Determining which technologies to start learning

What technologies do I learn first? A question that I remember asking myself when it came to taking the first step into a career in IT. Of course, if you have an idea of where you want to sit in the development process, then that will give you a good steer in the right direction. However, if you haven’t had exposure to certain areas of software development, then you won’t know for sure if something might be better suited to you. An excellent example of this would be someone like myself. 

Initially, I had only experienced back-end technologies and WinForms from a now-outdated A Level spec; it didn’t paint an accurate picture of what the industry is. Regardless of the longevity of learning VB.NET and using WinForms, I was still able to learn the fundamentals of programming, but it could’ve very quickly set a precedent.

When I went to Belfast Met, it was there that I got exposure to the building blocks of web development (HTML/CSS/JavaScript). Coming from a situation where I had been coding with a certain mindset, the initial idea of web technologies didn’t spark much of an interest in me. I was in the frame of mind that I was going to be a back-end developer, and there wasn’t much chance of me changing that train of thought. Like so many It was when I got more familiar with working with those tools that it began to make sense why web-based tech drove the industry. 

The new-found love for web development then led to me working professionally with web and mobile-based solutions. Now that I’m more interested in the likes of Angular and Bootstrap (with a little bit of React learning on the side), back-end tech isn’t at the forefront of my mind and might not be for another while. That being said, if this article has taught us anything, it’s that you might find yourself better suited to something before you know it!

Back to the initial point, the fundamental concept of developing software hasn’t changed in those six years, but how I go about doing it has changed. My advice would be to have an initial idea of what you want to set out to become. 

  • For front-end driven people, think HTML/CSS and JavaScript/TypeScript. That will then enable you to start working with a relevant JavaScript framework/library (arguably Angular/React as of the time of writing this, that could change in years to come).
  • If you’re aiming to do more back-end work, then delve into tech stacks you’d see commonly used in the industry. Currently, you’ll see a lot of work for Java/Spring and C#/.NET (Core).

Once you’ve set out on familiarizing yourself with what is out there, you can then start to see what path you’d like to go down. Do you keep yourself right by having a good idea about different tools (a good route for full-stack or consultancy work down the line), or do you become a specialist in one or two fields?

Sounds like a topic for another day…

Michael Sage