How Tutoring Can Boost Your Knowledge and Understanding of Web Development
At the beginning of this year, I decided to focus more on development as I felt my skillset had started plateauing. I am the only developer at the marketing agency I work for and needed to find a way to grow without the mentorship of a senior developer. I started with freecodecamp.org working through the various projects for an hour before work each day. This. Felt. Great. For the first time in a long while, my passion for development had been rekindled. Web development became more than just what I do at work; it became what I wanted to do all the time. My imposter syndrome was dormant and I had the confidence to say I was a developer without needing to prepend the word 'Junior' on it for safety. I had tested the water with freelance web development straight out of Bootcamp, but the splash I had hoped to make turned out to be more of a ripple and I wasn't ready to make the time commitment again. I needed something flexible that would hold me accountable for growth - practicing and learning on your own takes a lot of discipline. I have 2 kids, a wife, and a full-time job; spending hours on end every day working on a project while I wouldn't mind it, it's not always a realistic side hustle. This is what led me to become a tutor.
Tutoring gave me the confidence I needed to grow as a developer
When you work in an instruction role you have a responsibility to present accurate information while also explaining it in a way that can be understood by your students. At the same time, you need to possess the humility to advise when you don't know the answer or need to confirm with a google search. These skills, by default, will help you fortify a solid understanding of web development concepts just as writing documentation or blogs would, with the main difference being the size of the audience. When looking for a solution, it is easy to copy the answer from Stack Overflow. By doing this, you are solving the problem without understanding the solution. This is not an option when you are tutoring. Your student comes to you looking for your expertise; they can copy the answer just as you could. They want to gain a deeper understanding; to give them that, you need to possess that understanding yourself. There are plenty of times when a student has needed help with an issue that I can't explain off the top of my head. It was a little awkward at first, but over time it has helped me become more comfortable reading documentation and deconstructing code.
One thing I enjoy most about this interaction is that I am always finding gaps in my own knowledge and filling them in. There have been several times where I have finished a session and will immediately jump right into a concept that I felt I needed a little more practice with or anticipate needing to cover in a future session. This mentality has helped my professional career as well. When I got my first job as a web developer, I remember getting overwhelmed when a project would land on my lap and I didn't know where to start. I see this a lot when working with students; by helping them work through how to get started on a project or conceptualizing the application's structure I am also gaining that same skill.
How you can get started tutoring
There are plenty of ways to get started tutoring and mentoring other developers. Various platforms such as Wyzant or Varsity Tutors provide you with a way to connect with students, but they will take a percentage of your rate so I would only recommend them for getting your foot in the door and connecting with potential students. You can also look into becoming a teaching assistant, instructor, or tutor with a local Bootcamp. These companies would hire you at a fixed hourly rate and won't have as much flexibility as freelance but they are especially useful for growing your network.
Everyone learns and experiences growth in their own way. I thrive with accountability, had I opted not to enroll in a Coding Bootcamp and instead tried to learn how to code on my own I can say without a doubt that I would not be writing this article right now. If you are a self-taught developer, pat yourself on the back you earned it! With tutoring, you are sharing your insights and knowledge with a community. When you help other developers thrive, you in turn will experience growth. Tutoring has made a huge impact on my career as a developer and I encourage anyone who wants to spend more time learning outside of their 9 to 5 to give it a try - especially if you, like myself, can find it hard to make the time.