May Update – Virtual and Augmented Reality

The Web continues to evolve. Recent projections indicate that virtual reality and augmented reality may soon become a major part of web interfaces. We thought it might be helpful to provide a quick overview of these technologies and provide additional resources about the potential impact on the web. As an aspiring or practicing professional, you should be aware of these technologies.

What is Virtual Reality?

Virtual Reality is the computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way by a person using special electronic equipment, such as a helmet with a screen inside or gloves fitted with sensors.

Current VR technology most commonly uses virtual reality headsets or multi-projected environments, sometimes in combination with physical environments or props, to generate realistic images, sounds and other sensations that simulate a user’s physical presence in a virtual or imaginary environment. This Wikipedia article has detailed information about the technology and its applications.

What is Augmented Reality?

Augmented reality (AR) is a direct or indirect live view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are “augmented” by computer-generated perceptual information, ideally across multiple sensory modalities, including visual, auditory, haptic, somatosensory, and olfactory. The overlaid sensory information can be constructive or destructive and is spatially registered with the physical world such that it is perceived as an immersive aspect of the real environment. In this way, augmented reality alters one’s current perception of a real world environment, whereas virtual reality replaces the real world environment with a simulated one. Augmented Reality is related to two largely synonymous terms: mixed reality and computer-mediated reality. You can find more information about this at this Wikipedia article.

Quick overview of the possibility of using augmented reality to understand a physical model more.

 

Difference between VR and AR

With virtual reality, you can swim with sharks. And with augmented reality, you can watch a shark pop out of your business card. While VR is more immersive, AR provides more freedom for the user, and more possibilities for marketers because it does not need to be a head-mounted display.

The impact of Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality

One of the hottest tech trends hitting the market right now is the one concerning Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality. Many of us only relate these new technologies to different sorts of video games where it has had is major breakthrough. But the fact is, that these technologies are far more useful than that – and some of your competitors are probably already using it.

The technologies are already useful tools for product development and learning methods. But companies within warehousing, logistics and plain physical stores also has big opportunities using Augmented Reality and Visual Reality in the future. This article explains this impact of AR and VR.

Virtual Reality through Web

In the article written by Joseph Medley (Welcome to the Immersive Web), he explains virtual world experiences hosted through browser. It covers entire virtual reality (VR) experiences surfaced in the browser or in VR enabled headsets like Google’s Daydream, Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, HTC Vive, and Windows Mixed Reality Headsets, as well as augmented reality experiences developed for AR-enabled mobile devices.

Informational Links

We encourage you to check out these articles below. The fact that Firefox is building a new browser for these technologies is a clue as to how rapidly these are anticipated to become mainstream in the Web. We also understand that the next version of WordPress (Project Gutenberg) is anticipating the need for these sorts of interfaces as well.

In this week we focused on VR and AR, the difference between them, VR through web, the impact of VR and AR and finally the applications. We hope you find these resources and overview useful. As a practicing professional, you should have a solid understanding of these technologies and their potential applications. We always look forward to your comments and feedback (whether you are a member or not).

We encourage members (and non-members) check out our social media channels. If you aspire to be a web professional and don’t know where to start, we offer a number of beginning classes to our members via our School Of Web learning management system. As a member, your first class is free.

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Quick tip: Using your Surface pen as a PowerPoint remote

My handwriting sucks and I am hardly capable of painting a straight line. Hence, when I got my Surface I didn’t see much use for the pen other than signing things and maybe highlighting some things in presentations.

However, I now found out that you can use the pen as a PowerPoint remote, which is pretty cool:

The trick is to buy (or in my case get a free key to) KeyPenX which is a $5.99 program that allows you granular access to what clicking the button of the pen should do.

It took me a while to get it to work, but here are the important bits:

Pair your pen via Bluetooth – you do that in the settings by “add device”. My pen didn’t show up at first, so I pressed the button for 10 seconds for it to reset; then it showed up.

Bluetooth settings paired pen

Go to the pen settings and tell it to start KeyPenX on click and double click.

