JavaScript and Me

JavaScript and I have had a rocky relationship over the past few years. My consulting work doesn’t really require a deep understanding of JavaScript, but my newfound resolve to level-up my skills and to obtain a full-time job have deemed that deep understanding quite necessary.

Image of a scared looking puppy

“Do you know JavaScript?”

That’s a question I have a hard time answering. I mean, yes, I know JavaScript. I’ve been using it for a while now, but until last year or so, I didn’t really know JavaScript, or know how much I didn’t know about JavaScript.

During the first five years of my web development career (I’m on year 6 now), I didn’t really need to know JavaScript like this. As a WordPress and UI developer, I have yet to work on a project that requires me to know JavaScript beyond the select-and-do-something patterns of dear jQuery. I feel embarrassed at having made it this far without understanding event propagation until now. What have I been doing this whole time?!

It was only after all of that FizzBuzz business a couple of years ago that I made a point to really learn JavaScript, somewhat vindictively. All of that learning was and still is on my own time since, in my paid consulting work, a deep knowledge of HTML, CSS, and WordPress make me more money than a deep understanding of JavaScript.

Now though, I have a newfound desire to level-up as a developer – I think a result of taking a long break when I needed one at the end of last year. Learning JavaScript is no longer a chore! I genuinely enjoy writing it and wrangling with it! I constantly surprise myself with what I, the decidedly non-unicorn, can do. I feel more powerful in my same-old HTML/CSS and WordPress ecosystem. I can make better choices for accessibility, I can animate the funny characters I draw, and I’m just starting to delve into the wonders of APIs and component-driven interfaces.

That’s all well and good, but my JavaScript studies are still very much on the side as my paid work still doesn’t involve that much JS. I sneak it in where I can by way of hand-coding modals and the like, but it’s not the challenge I want it to be. That’s one of the big reasons I’m looking for a full-time job; I want that challenge of learning something new because I need to know it, and I’m on the hook if I don’t figure it out. I suppose I work well with that kind of pressure, and in my current freelance practice, I don’t encounter it very often.

Of course, that’s a bit of a catch-22 when it comes to finding a job. I don’t yet have that “advanced JavaScript” skillset that, for better or worse, is required for so many front-end positions. I have “working JavaScript” knowledge…I’m working really hard to get better at it, and I’m looking for opportunities that will support me in that undertaking by both valuing the skills I do have and trusting in my ability to pick up new ones as I need them.

At the end of the day, isn’t our ability to pick up new frameworks more important than the frameworks we already know? I guess I’m banking on Lara’s Dream Employer believing in that.

2 responses to “JavaScript and Me”

  1. I feel you Laura. I’m currently in the same position ad yours. I know basic JS but not the “advanced” stuff that most jobs require you to have. I’m currently reading Eloquent JavaScript. It might help you too. All the best with your job hunt :) I too am looking for some work on a freelance or remote basis. Btw, really enjoyed your Shoptalk episode :)

  2. Discovering your blog has given me a lot of motivation! I kind of “gave up” being a front-end developer because I would spectacularly flunk job interviews due to lack of JavaScript knowledge. No matter how great the rest of the interview was or how impressive my other work was, I couldn’t get past that. I wouldn’t call myself an HTML/CSS expert, but every job I’ve had requires me to use it almost every day in developing templates within a CMS or email. I also create very small business WordPress websites on the side and have worked extensively with other CMS’s in my day job.

    I’ve felt so discouraged because my full time jobs simply never require me to use JavaScript in the way I’d need to in order to truly become good enough to get a job as a front-end dev.

    I’ve continuously found work through my ability to both design and develop, and straddling both worlds has sometimes left me feeling like I’m great at my job, but I’m not a true expert in either development or design so searching for jobs is painful. It’s only been recently that I’m learning there are many other people like me, and that there IS a need for people like. I just don’t know what my job title is. Sometimes it’s digital designer. Sometimes it’s digital designer and developer. Sometimes it’s digital analyst. I’m always trying to figure out what I should learn next to maximize my career potential. Last year, I felt that was JavaScript. But I just didn’t get into it. I’m still unsure if I should make that my goal for this year, or if it’s a waste of time. I resonated with a lot of what you said in your article on CSS Tricks yesterday, so I am leaning toward yes, it would be valuable to become more confident with JS.