by Stephen Mayeux

Here’s What 9 Months of Self-Taught Coding Looks Like

I’m currently wrapping up my final teaching gig in Busan, South Korea. I’ve been teaching myself full stack web development over the last 9 months.

Just Scratching the Surface

Today marks 9 months since I embarked on my journey as a self-taught coder, and I feel fantastic!

In the beginning, shortly after the hand-holding phase that all newbies go through, I hit wall after wall trying to make sense of higher order functions, asynchronous callbacks in Node.js, and the ever so cryptic Heroku error logs.

There were a lot of doubts along the way, but I have bulldozed through those negative thoughts and learned so much cool stuff!

Since I started learning to code last summer, I have built several MEAN stack applications and helped others to do so through Free Code Camp. But I have only scratched the surface!

I have accelerated my learning by teaching others at Free Code Camp Busan.

I am currently wrapping up my final teaching contract in South Korea, and I will be returning home to the States in September 2016. This gives me about 5 more months to build, learn, collaborate, and prepare so that I can find a full time development position in Texas or California.

In the meantime, I want to reflect on what I have learned so far and tell you how I was able to do it.

What I’ve Learned

Right now, JavaScript and the MEAN stack are red-hot. If you’re thinking about getting into web development, even if you want to learn Ruby on Rails, then JavaScript and some basic Node.js are essential. This is what I have used since I started to learn coding, so you might want to adapt this list for your own learning path.

Also, it’s important to mention that I have used these technologies at least once for projects and assignments, but I am by no means an expert in everything you see here! For example, my vanilla JavaScript skills are very solid, but I would only consider myself “proficient” with Angular. I’m a Git Ninja, but my design and CSS skills still kind of suck.

  1. HTML5, CSS3, and Twitter Bootstrap
  2. Sass (SCSS)
  3. JavaScript (ES6… not yet!)
  4. jQuery and AJAX Requests
  5. AngularJS 1.x
  6. MongoDB
  7. PostgeSQL
  8. Node.js and Express
  9. MeteorJS
  10. Templating: Dust, EJS, and Jade
  11. Git and GitHub
  12. The Command Line
  13. Heroku
  14. Ruby


If you are not ready to pay a lot of money for a bootcamp, an online certificate is an affordable option. Many of them are free, and include real-world projects that you can add to your portfolio.

I have completed 4 certificates, and I hope to get a couple of more by the end of the summer.

  1. Free Code Camp’s Front End Development Program — Complete 50+ algorithmic challenges using JavaScript and build 10 projects with HTML, CSS, jQuery, and Angular.
  2. Responsive Website Basics by Coursera — Watch the video lectures and complete the subsequent quizzes, review your classmates’ assignments, and use HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to make a responsive website.
  3. Free Code Camp’s Back End Development Program — By far the most difficult and challenging part of my journey, but totally worth it! Build 10 API microservices and dynamic web applications using the MEAN stack.
  4. M101JS: MongoDB for Node.js Developers — Free certifications offered by Mongo University. Watch video lectures, complete quizzes and a final project.
Sketching out my first Full Stack application for Free Code Camp: a voting app!

The Next Step

The pressure to find a job is building, and I have to go into hyperdrive. To help me cross the bridge from serious hobbyist to professional developer, I have decided to make a big investment of time and money and enroll in a coding bootcamp to help me make the ultimate transition. I applied to several coding bootcamps including Hack Reactor, App Academy, MakerSquare, Coding House, and Viking Code School.

Each school has a different set of strengths, but I ultimately decided to become a Viking Warrior! The VCS intensive program (and part-time flex program) is 100% online and is perfect for people who can’t afford to live in big cities for 3 or 4 months without pulling in any income.

I can actually go through the program on a part time basis while I am teaching in Korea, and I will be nearly done by the time I return home in September.

The best part of VCS is that I will be exposed to an entirely different paradigm of programming and web development. In the program, I will use Ruby on Rails and a SQL database to develop Full Stack web applications. Until now, the only programming language I knew was JavaScript, and I am excited to pick up something new finally!

That’s All Folks!

Overall, I am impressed by how much I have learned, and I am looking forward to building a lot of cool stuff! If you are interested in making the transition to coding or if you’re a self-taught programmer as well, I would love to hear from you! Drop me a line in the comments below and let’s compare notes.

Thanks for reading and happy coding!