Run program on click in the settings

Configure KeyPenX to do the PowerPoint things you want it to do:

keypenx settings

All of these steps are also in the KeyPenX screen itself. The only thing remaining is not to start clicking the pen all the time like I do with normal ones.

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May Update – Web Development trends for 2018

Web Development Trends

In web development, the saying “the only constant is change” is very true. Web development is changing every second and 2018 is no exception. User expectations are growing and it is more important than ever to build digital experiences that are engaging, fun, and intuitive. Content needs to be accessible everywhere especially on mobile devices. In order to make that happen, new programming languages and frameworks are on the rise, extensions are becoming more compatible, and real time web apps are becoming more popular.

Web Development Trends for 2018

Web Development Trends You Can Expect in 2018

  • Vue JS is getting more popular
  • Functional programming benefits from JavaScript improvements
  • Extensions get more compatible
  • Real-time web apps are getting more popular
  • Progressive web apps grow in popularity
  • Mobile web development continues to expand
  • Material design is being used more and more

Rebecca Vogels’ article has more information on these web development trends.

More on Web Development Trends in 2018

1. In this first article by John Hughes covers these development trends:

  • An Increase in One-Page Website Designs
  • The Decline of the Flash Protocol
  • A Focus on Mobile-First Design Philosophy (Again)
  • The Increasing Importance of Push Notifications
  • The Prominence of Modular Page Creation
  • A Rise in the Popularity of Progressive Web Apps
  • The Perpetual Dominance of JavaScript

2. Anotni Zolciak’s article, focuses more on what kind of technology will matter on both front- and back-end:

  • Accelerated Mobile Pages
  • Progressive Web Applications (PWA)
  • Single Page Applications (SPA)
  • Chatbots and Online Support
  • Push Notifications
  • Static Websites
  • RAIL: User-Centric Performance
  • Motion UI
  • Functional Programming: What Is It?
  • Browser Extensions
  • Real-Time Web Apps
  • Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality

More Resources

  • Web Development Trends in 2018 article by Kumar Shantanu
  • Eight Web Development Trends Coming In 2018 article by Forbes
  • 8 Top Web Development Trends in 2018 article by MEREHEAD

Reading those articles now here is the conclusion that new frameworks, design trends, user expectations, and mobile developments are changing web development every day. Web development is responding to growing user expectations and design trends. Google’s material design, which is expected to gain even more popularity in 2018 as well. There is also the need to communicate and work together in real time from everywhere. We believe it is important for Web Professionals to know about these new trends and we encourage readers to review these articles..

This week we focused on those new trends emerging in 2018 in Web Professional’s world. We hope you find these resources and overviews useful. We always look forward to your comments and feedback (whether you are a member or not).

We encourage members (and non-members) check out our social media channels. If you aspire to be a web professional and don’t know where to start, we offer a number of beginning classes to our members via our School Of Web learning management system. As a member, your first class is free.

 

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April Update – Social Media Trends

Content Marketing Strategy

Social media allows brands to tell stories and connect with customers on a deeper and more intimate level. In addition, brands can use social media to regularly engage users and drive them to their content hubs, or toward higher-value actions, like visiting a product page, downloading a gated asset, or purchasing an item. We thought it would be helpful to review social media trends for 2018.

When leveraging new social features, content marketers must not lose sight of the ultimate goal of content marketing: to tell exceptional stories that drive people toward positive business results. Here are three major social media trends to watch out for in 2018 and what content marketers can do to stay ahead of the game.

Social Media Trends in 2018

Wordle of social media terms

We think web professionals should review this article where 29 experts express their thoughts about social media trends in 2018.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Creativity is the new productivity.
  • AR/VR (Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality) is the new social media.
  • Instagram is the new Facebook.
  • Facebook is the new TV.
  • Snapchat is the new MySpace.
  • LinkedIn blue is the new black.
  • Medium is the new blog.
  • Twitter is the new social movement.
  • Emojis are the new universal language.
  • AI is the new customer service
  • Talkwalker is the new Google Alert.
  • Podcasts are the new radio.

