What to Know Before Starting Patrick’s 32-Hour Full Stack Web3 Developer Course
Last week I finished Patrick Collins’ massive 32-hour full stack web3 developer course. Patrick says that anyone, even with no previous developer experience, can take his free course and come out with everything needed to be a successful engineer in the web3 space. That’s a pretty big claim considering how competitive and expensive a Computer Science degree is these days. Well, after finishing all 1,914 minutes of the course, I agree it’s definitely possible. The course is incredible and was an amazing learning experience, but it’s definitely not for everyone. Here are a few things to know before deciding to jump in.
1.) 32 Hours Does Not Mean 32 Hours.
The course itself is a 32 hour long YouTube video, but whatever you do, do not think all you need is 32 hours to get through it! Plan for more. A lot more. It took me 3 months from start to finish to complete all 18 lessons. Learning to code is not a passive activity. You don’t just listen to a lecture and absorb knowledge. While you watch the video, you’ll be frequently pausing so you can code on your own.
Exactly how much time YOU will need depends on many factors including your prior skills, experience level, and all those pesky distractions like your day job, hobbies, kids, etc. For me, one hour of the video would often take 4 or more hours to complete. While I have an engineering background, I haven’t been a hands-on developer in over 15 years, so it definitely took me time to get comfortable with a development environment again.
2.) Know Your Goal.
My goal for this course was to learn the technical fundamentals of blockchains so I could be a more informed investor and web3 participant. My goal was not to get a job as an engineer. The reason this is important is because knowing why you are taking the course will help guide you during the difficult parts.
When you get stuck (and you will, see #5 below!), you might be tempted to copy the source code from github instead of solving the problem on your own. That might be okay at times, but if your goal is to become a web3 engineer, you are only cheating yourself if you take shortcuts.
3.) Can You Really Take This Course If You Have No Prior Coding Experience?
Patrick says you don’t need any developer experience to be successful with this course. He’s technically 100% correct and I did notice some people who had no prior programming experience posting in the discussion forum and on Twitter about their success with his course. But the more developer experience you have the easier and faster you’ll go. The skills and experience you start with will determine how much you can expect to get out of the course or how many other rabbit holes you’ll find yourself going down.
4.) This Is Way More Than a Crypto Dev Course.
If all you want is to learn how to write a smart contract, there are plenty of shorter and more direct tutorials out there. What surprised me the most is discovering that this course is WAY MORE than just a blockchain developer course.
Taking this course, you’ll also learn:
- Fundamental Engineering Skills. Patrick covers engineering skills beyond coding such as: automated tests and deployment scripts, github and git, and working with open source libraries. But even more amazing is the emphasis on all the soft skills like the importance of tinkering and solving problems independently, debugging techniques, and how to engage with and become good citizens in the open source & web3 communities.
- Architecture Tradeoffs. Throughout the whole course Patrick does an excellent job explaining what tradeoffs to consider when making architecture decisions. A theme that comes up often is the centralization vs. de-centralization decision. Of course, smart contracts are by definition decentralized and immutable, but when the course gets into building front ends, we do use some centralized resources to speed up development. If you’re just starting your engineering career, make sure to pay attention to how Patrick talks about tradeoffs. Different architectures have different pros and cons and are always contextual to the outcomes you need in your final product. (Examples from the course: Moralis vs The Graph, Pinata vs. Filecoin, the various methodologies for upgrading contracts)
- Philosophy. If you are new to crypto it’s super important to understand the philosophy and geo-politics of the space, even more so than understanding the technology. And this course is so much more than a technology course. Patrick does an incredible job of representing the ethos of the space and the great things about crypto culture. Make sure you pay attention. Come for the technology. Stay for the philosophy.
5.) What To Do When You Get Stuck.
You are going to get stuck. Your code won’t compile. Your test won’t pass. Your screen won’t match Patrick’s perfectly. This will happen countless times. Or you’ll be copying Patrick’s code without really understanding what’s happening and you’ll want to stop and understand. Should you pause and go deep not knowing if this diversion will take 2 or 4 or 8 or more hours or should you or just keep moving forward? This was one of the hardest parts about this course for me: knowing when to pause, go deep on a concept to fully understand it or just move on and maybe come back to it later. It’s more an art than science, because there were definitely times when it made sense to pause and take the diversion, and other times where it was better to just skip the section and continue.
6.) Tech Changes Fast. Crypto Changes Even Faster.
Between the time when the course was recorded and when you will be taking it, many things will have changed. Each of the 18 lessons has a github repository with sample code, and it is updated and maintained as changes happen. But you should still expect that the code in each lesson will not match perfectly with what you see in the video. For example, I was using a newer version of hardhat than what was used in the video, so the options I saw when starting a new project were different than what was shown in the video. Another example is Rinkeby was used as the Ethereum test environment (AKA testnet) when I took the course, but after The Merge it has now been replaced by Goerli.
Don’t panic. Every time I got stuck, I was able to get help from discussion boards and the community.
7.) Watch ’til the End.
The last 30 minutes of the course is about maybe the most important topic for any developer in the crypto space — Security & Auditing — and the content is pure gold. Patrick advocates for good security practices throughout the entire course, but whatever you do, do not skip this part of the course. Watch it once, maybe twice, and then bookmark it to watch it again in the future. In addition to general security practices, you’ll learn a lot of specific tools you will need when you are ready to create your own smart contracts.
I highly recommend this incredible course to anyone serious about learning the technology behind the Ethereum blockchain and full stack web3 development. But like anything worthwhile, you have to put the work in to get results. GOOD LUCK and HAPPY LEARNING, and please tell me how it goes!