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I Am A Staff Developer At Huler – Ask Me Anything!

Written by
Nicky Hoyland

Ever wondered what it’s like to be a developer? We sat down with Ross Steele, staff developer, to pick his brains on all things development, career progression and what it’s like to work as part of the bespoke development team here at Huler.

Staff Developer AMA

How and why did you get into development? 

I think, like a lot of people a similar age to me, learning HTML and CSS to make the best MySpace page you could sparked my enjoyment of programming. From this it grew into some friend and I making websites to showcase some of the flash animations we created and bare bones galleries for our skateboarding photos! I didn’t get serious about it until I decided to try Computer Games Programming at university. About 2 semesters in we got into pointers and 3D matrixes and I couldn’t keep up with cost of paracetamol to numb the headaches. This is where some of the university assignments really got me hooked. I loved finding solutions to problems and building new bits of software that (sometimes) worked.

Can you explain your career journey with Huler? 

I joined Huler back when it was Digital Balance. I was fresh from my old role as a solo developer, so it was really daunting to join a team of 7 other developers, not really knowing where I stood skills-wise. My favourite part of this time period was collaborating with other developers, learning new techniques, learning processes and terminology I’d never heard before. I feel like I settled in fairly fast and found my footing in the first few months – despite Ash trying to get me fire for putting HTML (although nicely indented) in some controllers!

One of the best thing I found about joining Huler was how having people on a similar wavelength to you, with equal amounts of passion, really accelerates your learning. Not just in terms of speed, but in terms of quality, too. I learned more in the first 6 months of my employment here than I did as a solo dev of 5 years. Seeing Liam tweet out some #LateNightDevving on a Friday night always got me fired up to get stuck in the following morning on side projects I had going on.

10 months after joining Huler, I was promoted to Staff Developer, and I fully put this down to the above. Over the following 2 years and 7 months, I really tried to hone my skills in making more readable code, rather than trying to be clever (KISS: Keep it simple, stupid). I started to get some more experience in different technologies and ideas, including Golang, Cloudformation (IaC), and one that particularly sticks out: the idea of serverless. I also took, and passed, the AWS Cloud Practitioner qualification, which really opened my eyes to improving a lot of our solutions and it became more of a passion of mine on solving problems, not only at a coding level but going deeper to an architecture level, whether that’s faster, better, or more secure. As the old saying goes: there’s more than one way to skin a cat, and having those solutions laid out in front of the team, and having a good old fashioned debate about which one is better, really makes for a good start to the day.

I feel strongly that, by having a very good understanding of my day to day stack, but also branching out and understanding a wider range of technology to bring forward as a solution for client projects, has been a strong driver behind my promotion to Staff Developer.

How do you feel about being promoted to Staff Developer? 

It’s always a great feeling to be rewarded for the time and effort you’ve put in – and not just financially. Putting a title on all the hard work over the past 3-4 years really makes it worth it.

What is your favourite part of your job? 

Hands down, lunchtime table tennis!

Although the above is true, on a serious note I really enjoy solving problems, creating solutions for clients and hearing their feedback. When you’re on a project from conception, to design, to development, to deployment, you see it grow from nothing over the course of a few weeks or months, and then it finally launches. I would liken it to having that first beer on holiday after a long day of travelling!

What makes a developer great? 

The tippy top of the list has to be problem solving. It’s at the core of what we do. Luckily, I believe this is something that can be learnt over time. If you don’t fail, you won’t succeed. Learn from every single thing that goes wrong. It’s the core to growing in anything, not just development.

That’s all you need to be a good developer, but there are a few things I think you need to be a great developer:

Debugging. Being able to read a stack trace and hunt down a bug is a large portion of the job. It’s not always sunshine and rainbows. Although, this might be an over-simplification, you can easily see the difference between a good dev and a great dev by watching them fix (and talk through how they find) a bug. It’s a really underrated skill, and once again it is something I think can be learned and honed in. I’d much rather lose 6 hours of my day hunting through vendor files tracking down a bug and really understanding how it crept in than just throwing out a “Hey, has anyone had this before?” to the team. It not only keeps your debugging skills sharp, it also allows you to really understand the internals of whatever framework or library you are using. Who knows? You might find some method that’s incredibly helpful you can share with the team. It also gives you insight into how other people code and how they solve certain problems, especially when it comes to open source, where they really have to think about support, integration, and testability.

Communication. Not only to stake holders in the project, and how and why you want to implement something, but also feeding back on user stories, designs and code reviews. If you can be clear, concise, and get over your points in a well articulated manner, you’ll be loved by your peers. It’s certainly something I’ve been trying my hardest to work on, and I’ don’t think I’ll ever be done trying to improve in this regard. Further to this, when you’re mentoring or talking someone through an idea, being about to convey the logic flow and through process on why something is or isn’t working is just invaluable to the entire team.

And my favourite phrase: the difference between ordinary and extraordinary is just that little bit extra.

What are the strengths of the Bespoke Development team? 

We are really strong at taking an idea, and the bare bones of a brief, and turning it into a top-spec fully functional product.

Who would be a really great candidate to join the team? 

Someone with a passion for software development. You can’t teach that! Someone with an open mind to new ideas or ways of thinking. The worst phrase you can utter is: “We’ve always done it that way.” We’re a pretty jokey bunch, and we rip each others coding all day long, but at the end of the day we’re all here to provide the best solution and create the most robust software we can. So none of us take it to heart and we all learn from each other.

Learn More

Here at Huler, we’re passionate about creating frictionless, personalised employee experiences for everyone. To find out more about what we do and how we do it, check out HulerHub – the world’s best-looking, fully personalised employee experience platform or contact us to speak to our team.

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