Social Media Use in 2018

A Pew Research Center survey of U.S. adults finds that the social media landscape in early 2018 is defined by a mix of long-standing trends and newly emerging narratives. Facebook and YouTube dominate this landscape, as notable majorities of U.S. adults use each of these sites. Younger Americans between age group 18 to 24 uses Facebook and YouTube, 78% of younger individuals use Snapchat, 71% Instagram and 45% Twitter.

Facebook and Privacy

Facebook’s recent crisis is just one of many privacy issues that company has had to deal with in its relatively short existence. Those privacy issues are now front and center. Facebook’s loose handling of how its data was acquired by app developers has plunged the company into the biggest crisis of its 14-year existence. Facebook has caused all sorts of headaches for social media marketers in the first months of 2018 by announcing that they’re looking to shift the focus of their News Feed onto meaningful interactions as a result, will see reductions in Page organic reach. According to the research Facebook usage is declining among American users. It is either down or flat in every demographic age group, gender, and ethnicity. This is a good summary of the many issues facing this company.

In 2019, it is estimated that there will be around 2.77 billion social media users around the globe, up from 2.46 billion in 2017. Social network penetration worldwide is ever-increasing. At 90%, young Americans still are most likely to use social networks, but growth in use among those 65 and older is surging. These trends will keep continuing till we all use cell, internet and social media.

We hope you find these resources and overviews useful. We always look forward to your comments and feedback (whether you are a member or not).

We encourage members (and non-members) check out our social media channels. We have recently been using Pinterest for our collection of curated infographics related to many topics of interest to Web Professionals. For example, we included this infographic of 21 Digital Marketing Trends for 2018

If you aspire to be a web professional and don’t know where to start, we offer a number of beginning classes to our members via our School Of Web learning management system. As a member, your first class is free.

 

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April Update – Web Server Administration

What is Server Administration?

Server Administration is advanced computer networking that includes server installation and configuration, server roles, storage, Active Directory and Group Policy, file, print, and web services, remote access, virtualization, application servers, troubleshooting, performance, and reliability. We thought it might be helpful to review the basics (particularly for aspiring web professionals).

What is a Web Server?

Web server is a computer where the web content is stored. Basically, a web server is used to host the web sites but there exists other web servers also such as gaming, storage, FTP, email etc.

How does the Web Server Work?

Web server respond to the client request in either of the following two ways:

  • Sending the file to the client associated with the requested URL.
  • Generating response by invoking a script and communicating with database
  • When client sends request for a web page, the web server search for the requested page if requested page is found then it will send it to client with an HTTP response.
  • If the requested web page is not found, web server will the send an HTTP response: Error 404 Not found.
  • If client has requested for some other resources then the web server will contact to the application server and data store to construct the HTTP response.

Architecture

Web Server Architecture follows the following two approaches:

  1. Concurrent Approach
  2. Single-Process-Event-Driven Approach.

To read more about Web Servers visit this link.

Additional Resources

Apache is one of popular Web Servers. Here are few resources where we can learn about the Apache Server.

  1. Tutorial by Lynda
  2. Apache Server Admin
  3. Apache Tutorials for Beginners
  4. Apache Web Server Complete Guide

The question is ‘Do Web Professionals need to learn about Web Server Admin?’ The answer is ‘No’ but learning Web Server Administration can make an employee more useful to the employer, or more independent if you’re self-employed. Learning things related to your own work is always a useful thing. It certainly supports offering to clients or employers if you have a better understanding of how to get your code into a production environment for public consumption.

This week focuses more on Web Server Administration. We hope you find these resources and overviews useful. We always look forward to your comments and feedback (whether you are a member or not).

If you aspire to be a web professional and don’t know where to start, we offer a number of beginning classes to our members via our School Of Web learning management system. As a member, your first class is free.

 

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[Job] Help create the Windows version of Framer – React developer in Amsterdam

TL;DR: Framer are looking for a React developer based in Amsterdam to create the Windows version of the app with help from my team. Apply here.

Framer is only available on OSX

One of the things that annoy me the most is operating system dependence. It is frustrating to see a great new tool you want to use but it isn’t available on your platform. Not everyone can afford Apple hardware or wants to do everything in Windows or Android. I personally use several operating systems and it annoys me that I can’t use the same tool stack. Instead you need to learn different ones for each OS (Keynote/Powerpoint anyone?). It feels like the 90s.

