Without web developers and designers creating the pages of the internet that we trod across every day, the web would be a wasteland of hand-coded HTML and "Under Construction" GIFs. It's the job of front-end developers to create and implement the familiar layouts of our favorite publications and sites.
Tell us a little about yourself and your experience.
My position at Jobvite is lead web developer for career sites, and I've been here for almost four years. I moved here from Portland, Oregon.
What drove you to choose your career path?
I initially went to community college, where I took a web design 101 class and I realized that I really enjoyed it. I figured that I was more of a hands-on type of learner, and I was catching on really quickly. That's where I learned that I really liked working on a computer. The satisfaction of making something and seeing it right front of you was really gratifying to me.
Afterwards, I was looking to learn more. I knew that I didn't want to go to a traditional university, and be with other people with majors that weren't at all interesting to me, so I decided I wanted to go to art school. I went to the Art institute of Portland Oregon, and got my degree in web design and multimedia. Everyone at that school was creative.
How did you go about getting your job? What kind of education and experience did you need?
Once I was getting ready to graduate, our school had a portfolio show, a kind of career fair, for all the seniors. I made all my connections that day, and was able to show them my work, which was accessible, right in front of them. I came across an interactive design agency who was looking to hire a developer. I stood out because I was awake! A lot of students pulled an all-nighter the night before, and weren't in good shape for the career fair.
I worked at an interactive agency at Portland for five and half years as a web developer. I developed a lot of websites, email campaigns, e-commerce sites, everything. I wanted to strike out on my own, so I left the company and decided to freelance for a year, where I made my own connections and got my own customers. I came to San Francisco to visit a friend, and fell in love with the city. I knew someone who worked at Jobvite, and he introduced me to the position, and I've been here ever since!
In terms of education, I'm a front-end web developer. I took all kinds of classes—from coding to design and figured out where my niche was. Really though, for a front-end developer, you don't need a degree. Your work kind of shows how much you know. A lot of people these days are self-taught, and there's tons of online resources now.
One important skill is that I'm a normal person that can have a conversation. Many developers are more introverted, but I'm kind of the opposite of that, and I like to talk to people and I like to code. A rare breed.
What kinds of things do you do beyond what most people see? What do you actually spend the majority of your time doing?
A lot of the times here at Jobvite, more than developing, I'm consulting. Lots of our customers look to us for guidance and the ideas to develop their own career pages. They need us to consult on user experience and work with them to figure out what we can do for them. I need them to tell me what they want so that what we deliver meets their expectations. A big, big part of my time is spent prepping.
What misconceptions do people often have about your job?
A lot of people think that I design. I have to explain them that we don't design, we develop. We take what you're looking for, and we develop it for you.
What are your average work hours?
It varies. Right now, we're a little short-staffed, so it's been tough. Typically it's about 8-9 hour days, 40-50 hour weeks. It varies because some customers are not ready to go into development, so I'm waiting for them, and then everyone is ready at once! So it comes in waves.
What personal tips and shortcuts have made your job easier?
Being organized has helped me keep things from falling through the cracks. I get a ton of emails, so it's important to keep my email inbox very structured. I'm a big to-do list writer.
I'm also a multitasker, so I tend to do 10 things at once. That works for me, but it might now work for everyone.
Also, If I have to work at home so that my load the next day is a bit lighter, then I'll do that.
What do you do differently from your coworkers or peers in the same profession? What do they do instead?
I'm the lead developer, so I manage the team. I'm more customer facing, and do a lot more consulting than some of the other developers. Another aspect of my job is specialized, in that my team only works on career sites, as opposed to other kinds of web development.
The main difference between me and many other developers in general is probably the amount of consulting I do on a regular basis.
What's the worst part of the job and how do you deal with it?
Being a technical person, explaining something technical to a non-technical person is very difficult and it can be frustrating. How do I deal with it? Just patience. A lot of patience and high-tolerance. I have to be okay with breaking it down to the most basic level so that they can understand, and repeating myself numerous times.
Really, after work, I go to the gym. That's my outlet.
What's the most enjoyable part of the job?
I love making people happy and fixing things for them. When customers come back and they say nice things, that's really gratifying.
I also really enjoy being the expert on a product. Everyone comes to me for questions on career sites, and I like being the resource.