PHP web developer program at VDAB: my progress

It’s been well over a month since I enrolled in VDAB’s PHP web developer program. Let’s have a quick look at how things are going.

After completing the ICT basics program of VDAB, I got accepted to the PHP web developer program around mid-April 2021. I had maybe a short week in between programs, which is rather unusual. It’s more common to be put on a waitlist for months until there are enough students to launch the program. But I’m guessing that due to Covid-19 there’s no need to physically fill up a classroom anymore and classes can start with as little as 2 students.

Why did I choose to make a career switch via VDAB? Read my previous post

Want to know more about my experience at VDAB’s ICT basics program? Read more here

What do you learn in VDAB’s PHP web developer program?

The modules I have currently completed

I was eager to get into PHP but there are actually quite some modules you must complete first:

Webintro (5days)

Basic knowledge of web-related topics that are not strictly centered around programming. E.g. digital marketing, web hosting, usability, …

Personally, I already had some knowledge of most of these topics due to my work experience as a digital content editor. I’m quite familiar with terms like KPI, SEO, UX, and so on. But if you don’t have any work experience in a digital job, this is of course very useful to know. The module doesn’t dig deep into each topic but I’d say it’s plenty and most of it you’ll learn on the job anyway as it’s so dependent on which type of company you’ll end up in.

HTML/CSS (15days)

A bit odd to see this module in here, considering we already completed the same module in the basics program. However, this module does focus more on responsive design, mobile first, and using CSS preprocessors such as LESS (and to a lesser extent, SASS).

The course material itself was, like in the basics program, a bit outdated but still workable.

To be honest, I did feel a bit demotivated during this module. But that’s rather rooted in my specific situation: writing HTML and CSS was literally my job as a content editor. So yeah, a lot of repetition for me but nonetheless it’s always good to get some extra practice in.

Javascript (20 days)

Here, the same as with HTML/CSS: we had a Javascript module in the basics program. However, this module digs deeper into advanced Javascript. The focus here is on object-oriented programming instead of functional programming. 

You also get more freedom in terms of course material and exercises. Instead of a coursebook with obligatory exercises, there are a number of optional exercises to pick from. And it’s up to you to search/read the course material for relevant chapters.

I’m about halfway through this module right now, and I must say it’s challenging to switch from functional programming to object-oriented programming. And, I’m not the only student who feels that way. Our coding coach did reassure us that this is normal, and to remember that we’re only getting started as programmers. Thinking OOP is something you learn gradually as a developer and a skill you improve along the way.

Daily stand-ups

Something to mention are the daily stand-up meetings. Each morning we have a short call with our coding coach for a status update (what are you working on, what is going well, what is not going well, do you need additional resources or help,…)

I remember that the dev team at my previous job would do these too. Daily stand-ups are part of Scrum. It may seem a bit arbitrary at first, but it’s a good habit to form for later.

Recap of my first month in the PHP web developer program

I was a little less enthusiastic about the course due to not learning much new in the first modules. And I guess I’m also a little too impatient and eager to get started with PHP. But I’m glad to have pushed through because the Javascript module is more advanced and challenging. 

Luckily, the next module is PHP fundamentals. But let’s first see if we can get through Javascript first.

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