That’s why I was happy when Framer contacted me and asked me to help them find someone to work on the Windows version of their great tool. The great news is that you’re not only going to work for a cool company. You also get to work directly with our team here to ensure that the port is going to be a great product. At Microsoft we have a dedicated team helping people to port apps. This team has deep insight into what to do and what to avoid to create an app that takes advantage of the things Windows 10 offers.

So, if you are:

  • A React Native developer who wants to build a great, well-used app for a big community
  • Have Windows experience and supporting more than Chrome/OSX in your WebView
  • Look for a full-time position in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Apply now, and we can soon bridge another support gap that that is well over-due.

This is a short time offer, Framer are looking to hire someone ASAP and bring out the Windows version within a few months. The new Framer version is close to Alpha release internally.

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April Update – JavaScript Framework

What is JavaScript Framework?

JavaScript framework is an application framework written in JavaScript. It differs from a JavaScript library in its control flow: a library offers functions to be called by its parent code, whereas a framework defines the entire application design. A developer does not call a framework; instead it is the framework that will call and use the code in some particular way. Some JavaScript frameworks follow the model–view–controller paradigm designed to segregate a web application into orthogonal units to improve code quality and maintainability.

Here is the link for the popular Wiki article.

JavaScript frameworks

Popular Top JavaScript Frameworks

JavaScript Frameworks are popular among developers for such benefits like efficiency, safety, and cost. The variety of frameworks for each development platform is huge. Every company tends to have a website or at least a landing page still it would be good to review the most popular JavaScript frameworks.

 

  • Angular.js it is one of the most beloved and used JavaScript frameworks for building single page applications.
  • Backbone.js is easy to understand usability modules, as well as the very straightforward learning curve
  • React.js was created by the team of Facebook developers and came out in 2013. This very framework is behind the front-end scenes of the two social giants.
  • Ember.js introduced in 2011 this open-source JavaScript framework was declared as the best JavaScript framework for web application development in 2015.
  • Aurelia.js being a self-proclaimed web development framework, Aurelia makes the process of site development a creative process.
  • Meteor.js with a variety of features for backend, frontend development and database management, Meteor rank as the most popular JavaScript frameworks.
  • Vue.js framework delivers two-way data binding, server-side rendering, Vue-CLI and optional JSX support.
  • Polymer is one JavaScript framework that comes with the ability to create and reuse web components.
  • Socket is a framework you can enjoy a fully functional real-time communication between the client and the server.

The process of choosing a framework depends not only on its functionality but also how it can be used within your own project. To read more about these frameworks visit this link.

More Reads

This week is all about JavaScript Frameworks and top JS frameworks in 2018. All frameworks are used considering the company requirement and what these frameworks offer. Every week we try to deliver something new and informational in Web Professional’s World. We hope you find these resources and overviews useful. We always look forward to your comments and feedbacks (whether you are a member or not).

If you aspire to be a web professional and don’t know where to start, we offer a number of beginning classes to our members via our School Of Web learning management system. This includes an introduction to JavaScript class. As a member, your first class is free.

 

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This was FrontendNE 2018 – well, from my POV

Last week I swapped the 18 degress in Berlin with snowy rain in Newcastle, England. Why? To attend the 2018 edition of the FrontendNE conference and I am happy that I did.

The plane taking me back to Berlin

All in all this was a lovely, cozy and well-organised event. As an extra, it had an audience you don’t come across at a lot at other events. The reasons were threefold. A good location – the big hall of a brewery with proper stage audio equipment. A very affordable ticket price. And the loveliness of the organisers with a no-nonsense MC demeanour and not a hint of arrogance.

The crowd at the event

I like single-track events. It means the organisers have to work harder to ensure each slot is a winner for the audience. In this case, the line-up and topics were diverse and there was a lot to take away.

