want to work can be priceless. As a freelancer, you can charge higher wages and actually gross more than if you were working for somebody else.
In this career path, there is ample room for advancement. As a developer in a large organization, you can advance from entry level to senior to lead, and get salary increases along the way. “Many companies offer career progression paths depending on whether you want to focus on writing code or you prefer to move into more management-focused roles,” says Studdert. “Being a front-end developer can also lead to hybrid responsibilities if it’s something you’re interested in. For example, you could become a full-stack developer and work with back-end code as well. Or you could become a UX engineer and blend front-end work with UX design.”
Whether you join a large firm or become an independent contractor, there are plenty of opportunities to create the career you want. The future is bright for front-end web developers.
Want to learn more about Pedro?
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