11 courses to help you become a better developer

Online courses to help you learn new things and become a better more confident software developer :)

By Connor Leech - Mar 21, 2020

Photo credit by NESA by Makers

Part of being a great developer or tech professional is learning new skills. I’m a pretty firm believer that the best way to learn new things or technologies is by trying them out yourself. The best way to learn is to build things. That said, learning through more structured processes like books, courses and video tutorials can be super helpful, give you new ideas and ultimately save a developer time. It’s great to build things but not so great to be stuck in a rut or banging your head against the wall. Just like building muscle takes varying your workouts, becoming a better developer can require you to vary the things you do and the ways you learn.

It’s important to strike a balance between building new things yourself and structured learning. Ultimately there’s no right way or definitive answer about what you should do to become a better developer. It’s a personal journey and everyone, whether they realize it or not has different goals and visions for what they want out of life. There’s no real shortcut to getting what you want apart from putting in the work. That means different things to different people. Some people learn better from video courses while others spend all their time building and that makes them feel happy and successful. Below is a list of online courses and resources I’ve either utilized myself to become a better developer or have my eye on because I want to take them and improve my skillset in that area. There are millions of online courses and tutorials out there. I suggest you find one right for you but I hope this list is helpful as a starting point :)

A note about certifications and resumes: Some online courses offer certifications that you can put on your resume or LinkedIn profile. When I was first learning to code I’d scoff at these validations as not important. What counted was what I knew, what I could build and what taught me the most. There’s even a TED talk - highlight your ability not your experience. I didn’t think certifications or actually watching all the videos in a video course mattered..

Then I worked as a Technical Recruiter hiring engineers and digital marketers for tech companies and startups in the Bay Area. Certifications on candidate’s resumes could be really helpful and give strng signal into a candidate’s drive, attitude and ability. I know it’s pretty shallow and there are all sorts of problems with resumes, but when a candidate listed online courses and certifications on their resume I took it to mean that the candidate was genuinely interested in their field and eager to improve. Often that’s a very desirable quality in employees and helped some candidates stand out from the pack.

Online courses on your resume offer the added benefit of adding new search terms to your resume or online presence too. For example, if a candidate had no professional experience with SQL but completed a SQL training course they can list that on their resume even if they have no professional experience with the tool. That means they’ll appear in search results where recruiters are looking for SQL as a required or “nice to have” skill. There are exceptions to every rule, but in the Bay Area’s competitive talent market I’d say the first most important thing hiring managers and recruiters look for is relevant professional experience, followed by side projects, certifications and online courses. These are the initial things recruiters and hiring managers initially judge against when reading a resume.

Online courses can teach you new skills, beef up your resume and build common ground on which to share information with other professionals. Without further ado, this is my list of online courses I’ve taken or am interested in taking over the next few months or years. I hope you find some value in this list and can use it to improve your own skillset and career!

🎨 Learn front end design and development…

Designing with Tailwind CSS: Tailwind CSS is a “utility first” CSS framework for styling websites and apps. Up until now Bootstrap has been the CSS framework I’m most familiar with but I think it’s time for an upgrade. It seems Tailwind CSS makes it easier to build beautiful sites. Tailwind CSS looks more complicated than Bootstrap but also like you can achieve more. This free course and their book Refactoring UI are great resources for anyone looking to beef up on their front end design and development chops. You can search for CSS and design related jobs here.

Webflow University: A core part of the “no code” movement, Webflow is a company that builds products that makes it easy to build websites and apps without writing any code. The focus is on using their tools to design sites and exporting or even hosting the sites that users build. Being an expert in Webflow can allow you to build beautiful sites quickly without coding anything on the frontend. This can be a relief for designers, non-coders and even expert developers that are looking to ship product. Webflow University is a collection of free online resources the company offers to people that want to learn how to use their product. If you really want to get involved you can apply to Webflow jobs and work out of their SF office or remote :) 📈

☁️ Learn to cloud…

AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate: Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers a series of professional certifications that you can obtain by passing written exams. One of the most accessible is the AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate level certification. A Cloud Guru is an awesome website packed full of AWS and cloud computing lessons. The linked course above is a study guide and series of video lectures designed to help you pass the AWS certification exam. This is a great resource to learn more about a wide array of AWS services and pick up a professional certification while you’re at it.

AWS Lambda: This is a short course that introduces learners to running AWS Lambda “serverless” functions. Serverless functions are a new(ish) infrastructure paradigm where you can do server tasks without maintaining your own web server, all while potentially saving money. There are a few different courses designed to teach you serverless on A Cloud Guru in addition to this one. There’s the complete serverless course, serverless for beginners and Serverless Framework with GraphQL. One good thing is that all these courses are available via one A Cloud Guru subscription instead of having to buy each course individually.

💽 Learn about databases…

The Ultimate MySQL Bootcamp: Go from SQL Beginner to Expert: This course is targeted at those that are new to coding or have never worked with SQL before. I took (most of) this course before starting my current job and felt a lot more comfortable with MySQL fundamentals.

AWS DynamoDB - From Beginner to Pro: This is another A Cloud Guru courses that goes through how to work with AWS’s NoSQL offering called DynamoDB. DynamoDB pairs well with serverless functions and many technology companies and startups use this database.

Introduction to Amazon RDS: Amazon’s Relational Database Service (RDS) is a host for structured databases in the cloud. This course on A Cloud Guru handles setting up a new database, configuring the networks, provisioning backups, access control and Amazon Aurora -- Amazon’s database built for the cloud.

Mastery with SQL: I’ve had my eye on this course for some time to level up my SQL query game. Especially exciting about this course is all of the practice exercises that you can use to check for understanding :)

🔬 Learn data structures, algorithms and computer science…

If you’re primarily interested in passing technical coding interviews and mastering data structures and algorithms I’ve compiled a GitHub repo of computer science fundamentals to get you started. Feel free to check it out!

💡 Other interesting online courses for programmers…

Data Analysis with Python: This is a Coursera course offered in conjunction with IBM covering importing datasets, data wrangling, data analysis and model development.

Laracasts: If you’ve worked with Laravel or Vue.js at all it’s likely you already know about Laracasts. I highly recommend this site for anyone that’s starting out in their programming career. If you’re a Laravel developer it’s a must have :)

Creating Laravel SaaS with Cashier/Stripe: This course goes over the fundamentals of building a Software As A Service (SaaS) application with Laravel and Stripe for payment processing. For those looking to build a viable software business this could be a good starting point!