Val Head : Choose Your Animation Adventure

Val is a well-known authority on anything animation on the web. She has authored quite a few books and courses on the topic. And she teaches people to make things move without making your users queasy or drain the battery of their devices. In this talk she explained different techniques to animate on the web. Starting with CSS animations, past vanilla JS and up to animation libraries. This was a very pragmatic talk explaining the pros and cons of each technoloy with warts and all. Val is a very chipper and engaging speaker, and I am happy she thawed out the audience as the first to step up. Looking forward to the video.

Léonie Watson : You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!

Leonie showing off screen readers

Leonie is an accessibility expert giving sensible and actionable advice on how to create accessible interfaces on the web without overshooting the mark. Yes, there is such a thing as adding too much to make your widgets accessible. Often adding a lot of ARIA also means it is your job to make it work with all kind of assistive technology. Something you can avoid by using the appropriate HTML elements and guiding the user. Hence Leonie’s talk, a nod to The Italian Job. Leonie is a superb presenter. It is great to see a visually impaired person wield stage technology and presentation software as if there is nothing much to it. I liked this talk as it fell neither into the “legal accessibility” nor the “everything works if you only use $thing” camps. Instead, Leonie showed that accessibility is like any other thing. It is a matter of looking into what you are doing and trying your best to make it work. Often this means doing less and the simple thing instead of trying to cater to needs you can’t even know about.

Jack Franklin : A red LEGO brick is always red: components on the web

Jack Franklin is a development lead at thread (the company partly responsible for my swanky style). He showed how they made it much easier to maintain and improve this product using a component approach. Web components are nothing new, of course. Making them work and perform in browsers natively is still trickly though. That’s why many component talks are about the framework du jour and opinionated. Jack did a great job not falling into this trap but showed the real benefits of components. For example hot-fixing a display issue with the certainty that you won’t affect the rest of the page. A great, no-nonsense talk about the subject, well worth a watch.

Niels Leenheer : Having fun with WebBluetooth

Oh how I rooted for this talk to work. Niels is a lovely person and oozes having fun playing with technology. That’s why it was grim to see this talk’s tech demos fail at the Halfstack conference in London earlier this year. Niels still managed to make it a good talk, but seeing him lug lots of hardware to an event just to see it all fail because of connectivity issues was grim. In essence, what Niels proves with this talk is that the specification of Bluetooth and Low-End Bluetooth is a terrible mess. And that with borderline self-flagellating reverse engineering you can do fun things with Web Bluetooth. It is a mess with a lack of standards and at times a total disregard for security. But Niels did a lovely job getting us excited anyways. Top tip though: do not fly back with him as airport security doesn’t like his suitcase full of Bluetooth marvels.

Sara Vieira : Your brain does not have a fix flag

Sara explaining that is hard to be normal

Sara’s talk was the big surprise. It wasn’t a tech talk, although she is highly capable of giving those, too. It was instead a no holes barred account of her life story dealing with and overcoming anxiety. A very important talk about a mental health issue that is tough to understand for people and hard to empathise with. I hope that the video of this will do the rounds and inspire people to care more and those affected to find the strength to find help.

Ian Feather : Frontend Resilience

I wished I had seen more of this talk, but I was bricking it as I was up next. Ian works for BuzzFeed and showed the many ways they ensure the site stays up even when everything is against you. Instead of having a “this is how to make your site performant and everything will be rosy” Ian talked shop. CDNs not working like you expect them, data feeds timing out, the whole horror show of network connectivity. I’m looking forward to seeing this.

Chris Heilmann : 7 things you can do to become a happier JavaScript developer

Hated it. Knew all the content. Boring. Also, what’s with that accent?

General conference feedback

Everything worked nicely and people were very well fed and watered. Actually there was a lot of yummy food left over, which was a shame. The timing worked out, the breaks were well-timed. The location was gorgeous with a lovely park outside full of dogs and swans and their interplay.

The after-party was at a location that had pool billiards, minigolf, bowling and many other things. The food was plenty, two vouchers for drinks ensured that people got merry and charming and not annoying. I only used the bowling lane as I had a lot of people come up to me and ask me questions. I heard from witnesses that parts of the sounds in the karaoke room violated the Geneva convention but that may have been hearsay (or what’s left of the hearing).

