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DCE Magazine

Finding Your Place in the Tech World

Winter 2019

A revamped certificate program can launch an exciting full stack web development career no matter your background.

Jeremy Walker got into computer programming at a very young age, learning how to design and create his own games when he was still a child. By the time he got to high school in the late ‘90s the Internet was changing the world, so he taught himself basic HTML in the school library, becoming proficient enough to build a website dedicated to Warcraft 2, his favorite game.

But when Walker enrolled at UC Santa Cruz he majored in Modern Literature — he wanted nothing to do with computer science. Might sound odd, but his love of literature intersected with his programming career in significant ways, leading Walker, an instructor in DCE's new Full Stack Web Development certificate program, to a successful career as a Silicon Valley veteran.

“At first I was planning to dual major, but when I got to UCSC I discovered that the computer science major required seven math classes, making me realize that computer science was very different from computer programming,” Walker said. “I had little interest in the former, so I decided to become a Modern Literature major, thinking that my programming skills would still make me marketable.”

Walker graduated just as the dot-com bust hit, which made finding a job without a formal degree challenging. “But I used what I'd taught myself to get my foot in the door, and since then I've spent over a decade working in Silicon Valley, mostly at start-ups.”

Goes to show that you needn't be a 24/7 computer nerd to succeed in the tech world. In fact, bringing a varied, eclectic background to the table can be an advantage. Individuals from a wide range of backgrounds and careers can open new doors, and flex their creative muscles, by learning advanced web development skills.

That's the idea behind the DCE's new online certificate program. It can help launch a career like Walker's, or even enhance and promote non-tech careers. “I've seen account managers, teachers, and other non-programmers all use their web-building skills to enhance their work,” he said. “Web pages can be about anything, so really anyone could benefit from learning how to create a website about their interest.”

Spinning a career in web development

The Full Stack Web Development certificate program provides a comprehensive, deep dive into all aspects of web development, starting with the basics and moving on to the most sophisticated tools and techniques. It's designed for beginners as well as experienced professionals looking to expand their knowledge and learn new skills and tools for creating the latest websites and apps.

The three- to 12-month program covers the most in-demand tech skills through hands-on projects taught by industry experts. All aspects are covered, from code trends to the latest industry best practices, using authoring or scripting languages, content creation tools, digital media and more.

After completing the program, successful candidates will have the technical skills and knowledge needed to launch a career as a full stack web developer, or perhaps go on to enhance their skills by studying web design.

Jeremy Walker“My introductory class is fairly comprehensive and hands-on,” said Walker, author of a definitive book on advanced coding. “The goal is not only to teach the basics of three different languages — HTML, CSS and JavaScript — but then also how to use them along with React, a web-application-building framework created by Facebook. Learning all of that will definitely require students to ‘get their hands dirty’ building several projects that utilize those technologies.

“As a professional developer myself, I'm confident that everything taught in the class will reflect the cutting edge of web development.”

The program can help lead the way to a lucrative career in the burgeoning tech sector. Consider that more than 130,000 web developers are currently employed in the U.S., with 24.5% growth projected through 2027, offering annual compensation topping out around $92,000.

A rewarding skill set

The rewards can extend far beyond the paycheck. A career as a web developer or designer can be a creatively satisfying journey of problem-solving that carries its own special set of benefits.

“It's gratifying to work with a bunch of other smart people to find solutions to problems that actually impact people,” Walker said. “Sometimes they're big problems, like figuring out which drugs a cancer patient should take based on their DNA, and other times they're smaller problems, like making it cheaper and easier to apply for an apartment. But either way, I find it incredibly fulfilling to work with a team to solve such problems, and then to see customers actually use and appreciate the solutions you created.”

And don't worry that your public relations degree or MFA in theater somehow disqualifies you from switching to a career in web development. Web professionals come from all types of backgrounds and bring a wide range of skill sets.

Interests and expertise that go far beyond the world of technology can clearly be a boon. Walker's own journey is an excellent case in point.

“My background in literature has absolutely helped me in my tech career,” he said. “For one thing, I wrote a book about a programming framework, but less directly my humanities background has had a very positive influence on my career. As strange as it may sound, there's actually a significant overlap between the skills required to write a good and logically consistent essay, and the ones needed to write computer code.”

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