Life of a Unicorn Developer

A rare kind, who designs and codes

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If you’re wondering who is Unicorn developer/designer and how is life would be and the difficulties he faces, then this post is for you.

Note : the following post is only my views. Only mine

A Unicorn developer/designer is a person who can design and code

If you think they’re a myth, well, no. We exists. Yes, I said WE. I’m a unicorn developer — Android developer cum UX consultant + graphic designer & graphic artist. You might wonder how I can be all that, you may not believe that I can do all the above. Well, sorry to disappoint you. I’ve done it and I’m doing it. And trust me, I’m not the only one. There are many! But nobody knows about us. They don’t prefer us.

Why do we stick our heads into different things?

This is still a mystery. Maybe it’s just how we are. Some might have started as a designer, then programming or developing could have come to him later and vice versa. Few could have been pushed to be like this by the startup culture.

I’m not sure about others. But I started as a developer, I wanted to build great products. But my childhood hobby used to be painting. Then I upgraded it to digital art. I also perform close up magic and I was wondering a way to use it in the work. That’s when UX came — magic you know, it involves human behaviour, presentation and much more. I wanted to use all these skills everyday — mix and match them. That’s how I became a Unicorn.

If you look closely, we also fall under the category of Multipotentialite(I feel I fall in this category, few other unicorns as well. But I’m not sure about others, but I hope they are too). Take a look at this talk to know what Multipotentialite means.

In short, we don’t have a true calling. We’ll never want to be experts in one thing. We’ll go behind curiosity, understand it, learn how it works, get bored and move to the next item on the bucket list.

In other words, I’ll never be like Jonathan Ive or Linus Torvalds. But I’ll be unique — as Hari. Right in between the two extremes.

Why we’re considered useless?

Most of the big companies and even some startups don’t prefer to hire us. Why?

Performing the tasks of UX, visual design, and a developer is a lot to take on. There are many people pulling from various directions and there’s a lot to track in order to keep up with it all. It can be hard to be productive when in the middle of developing something if you get a UX question from someone and then a visual design question from someone else. Your brain has to move between disciplines like left brain activity and right brain activity— it’s difficult for you to gain focus for long periods of time. Even if we have knowledge of all of it in one area but the approach to each is different and you have to look at it from a different angle.

I’ve been managing this context shifts from designer and developer for more than 2 years. It’s difficult they say, yes, but it comes little natural to us. We are like that, we can’t help it. And designer as right brain user and developer as left brain user — this is actually the myth. Both of them needs to use or share both parts of the brain.

When we’re the owner of all three phases then we’ll feel the weight of that ownership and are potentially less likely to take criticism well and make the necessary changes. We may unintentionally make our UX or design “easier” and not as good as it should be because we know that we’re going to do the development. When we’re developing we may be less willing to go in a different direction because we also own the UX and design. Throughout the entire project, we only have one set of eyes accounting for all three disciplines.

Yes. There is a possibility to keep ourselves in a comfort zone. I’m not denying it. But every company is burning money, and time is considered as a crucial factor. When I’’m designing a product, as I have the development knowledge as well, I pick the quick and a GOOD solution. It will not be the best, but good is enough for the developer team to complete on time, ship the product within the timeline and for a lot of good things to happen. A product will have it’s own design iterations all the time. Nothing is considered as the BEST design at first iteration.

and many more….

Why the world needs multipotentialites and Unicorns?

If you need a straight answer, we’re the source of innovation. I’m not boasting us but it’s kinda true. If you’re sticking to one domain, you’ll do it or you’ll try to improve it.

But we’re clubbing two or more domains. That’s where innovation starts. Simple example, Richard Thaler — who won the Nobel prize for economics in behavioural economics. He literally invented this branch. He clubbed behavioral finance, studies the effects of psychological, social, cognitive, and emotional factors with economic decisions.

Don Norman, who coined the term User Experience, he clubbed psychology with the technology. There are n number of examples like this. To put it simple words, when 2 or more domains collaborate, it is the birth-place of innovation. We’re playing with 2 or more domains all the time.

What do we bring to the table?

We bring a lot of things to the table. Some of them are

  • We know which dev work can quickly happen and which design will take time
  • We can bring fresh insights to the design
  • We can participate and contribute to the business meetings
  • We can save you time and money
  • If as a manager, we can easily manage design and development team (we know what and how to ask each team and bring the best to the product)

and many more…

How can you help us?

If you’re running an organisation or if you are a hiring manager, you can create or allocate or at least accept a unicorn and be open about it.

If you’re looking for a product manager or a managerial role for the product, you can close your eyes and hire a Unicorn.

You can also tailor the interview process to accommodate the Unicorn. Just for the example, let’s say you’re hiring for a Pigeon(designer) and a Kiwi(developer). You have the process to test Pigeon’s flight skills and stuff and for Kiwi, you’re testing the running or hopping skills. But we’re not both. We’re like a Peacock, we fly as well as we walk or run. But not both in an extreme. So you can assess our flying skills little and running skills little — I know it’s a bad example but I hope you got the point.

My experiences

I once went for the interview, every time they ask the same question. Am I a designer or a developer? (I got tired of answering this question all the time). I said both and I could answer every question. Then the CEO said, “You need to figure out what you wanted to do in your life. You can’t do both. I can hire you but, when something goes wrong, I need one guy to blame. If you’re doing both, then I can’t blame the right guy”. That felt wired. My mind voice was like, “do you hire to blame somebody?” — after this, I was not interested in that startup anyway.

There’s nothing wrong with what he was trying to communicate. He meant that he needs single task experts. He just delivered it in a different way (see? I’m empathic :-P)

If you’re wondering what I can do or the skills that I have,

  • I can paint/doodle/pencil sketch on paper
  • I can do digital art
  • WAS playing keyboard
  • Design web/mobile apps
  • Develop Android apps
  • Close-up magic artist
  • Can write, in simple words, can make people understand (that’s called communication)
  • Can speak on stage, address n numbers
  • Can meditate, do some Martial Arts
  • Can sometimes manipulate or understand a person’s character easily

many more skills coming soon….

I’m not showcasing myself, this is very small but I’m sure there are many multipotentialites who can do much more :-D

Final Thoughts

Nobody has written or talked out the Unicorns and it is kind of a different topic to address. I know everyone would have your own perceptions towards a Unicorn, whether to hire them or not to hire them. It’s totally up to the company’s methodology.

I wanted to address you, that we’re not a myth and we’re not useless. Here are some of the multipotenitalites, who were Unicorns in their own way.

  • James Hunt (racer, who had different buckets)
  • Leonardo Di Vinci
  • Isaac Newton and many more

so, are you ready to accept Unicorns?

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Android Dev at Backbase | #1 Google AAD | Public Speaker | Blogger | Creative Coder & Logical Designer

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