We are in our fifth year of apprenticeships at Sparkbox, and it is a tremendously fun and rewarding experience for us to help others break into the web industry. It’s not easy, however. It takes an immense amount of effort on the part of our team and the apprentices themselves.
It’s especially difficult turning away scores of wonderful applicants each year.
For the past five years, our apprenticeship applications have grown exponentially. We had barely enough to fill the openings in the first two years. This year, more than sixty individuals were willing to leave their current outposts to spend six months learning with us in Dayton, Ohio. It is terribly humbling.
This year, we took on four apprentices—the most yet for Sparkbox. We had to say “no” to many others who we believe would have been great to have in our apprenticeship, and we had to give sad news to many more who weren’t quite the right fit.
What Makes a Good Fit
We’ve had to admit to ourselves that it takes a certain level of development background to be successful in our apprenticeship. We want to believe any person with brains, desire, and little-to-no experience can step in, learn with us, and march away a success story. However, we’ve found that applicants with the drive to already be tinkering and exploring are more prepared for the intense learning that goes along with apprenticing.
How to Start Exploring
I’ve found that most folks are just overwhelmed with the number of resources on the web devoted to learning web development. They don’t know where to start. When we let folks know that they have not been chosen for an apprenticeship with us, we point these budding developers to the following resources.
If you aren’t already familiar with these resources, we believe they are excellent launching points.
Things to Read
Mozilla Developer Network: Their documentation is the go-to owner’s manual for the language and uses of web technology. As you read through the following resources and exercises in this list, you should have MDN open in another tab to use as your dictionary and encyclopedia of web terms.
A List Apart: Arguably the most respected online magazine for people who make websites.
Net Magazine: This print magazine has a permanent spot on the Sparkbox lunch table.
Anything from A Book Apart, from the folks behind A List Apart. We’d suggest the earliest books they published first, then work your way up to more recent books.
Things to Do
Treehouse: Online learning. Tends to be on the simpler side.
Code Academy: Online learning. Our apprentices tend to like the format, though the content doesn’t get very advanced.
Code School: Online learning that is a bit more in-depth. The video/exercise format can be a bit of a challenge, however. Repeat courses multiple times for the best results.
Sparkbox Apprenticeship Syllabus: This includes many of the resources listed above. It is always a work in progress.
People to Meet
Get out to local web developer meetups. Consider starting with meetup.com.
Go to web development conferences in your area. Try looking here. Many conferences will let you in for free if you volunteer to help or if you are a student. It never hurts to check, and volunteering could give you more time to talk with the organizers who might have great suggestions to help you in your journey.
You no longer have the excuse of not knowing where to start. Now you have some great beginning resources. The rest is up to you. As Calvin once said, “It’s a magical world, Hobbes, ‘ol buddy… let’s go exploring!”