A Few Things I Have Learned

I have been working at a small digital agency for a little over three years now. My knowledge of the web and the web industry has grown leaps and bounds. When I started this job I referred to myself as a web designer and today I call myself a Front-End Developer. To say that I have learned a lot since starting here is a gross understatement. The funny thing is that I feel like I learned in an unconventional way. A way were you I was required to want to learn rather than forced to learn.

At this digital agency, I will call it Joe’s to keep their privacy, we have a full stack developer, a designer and myself. I was hired as a web designer but as time went on the owner realized I had a knack for code and that I purposely shy away from design work. Something that became evident within the first couple of months is that my knowledge regarding HTML, CSS and emerging web technologies was superior then my coworkers. My coworkers came from a print background and a networking background. At first, my knowledge gave me confidence but it didn’t take long for me to see things differently.

My skills also came with its own set of responsibilities. See, when you are at bigger agency with more than one developer, it is typical to have another developer look at your code for quality. They might make a suggestion on how to create cleaner code, give requirements on how fast the page should load, and other best practices for web development. I did not have that kind of supervision. If I didn’t feel like creating a clean code base then I didn’t have to. As long as the website worked I did not have to worry about being reprimanded. Sites were not tested on devices other than desktop browsers and not required to be responsive. By no way is this me bashing Joe’s but with a small team on tight deadlines and a targeted user base it was clear why they followed this manner of creating websites. So at the end of the day, if I wanted to create a clean code base, a responsive website or use a new web technology, it would be at my discretion.

Choosing To Be Better

I could of gone two different ways with this responsibility. I could either turn in mediocre work that just got the job done or I could push myself to create the best product possible. Thankfully I went with the latter option. I wanted to create things that were cool and that I was proud of. Without that feeling, I didn’t see the purpose. Taking this responsibility meant that I had to do many things on my own.

Always Learning

The web, whatever that means, has been growing constantly every year. This means new standards to use and new ways to make your website faster and work better. I learned some stuff in college but the real learning come after college. If I stopped learning after college I would have no chance to keep making modern websites. To create websites that are up-to-date it would be up to me learn the latest technology. This is not as easy as it seems. It takes motivation to learn and to grow your skills. I had to push myself at work to learn for both my personal interest and my companies interest. So that is what I did. I learned about css preprocessors, responsive design, task runners, modern front-end workflows, optimizing page load speed and everything else I can get my hands on.

Getting Better On My Own

My team is small and we are expected to finish projects quick. This often led to sub-par code. One thing that became a habit was going back into projects and refactoring my HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Cleaning up code is not a pretty job but it is necessary. Reducing code bloat in css and modularizing javascript is something that became second nature to me.

Empathy

The hardest time to show empathy is when no one shows empathy. Empathy can be applied to anything as long as you can see and create a connection it. With any of my projects I attach a certain level of empathy. I acknowledge that it is a representative of my own empathy and skills. Both of these matter deeply to me. By taking on these projects as micro-representations of myself, my effort and motivation to create the best product has been relentless.

TL ; DR – Learn And Grow

My job is a constant reminder of a simple fact that I must always try to learn and grow. There is an ego that comes from having more knowledge than your coworkers but I take it more as a responsibility. I have learned that there is always room to grow and different ways to grow. Even though that statement has been said millions of times, most people don’t try to get better. I can’t see a world were I would find this acceptable for myself so hopefully this encourages someone to start looking at things in a new perspective.