“There are a lot of ways to get started. Whether you're just getting into development, whether you have been in development or architecture, and you're kind of learning APIs, or if you're in the business side of things and you're really trying to understand what APIs are...there’s a place for you!”

 – Brenton House, VP of Digital Evangelism at Software AG. 

This week on the API Intersection podcast, we chatted Brenton House, Vice President of Digital Evangelism at Software AG. As an API OG who started working with APIs in the 90s, Brenton House is definitely an expert in the API space. His current goal is to help others fully understand the space and get started in the industry. 

For young developers, people newly saddled with needing to include “APIs” in their products, or for business stakeholders simply wanting to learn more about the industry—this episode is for you! Here are the first three steps to take to dip your toes into the API waters. 

And as a bonus, if you’re REALLY not sure where to even start, check out our “What is an API” guide. 

1. A Foundational Understanding of Key Resources

 “So there are some of the foundation things that I like to point people to to get started, and the most important thing would be understanding what git is so that you can understand how to use GitHub, repos, and things like that,” shares Brenton. 

Git is a free and open source distributed version control system designed to handle everything from small to very large projects with speed and efficiency. Github is used for software development and version control using git. It offers the distributed version control and source code management functionality of Git for developers. You can even get a Github Certification through LinkedIn Learning. 

Brenton emphasizes that learning the relevant resources in the API space will help you to have a leg up in the industry. Other than git, understanding JSON or a similar language at the most basic level will also help you enter the world of APIs.

 “If you're going to learn a language, JSON, JavaScript and NodeJS are pretty simple languages to be able to pick up, learn and build the basics of consuming an API and creating APIs,” recommends Brenton. 

JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) is a lightweight data-interchange format to code in. JavaScript (JS), is another programming language alongside other options such as HTML and CSS. Javascript is broadly used in scaling platforms from browsers to backends, and JSON (a format born in javascript) is utilized for data exchange across many languages and platforms and is essential to modern APIs. There are a variety of free coding boot camps you can take to truly dive into these programming languages. 

 

2. Learn from Leaders in the Community

“There's a lot of people out in the community right now that can really benefit your growth as an API expert. I recommend folks like Kin Lane, Mike Amundsen, Eric Wilde, Keith Casey, and Arnaud Lauret, and that Jason guy of course,” shares Brenton. (Thanks for the shout-out!) 

Following and learning from leaders in the API community is an excellent way to get started, understand the trends in the industry, and build your API network. Whether it’s following a few of their blogs, picking their brains on LinkedIn, or simply lurking and learning in the background– connecting and learning are great ways to start to absorb industry lingo. 

“The API community is a great technical community to be in if you want to learn more, because there are some really great people out there bringing a variety of expertise on a rapidly evolving space,” shares Brenton. 

Brenton also recommends attending relevant leading API conferences to meet some of these community experts and further craft your network. Conferences put on by organizations like Nordic APIs Platform Summit, API Specs Conf, Gluecon, and API Days as some of the greats that I recommend checking out. 

3. Get the Right Toolset 

“Tools wise, I mean, obviously Stoplight has several great tools, but if you want to start with some of the design process understanding of what OpenAPI is, that's an important part of getting started with APIs. Satellite also has a great tool for designing that process,” shares Brenton. 

When you’re ready to actually start designing and developing APIs, you’re going to want the right tooling. Design, development, documentation, mocking, linting, reviews, gateways, deployment, adoption, etc. are all a part of the API lifecycle. There are some tools that cover a variety of these steps (such as Stoplight), or you can get specific tools for each step. 

Many of these tools also come in a free, open-source option if you don’t have a huge budget to get started. Check out Prism for mocking, Spectral for linting, and Elements for documentation if you want a few open-source options. 

The most important step though, is to just get started wherever you choose to begin the journey. You can't go wrong as long as you try. As always, subscribe to the API Design blog or our podcast for more insights. 

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