The self-demeaning jokes of the organisers on stage, “turns out using sketch for print wasn’t the best idea, just imagine those missing letters” showed that this event was a labour of love and not a way to make money. I like when an event outside the usual spaces for events works out that well. I have the same fondness for Beyond Tellerand, as Duesseldorf isn’t a hub of web news either. I am very happy to have contributed to this event in Newcastle and hope that more will come soon.

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April Update – Project Management

What is a Project?

A project is temporary in that it has a defined beginning and end in time, and therefore defined scope and resources. And a project is unique in that it is not a routine operation, but a specific set of operations designed to accomplish a singular goal. So a project team often includes people who don’t usually work together – sometimes from different organizations and across multiple geographies.

What is Project Management?

Project management, then, is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.

Project management processes fall into five groups

  1. Initiating
  2. Planning
  3. Executing
  4. Monitoring and Controlling
  5. Closing

Project management knowledge draws on ten areas

  1. Integration
  2. Scope
  3. Time
  4. Cost
  5. Quality
  6. Procurement
  7. Human resources
  8. Communications
  9. Risk management
  10. Stakeholder management

Effective Project Management for Web Professional’s

The use of project management skills is often what distinguishes an easy, successful project from a painful and unsatisfactory one. In a world where clients and business partners increasingly want a full solution, rather than just the component pieces of design and code, having basic project management skills, at least, is quickly becoming a requirement for web professionals.

This article by Sitepoint introduces you to the basics of the project lifecycle, and provide you with tools that you can use to make your projects run smoother, faster, and easier.

Certification in Project Management

WebProfessionals.org is a powerful opportunity for individuals aspiring to be or already working as a Web professional. Working with experts within industry, education and government, WOW has created a series of vendor neutral industry standard certification exams.

This Web professional certification site was designed to provide you with the following resources.

Other Resources

This week we focus on the Project Management Process, tools and methodologies used in Web Professional’s World. Every week we try to deliver something new and informational. We hope you find these resources and overviews useful. We always look forward to your comments and feedback (whether you are a member or not).

If you aspire to be a web professional and don’t know where to start, we offer a number of beginning classes to our members via our School Of Web learning management system. As a member, your first class is free.

 

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What comes after senior developer?

A few weeks ago a company approached me if I’d be available to give a series of talks and Q&A for senior developers. Their question was how to deal with the problem that there seems to be an upper limit to technical careers. At one time in our career we have a decision to make if we want to keep being technical or moving into management. It sounds odd, but there is a lot of truth to it.

A gap in company hierarchies

Throughout my career I found that there is a limited amount of levels you can climb as a technical person. This sounds unfair, especially in companies that pride themselves on being technical. The earlier you are in your career, the more annoying this seems.

When we start, we love being developers. We see technology solve problems in a logical and enjoyable fashion. Much less icky, slow and error-prone as human communication. It makes us believe that you can solve everything with technology. Which is great, as this is also what excites us. People excited about their jobs work better.

On the whole we earn good money, have a high-quality work environment and feel we could do this forever. Sometimes we get too excited about developing. We don’t realise that we burn out or are being taken advantage of. I’ve seen product managers trying to make a mark by releasing a product before the deadline. They then coerce junior developers to work too much or cut corners. At the cost of endangering the quality and even the security of the product. And the mental health of the developer.

Seeing this dedication it feels weird not to have technical role models to look up to. At a certain level in the company it seems you need to stop coding and do things we don’t like to do instead.

What annoys us?

We love to complain about things at work. As developers we are quick to blame things beyond our control for failures. It can’t be the problem of the technology or our skill, right? We’re excited about what we do, and that means only good things can come out of that.

Often we see products go wrong. Most of the time because of business decisions that make no sense to us. Business decisions that interfere with our development plans. People get allocated elsewhere, budgets of exciting products get cut. Products we’d love to see go live as their technology is cool and innovative.

Meetings are plentiful, not productive and get us out of our development zone. Why should I sit in a room talk about what I do when the version control comments do the same job?

