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I am new to web development. I have done a lot of studying on my own and created some projects on my own. I have reached the point where I feel that my skill will not progress much without more practice experience. I know that it is one thing to build a project to my specks and it is quite another to meet someone else's requirements. I have been working in ASP.NET and have learned quite a bit of HTML, CSS JavaScript. In my day job a work regularly with SQL and SQL Server. If you have any suggestion it would be much appreciated.

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4 Answers

Freelance and volunteering to help out with non-profits are a great way to learn new skills. You're right, you can only learn so much on your own. When you're under the gun, you learn a LOT more. Bonus points if you can find a place with a knowledgeable, patient mentor who will guide you and suggest improvements to your work.

I worked for several years in light-challenge type jobs where I was on my own to get the job done...then I consulted with an international bank...instant code reviews, change management, strategy meetings, and tight timeframes....I sweated it out for quite a few months before I really got comfortable. Between that and my freelancing (which I often take at a lower cost in exchange for the opportunity to tackle a challenge the RIGHT way rather than the cheap way) I've made huge progress over the last few years. It's a good feeling knowing you know how to kick out "correct" code. Doing it, I might add, still takes discipline.

Also, I can't say enough how important it is to "cross train" I'm lucky in that my degree is in design, but my profession is really development. Cross over to the "darkside" of UI and interaction development, because it's amazing how important it is and how poorly many developers do it. Tackle Jquery or Javascript or the like just to learn. It looks great on a resume.

Good luck.

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Thank you for your reply. I have looked into design somewhat, because I do understand the importance of ascetics, especially when you are trying to showcase your talents to someone who is not tech savvy. I have learned a lot about CSS and JavaScript. I found some good tutorials on jQuery that I would like to try out. After I get comfortable with the ASP.NET platform I wanted to branch out into PHP and MySql. I find that there are a lot of non-profit sites that need someone help them, but the site is in PHP. –  icsracer Sep 3 '10 at 13:58
    
Honestly, if you understand the concepts of programming (object orientation, arrays, logic flow, etc) then going from ASP to PHP or Java, etc. is just a matter of grabbing a book. It's when you don't understand the core concepts that going from one to the other becomes a massive undertaking. I can't stress enough the OO concepts as well as a strong understanding of how the DOM works. With non-profits, many are PHP because that's what some random voluteer knew. If you have a target to help out, ask them if they'd like help and are open to change. I've gotten two full-time jobs that way! –  bpeterson76 Sep 3 '10 at 15:04
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You could look into stuff like

  • Microsoft Web Platform Installer and WebMatrix (still in beta)
  • Content Management Systems
  • XSLT

WebPI and WebMatrix are great tools to know for web devs. CMS’s are a very common tool to use when building content oriented websites and XSLT is imho a awesome tech for web development. If you are unfamiliar with XSLT it’s basically a transformation that can turn one XML structure (typically describing data) into another XML structure (typically xhtml).

If you want to have a go at all the points above you can get started with WebPI and WebMatrix at http://docs.composite.net/C1/TeamBlog.aspx/2010/08/13/The-WebMatrix-experience and once you have it running you can work with XSLT at http://docs.composite.net/C1/XSLT.aspx.

We would love to get feedback from you on your experience.

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thank you for the advice I will check it out and give you some feedback! –  icsracer Sep 2 '10 at 20:28
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Consider getting involved in open source projects. It's invaluable experience - working in teams, networking with peers, challenging yourself by taking on tasks you aren't familiar with, etc. For .NET-related projects, Codeplex is ground zero.

If you can't find the "right" OSS project to join, create one. Even if it's just you working by yourself, re-inventing the same old wheels, putting it out freely into the world will draw attention to it, and draw like-minded peers (and possibly plenty of harsh criticism, but that's useful too) and help pave the way for future projects.

As a bonus, you'll be able to stick it in your portfolio, which you generally won't be able to do as an employee for a company - they own the code, you can't do anything with it. This is huge: I'm in the middle of starting my own consultancy with a lot of holes in my own portfolio, and it stings a little.

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Craigslist is a great place to find work local in your area.

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