This year, my “resolution” is to try and be more involved, less introverted. My career as a front end developer connects me most strongly to the engineering and visual design communities, so I’m going to make a concerted effort to write more often and make myself available for mentorship opportunities.
So my question to you, dear readers, is what would you like to know more about?
In the meanwhile, here’s some backstory on me:
I’ve been developing web experiences since around 2004. It all started back in high school building my first AJAX site, kind of a portfolio for the creative stuff I was trying to do. It was white and acid green… makes me smile just thinking about it.
I’ve always been more of a reverse-engineering sort of learner; first it was hacking together a Myspace theme, then modifying WordPress sites, writing marketing emails, learning PHP for a job, learning JS, .NET, etc… all culminating in my love for a job role best described as “creative technologist.” It’s so cool to be in the nexus of ideation and deeply included in the feedback loop of designing an experience that a human will use. I think in day-to-day life as a developer, it’s easy to forget that we’re ultimately making websites for people…
The first project where I really came into my own was Scribe. Back around 2010–2011, I worked at a company called Brafton in Boston. I started out as an Internet Marketing Manager and quickly realized that role didn’t feel fulfilling to me. I’ve never been a “handy” sort of person, but the concept of building something felt compelling.
Prior experience tinkering with the web in various capacities lead to an opportunity to help build a new publishing platform.
It was an enormous responsibility. More than 100 writers, editors, etc would use it every day to deliver content to hundreds of clients, and I also had the opportunity to design the UI.
Naturally, I was terrified. I’m not ashamed to admit there were more than a few hiccups along the way: accidentally blowing up database tables, pushing bad code, losing a day’s work once in a while due to poor use of source control (git wasn’t super popular back then, at least not where I worked.) But it was still one of the best experiences of my life, and really was the foundation of everything to come.
Six years later, Scribe is still working and mostly unaltered. If that isn’t a testament to learning on your feet and putting out something that lasts, I don’t know what is!
That opportunity lead to others and I had the pleasure of working on many more brand identity exercises for spinoff companies in other markets, also building many of their sites.
The best advice I could give anyone interested in web development is to be brave, be intellectually eager, and to spend time learning the fundamentals of graphic / web design. These skills are absolutely invaluable and will serve you well for your entire career. You don’t have to design things yourself, but if you share a vocabulary and context with your design / product teams… the synergy is incredible.
But, most of all, be an advocate for the humans using your product.
Always remember that you’re not just writing a few lines of CSS or composing a widget on a page, you’re building something that hopefully will make someone’s life better in a measurable way. If you’re in a meeting and observe decisions compromising that vision, speak up. You’re often the last mile before bytes reach a very real human somewhere off in the world… do right by them and that positive karma will inevitably come back to you.
Check out my projects:
- markdown-to-jsx, an ultra lightweight markdown React component
- buttermilk, beautifully simple routing for React projects