Change and Front End Development

My friend Meagan wrote a blog post today entitled Why I Thought I Couldn’t Code, and it got me thinking a lot about my arc as a person who works with computers.

Even now, writing this, I struggle with defining myself as a developer. I work with code, but I still don’t feel like I’ve earned the title developer yet. I still feel far away from that designation.

In 1999, Justin was the person who introduced me to a program called Flash. Back then it was Macromedia Flash, and I bought a copy of it for $99 (using a student discount). I was in graduate school at the time, studying creative writing and poetry. My goal: I wanted to animate my poems.

I got out of school in 2000 and lucked into a job working with Flash full time. I learned a lot about animation and motion, and then someone taught me what a “variable” was, and introduced me to ActionScript. That was really eye-opening, and had a huge impact on me.

I did the Flash thing for a long while. A really long while. But the thing of it is: I got lazy. I didn’t keep up and got stuck with AS1. Eventually, AS2 and AS3 came around. As did the iPhone. As did the iPad. And then fewer people wanted things built with Flash. And then, not surprisingly, there was less work for me to do.

Much like Flash, I had become less relevant.

Fortunately for me, I was able to transition into a management role for a few years. But soon after I was let go I decided I wanted to become a developer again. I missed getting my hands dirty and actually creating something. I wanted to build things again.

I was able to find a contractor position at Sears Holdings, and was able to basically start anew. To try on the title of FED (front end developer).

Front End Development is a dizzying field, with no small number of tools and frameworks and libraries to learn. I go about my days wondering if I am good enough, if I know enough. It’s all about Grunt, or no wait it’s Gulp, or no wait it’s Broccoli.

For everything that’s out there – it’s a lot to take in. It’s daunting, it’s intimidating, and even overwhelming at times. It took me a long while to realize this, but by simply stepping to one side and looking at the industry from another angle… all that stuff to learn? It’s also quite exciting.

I’m understanding that it’s no longer about learning the new hotness (because, let’s face it, there will always be another, newer, new hotness). It’s about finding tools and processes that work for you, that help make your job easier, or help you to do your job better.

There’s no need to master everything out there. But you should learn enough to determine if a certain tool will be of a benefit to you.

I have learned an incredible amount here at Sears. I work with a lot of really smart, really talented people and have gotten good exposure to a lot of things. And this includes the aforementioned Grunt/Gulp/Broccoli combo. I even got a good intro to Angular (thanks, Jose) that ended up getting me started with building out my Underviewed project.

What’s really nice at work is that there are active steps taken to allow the devs to allocate time to study and learn. We can’t eschew our projects and deadlines of course, but we are starting to slot time to read up and learn alongside our normal work – which is great.

I’ve found that I do learn best through direct application, and I’m at my best when I’m working on a personal project. I take this as a good sign, as I do feel I’m learning a lot in my off hours too.

Many years ago, I got complacent. And I watched as my skills became less in demand, and everything else marched on while I stood still. I’d like to think I’ve learned that particular lesson, and hope I continue to push and grow myself as a developer.

I have a lot of favorite poems. But there are two lines in particular that really stick out for me. They’re from a poem entitled Four Hundredth Mile, by Roger Mitchell, an old professor of mine. I return to these lines a few times each year, and I still never tire of them. I think those lines are worth sharing:

I have tried to love what I thought was the world,
but the world moved. I will love the move instead.

The older I get, and the more set I become in my ways… the truer these lines ring. There are worse approaches.

Related:
My Promotion: Director of Design Services
Goodbye, Emmis Interactive
The World Moved

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