What are the best options to learn Web Development in Chicago?
May 13, 2014 4:01 PM   Subscribe

I am a development-leaning Graphic Designer and I am looking to pursue being a Front-End/Web Developer and I wanted to get some opinions on what is the most effective and useful education options available. I currently reside in Chicago so if there are any Chicago specific possibilities that would be great

I have taken some MOOC courses through Coursera and Stanford online, which consisted of basics of programming through Python and an introduction to databases. I did just finish a Web Architecture class that gave the basics of the Rails framework. I have gone through a good part of Codecademy. I have also finished an Aquent course on responsive web design and am finishing one on the basics of jQuery.

I feel I have a good grasp on the fundamentals of programming and logic flow, and I am getting better at understanding working within a framework/environment with my Rails and another Android class. Now I want to be able to focus in on a goal and how to get there, it seems some form of accreditation would be the best course of action to standardize my skill-set and give me some legitimacy. In the mean time I am planning on using resources such as Lynda/Code School to absorb more information and try to implement in some projects.

Currently the options seem to fall under a couple categories:
• Something like the  certificate program offered by Harvard for Web Development that can be pursued online.
• Pursuing a full-fledged computer science degree from a university.
• A bootcamp situation where you devote 6-9 weeks of your life (http://devbootcamp.com/).
• Independent projects, maybe reinforcing training through online classes or something like Code School.

I want to be qualified for a good and professional job but I am not obsessed with working for a top tier company.

While any tips at all would be appreciated what I am really looking for is advice on what the best course of action is to become a credible developer. I am all for working independently but I am unsure of the efficacy of education options in both training me and providing legitimacy to me in the eyes of an employer
posted by consoledotlog to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Chicago + Rails immediately made me think of The Starter League (courtesy of this blog post)
posted by misterbrandt at 4:26 PM on May 13, 2014

Chicago is a great place for someone with your background. There are several companies here who offer paid apprenticeship programs for aspiring developers. I work at 8th Light, and finished up a six month apprenticeship in October. (Message me if you want more details).
posted by ecmendenhall at 4:49 PM on May 13, 2014

As one who really does not enjoy networking (in the social sense), I feel funny saying this, but I've found that there are a lot of networking opportunities in the Loop, for someone with your interests and goals, through MeetUp.com. You don't mention where in the area you are, but downtown is where an awful lot of the work is, and if you look at the technology offerings on Meetup for the Loop, or many other areas of Chicagoland, you could probably hit one or two a week that could credibly cover your chosen area.

I've been to several and I find them a reasonably good way to meet people and share experiences. Nearly every meet up is hosted by a local technology company that has some kind of hiring going on. At the very least, it is a good way to get a sense of what is going on in the community, and perhaps circulate your name. It's generally a very low pressure environment with a wide variety people and levels of experience, many in your very situation.
posted by hwestiii at 6:15 PM on May 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I want to be qualified for a good and professional job but I am not obsessed with working for a top tier company.

You have plenty of qualifications. It's all about the portfolio. I would stop pursuing formal education in favour of the practical experience that goes into building up a portfolio.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:03 PM on May 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

Speaking as someone who hires people to do web development, I don't give a crap about certifications. I care about what you've done and what you can tell me about your thought process- how you go through the steps of translating a design into a user experience.

It's fine to get training, go to conferences, etc. It exposes you to new techniques, and (more importantly) helps you build your network of peers. But nobody is looking at the paperwork- good people are too hard to find.

A full CS degree is awesome, but completely unneeded for front-end development, especially coming at it from the hybrid designer / developer perspective. CS is it's own reward, and if you can afford it and have the aptitude it's great, but it isn't terribly useful in front end dev work.

I'd strongly recommend the independent project route, especially if you can control the design and code implementation- it's a great way to grow your skills and your portfolio at the same time.
posted by jenkinsEar at 3:55 AM on May 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Certifications and formal training shows that you can follow directions. A portfolio shows folks that you're past the stage where you need to use a map all the time because you're a local.
posted by oceanjesse at 7:34 AM on May 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

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