Time and allocation estimations keep being wrong. Either we’re allocated to a project that doesn’t need us, or we don’t have enough people. We run out of time when developing products and often by the time we release, the market stopped caring. Or our competitor was faster.

Whilst underestimating it ourselves, we often see other engineers burn out. There is a huge churn of people and it is tough to build teams when people keep leaving and new ones get hired. It is hard to keep up good quality in a product when the team keeps changing. It is tough to innovate when you spend a lot of time showing people the ropes. And innovation is something our market seems to be running on. It is also what excites us as developers, We want to do new, cool, things and talk about them.

We face the issue that we keep having new people but there is never enough time for training. When we read the technology news feeds there seems to be so much to look at but it is beyond our reach. Instead we spend our time re-educating joiners on how things work in our company. And it feels that we ourselves fall behind whilst our job is to be inspiring to junior developers.

What are we worried about?

As developers in the trenches and in the flow of excitement we worry about a lot of things. We find that keeping up with technologies is a full-time job. If you’re not on the bleeding edge you will only get boring work or someone will take your job. This is odd considering the amount of job offers we get and how starved for talent our market is. But we worry and we stress out about it. Younger, fresher people seem to be much quicker in grasping and using new tech as we are.

We also see coding as a fun thing and we don’t want to stop doing it. We remember that we had no respect for people who didn’t write code but use products instead. We don’t want to be those people, but it seems that to advance our careers, we need to.

Turning the tables

It is a good thing that these thing annoy us as they are an opportunity for us to turn the tables. By shifting into a role that is a technical hybrid you can battle some of these annoyances. The hierarchy gap is an indicator that there is a rift between the technical staff and management. A gap that is costly and hinders our companies from innovating and being a place where people want to work.

It is painful to see how clumsy companies are in trying to keep their techies happy. We do team building exercises, we offer share options. We pay free lunches and try to do everything to keep people in the office. We print team T-shirts and stickers and pretend that the company is a big, happy family. We pay our technical staff a lot and wonder why people are grumpy and leave.

All these things are costly and don’t have the impact our companies hope for. The reason is that they lack respect and understanding. When the basic needs of humans are met there is no point adding more creature comforts. There is no point earning more money when you have even less time outside work to enjoy it.

What gets us going is a feeling of recognition and respect. And only peers who’ve been in the same place can give that. There is no way to give a sincere compliment when you can’t even understand what the person does.

And this is where we have our sweet spot. Our companies struggle for relevance in comparison to others as much as we do with out peers. And often they lack input from us. Instead of implementing what has always been done a certain way we can bring a reality check. The market keeps changing and it is up to us to remind our companies what excites technical talent.

There may be a path already available to you – or you have to invent one to do that. In any case, your first job is to become visible to your company as someone who cares and wants things to change. This means partnering with HR, hiring and PR. It also means selling yourself to management as someone ready to change things around.

Becoming a fixer of bigger problems…

The fun thing to remember is that as a company in the technology space, everybody has similar worries. Think you are worried about falling behind? Your company is much more worried, and you are closer to the subject than the people running it.

Research what worries you, share how you keep up to date and what it means for your company. It makes sense for a company to get the gist of a new technology from someone who can verify it. A lot more sense than falling for a hype and buy a third party product or consulting on the subject.

Often we’re asked to implement something hot and cool that doesn’t make any sense. The reason was most likely some PowerPoint circulating in upper management. A presentation based on what excites the tech press and not what makes your product better. Try to be there with advice creating that PowerPoint before you have to deal with its impact.

Retention of talent is another thing every company worries about. Churn and burnout of engineers is a big issue. Try to offer solutions – things that help you and keep you here. Every engineer coming through the door is a 20,000 GBP investment. Even before they wrote their first line of code or got access to the repository. Every engineer staying at your company is a worth-while investment. Making sure you help find your company ways to keep people is a big plus for you.

Another way to shine is by bringing in new talent. It is a competitive market out there and it is hard for a company to find new engineers. As developers we’ve grown weary of terrible job offers. It is not uncommon to see demands like five year experience for a one year old technology. You can help prevent your company from such embarrassment. Work with your hiring department to draft sensible job descriptions. Even better, go to events and meetups. Look through pull requests and comments on repos to spot possible candidates.

