Tania Rascia, a well-known web developer and coding blogger, kicks off the first in a series of interviews with successful bloggers, website developers, and entrepreneurs.
You used to be a chef and now you’re a web developer. That’s quite a significant career switch. What made you want to hang up your chef’s apron and write code for a living?
Well, the first step was just deciding to hang up the chef’s apron.
When I decided to find a new career, I actually had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, even though writing code seems like such an obvious choice in retrospect.
The biggest reason I wanted to quit the restaurant industry was just that I knew it wasn’t my passion in any sense, and it’s an extremely demanding career. All the hard work might be rewarding if it’s what you love, but it wasn’t what I love. The long hours and having to work every weekend was just a little extra push to find something else.
Once I made that big decision, I had to discover what I wanted to do and what I’m good at.
It took me a while, but I kept landing on coding and web design/development.
I actually didn’t know what a great career it is and how much it’s in demand – I just knew I enjoyed it and I could happily do it for long periods of time.
I’ve been doing it for about five years now and I love it even more than ever. Solving bugs, problems, and issues are satisfying, as well as building systems from scratch.
Why did you start a blog?
Kind of two reasons.
First, I had wanted for so long to make a blog that was just my own design and host and didn’t go through a third-party system or use an existing theme, so once I figured out how to do that with WordPress I really wanted to start writing in it.
The first post I ever made on my blog was “Getting Started with Git”, which I wrote because I really struggled with git in the beginning and when I figured it out, I decided to document it for myself and also for anyone else who came along.
Most of the posts on my blog have been written for the same reason.
What’s your process for writing a new blog post?
It depends on if I’m writing a blog post as I learn something, or if I’m writing about something I already know.
For a tutorial that’s a process from A to Z, I often just write all the commands I use as I’m learning something, and if anything went wrong along the way I keep track of that so I know where the potential pain points are in getting it set up.
I also take screenshots as I go.
If it’s something I already know and I’m writing a tutorial for it – like how to create an app that uses React and Redux, for example – I’ll write the final product first and make sure it handles everything I want the tutorial to cover.
Then I’ll figure out the goal of the tutorial, the prerequisites, and the rest kind of writes itself.
Your blog is extremely well designed, you’ve written 150 articles, totaling millions of views, and you’ve launched several of your own web libraries and products. What’s your secret?
I guess the secret is just do a little bit over a long time.
Although it seems like I have a lot of content and spend all my time writing open-source projects and writing tutorials, I honestly hardly spend any of my time doing it.
I’ve just written one or two articles a month for the past four or five years, which adds up.
Any time I’ve attempted to take on some huge project it never seems to work out, but just doing a little at a time for a long time does.
Your tutorial on how to make a WordPress theme from scratch is ranked higher on Google than the official WordPress tutorial on theme development. Why do you think that is?
I attempted to use the official WordPress docs to learn how to make a WordPress theme, but it was a painful process.
Although the docs have a lot of information, including a lot of specific code examples and edge cases, they didn’t really have any straightforward guide to just getting something going with all the basics. And at the time that I wrote my article, there really wasn’t any tutorial out there that did it.
The docs might be a good resource for someone who already knows what they’re doing and needs to refresh their memory on this or that, but a quick start guide is the type of content that most documentation seems to lack.
You also lend your writing skills to big web development publications like DigitalOcean, SitePoint, and Envato Tuts +. How did you get started writing for other sites?
In the very beginning, I attempted to contact a few publications about writing for them, but I didn’t really get any responses.
You switched from using WordPress as your blogging platform to Gatsby last year. Some time has passed since the switch. What things do you miss about WordPress, if any?
To be honest, there is not much I miss about WordPress.
I work with React on a daily basis at work, so being in the Gatsby environment is comfortable for me.
I love being able to write my posts in markdown and save them in a repository instead of having to set up a whole database and server.
I also don’t have to worry about security or exploits because it’s a static site.
For people wanting to follow suit and make the switch to Gatsby, what should they look out for?
It is a fair bit of work to migrate to Gatsby (it took me about a week to migrate all the posts and rewrite the design in React) and if your site is very complex, Gatsby probably will not be able to do many of the things that WordPress plugins could do.
I think there are some CMS implementations that can be used with Gatsby, but if your site is used by clients, Gatsby is probably not the right choice. It’s excellent for a simple blog, though.
What advice would you give to people thinking of starting their own blog?
I would say go for it, especially if you’re in the learning process.
Documenting what you learn can help you and others who are at a similar level as you. More advanced developers are probably more interested in writing long-form opinions and observations as opposed to tutorials.
I’ve kind of stuck to the intermediate level, as I think there is a lot of demand for intermediate-level content and it’s hard to do right (how much do you assume the reader already knows?).
I think blogging is the best way to keep notes, at least for me personally.
Tania’s blog can be found over at TaniaRascia.com.