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Completed by Jill Baumgardner – Former Web Developer for Pitt Bull Secure Technologies.  Jill is now COO of Pitt Bull’s software company, EDS.

1. What do you do in a typical day?

A typical day consists of designing and/or coding. There is a lot of planning involved in a website, so I would often draw up rough drafts and feature lists for an upcoming website project. I also received calls about making changes to existing websites – usually adding a new feature or updating the content. At some point, I reported my progress to my supervisor and/or the client.

2. Do you have a ‘normal’ day or is it different all the time?

The job can be steady during different periods of the year, off and on. It depends on the amount of work coming in and the extent of the projects. It differs for everyone, but in my experience I’ve been kept on my toes. There are always new projects with various different industries, all wanting many different things. You deal with a lot of different personalities as well.

3. Why did you choose this career?

I started creating websites as a hobby when I was 12. I wanted to learn how to make video games, but another developer at the time advised me to start with websites. It turned out I really enjoyed it. Writing the code and seeing it appear in the browser was amazing to me. Whenever you enjoy something that much, you can’t help but wonder if it should be your career.

4. How much education or other training do you need in this career area?

An Associates degree at least, or even a Bachelors degree if you can find one in Web Development or a related field. Although many people have become web developers without a degree (from independent studying using books and online resources), I would advise getting the degree to be competitive. Volunteer to make websites for free or cheap for family, friends, and acquaintances to get some first-hand experience. You will want to build a good portfolio of websites so you can prove to potential employers how talented you are.

5. What kinds of school subjects/courses are most useful or helpful for your job? (i.e. how do you use Math, English, Social Studies, etc…)

Computer classes are obviously important. If your school has an HTML class, take it. There are certain coding languages that use formulas, so Math is a good subject to focus on as well;  it will also help you to think logically or analytically. English and writing are important because you have to communicate well when consulting with clients. Plus, there may be times when you will write content for them. Finally, Art class will help you with your creativity. There is a good chance you will be asked to create designs for websites, so learning about color theory, balance, contrast, etc. are all good things to understand.

6. Did you ever have any other jobs? What were they? Why did you decide to leave?

I was a Web developer for 5 years at Pitt Bull Secure Technologies until I was promoted to COO of our software company, EDS. It is common for developers to be promoted to managers after a certain number of years, provided you prove to have leadership abilities. I still do some web development here and there, but for the most part I am supervising employees and planning / analyzing business operations.

7. What are some other jobs that might be related or similar to yours?

Software and app developers are very similar, except instead of websites they create software programs and applications, including mobile apps. They usually have to learn several more languages than web developers and tend to be more coding-focused than design-focused.

8. What is the most satisfying or rewarding part of your job?

Seeing something go from just an idea in your head to a fully functional product that can be seen by millions of people, it’s significant and satisfying. One of my first websites was for a candy company that was featured on the Food Network a few weeks after the launch. I was tickled that so many people saw the website I made.

9. Are there any special tools or equipment you use in your job?

Just software programs, really. There are a number of programs web developers use every day, including Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator for design, Notepad for writing code, and an FTP client (Filezilla, CoreFTP) for file transfer. There are loads of others, but I don’t want to make your head spin.

10. Is your job more physical or mental?

Mental. Other than the occasional meeting, you pretty much sit at your computer all of the time. There are times where you will be racking your brain for solutions. You will come across bugs and issues that you just can’t seem to figure out how to fix. You will stare at the screen for hours and hours, looking through hundreds of lines of code, trying to figure out what is wrong. Eventually, you will discover you were just missing a semi-colon on line 1148. It sounds frustrating (and it can be), but once a problem is solved you feel like a million bucks.

11. What is the environment in which you work? (Indoors/Outdoors? With other people/by yourself?)

Indoors. Again, at a computer. That is bad news if you are someone who likes to be outside and move a lot, but it’s good news if you are cool with staying out of the elements in a nice warm office. There will be days where you barely talk to anyone, unless you work with a team. But lots of developers work alone, so also anticipate independence as a possibility.

12. What do you like best about your job? What do you like the least?

I like being creative and seeing the creations come to life. When the client is thrilled and expresses gratitude for what I’ve done, it feels really rewarding. That is probably what I liked best. What I liked least was probably the fact that I was inside all the time. There have been days where my eyes were really bugging me from staring at a screen, and days when my back was killing me from sitting all day.

13. How should a student plan for his/her future in this career?

Get ahead of the game. Use online learning resources and tools to get a head start on HTML, CSS, Javascript, PHP, and MySQL. Then you can move on to even more languages when you are comfortable. Here are a few tools I used:

Keep your grades up, paying particular attention to computer, math, and art classes. Start looking into schools that offer degrees in web development or a related field (Computer Science, Information Systems, Computer Programming, etc). Also, offer to make websites for people as I said before. Begin building that impressive portfolio of work.

14. Do you know what the job outlook is in this career area?

In Johnstown, there are not a lot of web development jobs, and the pay is lower than the national average. You will find many more (and better paying) options in metro areas like Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Washington DC, New York City, Boston, and Chicago. You would have even better prospects out west in Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco.

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