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8 Expert Tips on How to Become an App Developer

June 27, 2019

Been there, done that. 

A little advice never hurts, right? Especially when you may be looking to make a big move in your career. These pros all have first-hand experience and want to share their wins (and losses) with you to get you on your way to becoming an app developer. 

Becoming an app developer

Before reading advice from the experts, it's important to set expectations. So, let’s talk numbers. 

As you’re well aware, there’s a lot that goes into developing an app – from the ideation phase to the final launch; just as much goes into becoming the developer of that app. We asked 8 experts for their best advice to those looking to make the transition into becoming an app developer. Here’s what they had to say:

1. Seek out internships

“Back at university, I majored in programming but received little practical knowledge. So, during that time I was actively involved in professional self-development and started working in the field in my third year. That proved really vital to my success, helping me get the real-world experience within the profession. 

Later, I worked as a web developer (back-end and front-end) and finally went into mobile development. I'm comfortable with the following programming languages:

If I could do something differently at the very outset of my career, it would be to seek more internship/mentorship opportunities. Learning from experienced colleagues is extremely important when you're starting out!”

- Konstantin Shmykov, Mobile Developer at MightyCall

2. Take the initiative 

“I taught myself. I was originally going to school to be an instructional designer. At the time, I thought that I would be more valuable if I also knew how to program so I could develop 3D simulations. I learned primarily by watching YouTube tutorials and trial and error. 

Looking back, I would’ve gone to school for computer science instead. Not being formally trained, I had to constantly play catch up. Along the way, a veteran programmer taught me some tips and tricks to make my code faster and cleaner. He also pushed me to be a faster programmer. For most of my projects, I can see the code in my head before I start programming. This has helped me in times where I had to have a prototype programmed from scratch within 24-48 hours.”

- Anthony Madden, Senior AR Developer at Stayhealthy

3. Work in related fields

“I started my career as a graphic designer and then picked up web development a couple of years later. From there, I expanded my areas of expertise into the digital marketing realm which included skills such as search engine optimization (SEO), CPC campaign management, and email marketing.

app developer quote

 I started to see a trend with websites becoming more mobile friendly and knew that it was only a matter of time before there would be a massive shift towards mobile app development. In the world of technology, it’s critical that you stay on top of learning and growing into new realm each and every day.”

- Will Manuel, President of Core Mobile Apps

4. Focus on the details

“When you develop a mobile application, the most important thing to do is focus on the basics and keep a keen eye on the essential elements. Keep it simple and remove extraneous features from the app and focus on what matters the most. I believe in doing fewer things but doing fewer things better.

I put emphasis on the small things to make the user experience better. I always take a step back and list 3 things that matter the most in every application I develop. Get the details of those features and make sure you nailed them every time.”

- Dhaval Sarvaiya, Co-founder of Intelivita

5. Seize every opportunity 

“I got into my role by happenstance. I was ready to leave my previous position and had a conversation with my current boss. It turned out to be a good fit for both of us, so I made the move. The variety of the projects I'd worked on in the past made for the right combination of experience. 

I have a decent grasp of 4 languages but have used others and am comfortable picking up whatever I need to. All code is based on the same foundational elements. Once you learn those and how to effectively get your questions answered, you can code most things.”

- Laurie Barth, Software Engineer at Ten Mile Square

TIP: See which app programming languages are the most popular among developers just like these pros.

6. Do you own research

“I learned to make iOS apps at age 13 and taught myself. I also teach people how to build mobile apps and the one thing I will say is DO NOT take a class! Pick a goal, and figure out how to make it happen whether that be through Google, Stack Overflow, etc. Go in with no previous knowledge and just solve each problem step by step instead of trying to learn it all first.” 

- Steven Schwartz, CEO of Varfaj Partners

7. Start early

“I learned Applesoft Basic as a kid so I could program our family's Apple II+. I would say I was self-taught, but I studied programming books and magazines and talked with other programmers to learn. Everyone says they are self-taught, but no one *really* is. 

My advice for newcomers is to jump into it. Get an HTML for beginners' book at the library and try it out at home. You'll see results and will have programmed something the first day. When you're ready to move on, start with something pretty forgiving, like JavaScript, for a general-purpose language.”

- Joe Wilson, Owner and President of Volare Systems

TIP: Using rapid application development can streamline the process and often requires little to no coding experience. 

8. Be your own biggest cheerleader

“I actually studied accounting, but have always been fascinated by software automation. So I decided to teach myself to program and go from there. I watched a ton of free online video tutorials.

In my journey to becoming an app developer, I’ve learned that anyone can do it, given that they invest enough time and effort. You gain much more knowledge and understanding of the matter while working. Dealing with real-life software problems is the best teacher there is, no university, academy or school can beat that. I always thought that people with computer science/informatics degree were much better programmers than me because I had no such degree. I realized I was wrong.”

- Nikolai Tenev, Founder of DigidWorks

Progress is progress

These experts all learned how to become an app developer in their own way. There’s no right or wrong way to start something new. Take in advice from those around you and pick up small projects to learn as you go. In the meantime, check out these additional resources on iOS app development and Android app development.

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8 Expert Tips on How to Become an App Developer Interested in becoming an app developer? See how these 8 experts carved their own path to get there and why they made the switch.
Bridget Poetker Bridget Poetker is a former content team lead at G2. Born and raised in Chicagoland, she graduated from U of I. In her free time, you'll find Bridget in the bleachers at Wrigley Field or posted up at the nearest rooftop patio. (she/her/hers)

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