Find ways to encourage your engineers to hire by word-of-mouth. This is is how I found my last five jobs and this is also how I made up for some income gaps. A company that pays a bonus for each hired person has employees as advocates. People we trust are more likely to be good colleagues. Better than random people you have to filter out with a good interview process. Try to make your company visible where developers are by being a great example, and you may stir interest.

Nonsensical job offers are a symptom of a general problem with internal communication. This is rampant in our market. Developers hate managers, managers don’t get developers. You can mediate. It is a tight-rope walk at times as you don’t want to come across as someone trying to please management. But it is a necessary step, and if better communication is the result, worth your time and some arguments.

External communication and marketing is another department you can help with. How often did you facepalm reading advertising by your company? Help avoiding this in the future by being a technical advisor.

Overall, this is about being an ear on the ground for your company. To non-technical people in a company navel-gazing is common. The job of marketing is to make your company’s products look good. Often this means that people get a bit too excited about your own produce. They don’t compare, they don’t even have time to look at what others are doing. This is a good chance for you to keep up with what the competition is doing and tell what it means to your company. You’ve done the research for them, and that is worth a lot.

New skills that are old skills…

The fun part about being a coder is that you don’t have to deal with people. This ends when you want to move further up. Your “soft skills” are what will allow you to stay technical and have a new role. Your technical skill is an asset, but it is also limited – even when you don’t want to admit it yet. Being a technically skilled person with good communication skills is the sweet spot to aim for. The higher you communicate upward, the less people are interested in technical details. Instead they want to see results, impact and costs.

Sales people know that. Learn from how they work, but stay true to what you talk about. Instead of selling by hushing up bad aspects, sell your technical skill to prevent mistakes. Instead of bad-mouthing your companies’ competitors, be in the know about them and show your company what to look out for. We all sell something. Why not sell what excites you and your experience instead of having to patch what others messed up?

Flexibility is the key

My career took off when I stopped caring where and when I worked. Being open to travel is important. Most communication problems in companies are based on time difference. Be the one that is available when others are. Try to be open to any technology and listen to their benefits and problems. You will not live and die in one stack.

Things not to worry about…

You are not betraying the brotherhood of coders by moving up. They have no wrath worth worrying about. You will be asked constantly if you still code. But it is natural that you will lose interest in being on the bleeding edge all the time and doing the work. We all slow down and want a life besides chasing the cool. You will also wonder why the hell everything is so complex now when it used to be so simple. Even when you don’t code all the time, you won’t be bored. Consider this a chance to fix what always annoyed you.

You will be praised for things you haven’t done. Much like you are praised as a developer for things you don’t consider good. People can’t measure what is good, they see what you do and are impressed. Take the praise but make sure to share it with those who did the work.

Realities to prepare for…

Let’s re-visit the worries we have as developers and give them a reality check.

Keeping up with technologies is a full-time job. It is! So find a way to convince your company and managers that you are good at doing that. Remember that you need to free up a lot of time on your schedule to do that. This means not doing all the work but getting better at delegating. It also means giving more conservative estimates about your deliveries and deadlines. This can be tough to do. Especially when you made the mistake of establishing yourself as the person who can get things done – no matter what.

You can only understand a technology when you use it. True. But you will never have enough time to do that. Triage the evaluation and using of technology to your team. This is a great way to empower people and allow them to work on their communication skills. It is also a good way to keep your team interested. Allowing a developer to stop ploughing through a bug list and evaluate something new and shiny instead feels good. If you rotate these assignments you don’t cause jealousy or show favoritism. You don’t want your team to feel bored or underappreciated whilst others do cool stuff. So let them do cool stuff and keep buffers in your allocation planning that allows for it.

Younger, fresher people seem to be much quicker in taking on new tech as we are. True. So allow them to do that and be a good leader for them. You will get slower the older you get. You will be hindered by real life demands. The more experienced you are, the more likely you are to discard new things and stick to what you know. Let others inspire you. You might not be up to going all-in with some experimental technology. A younger person reporting to you can be and you can learn something by guiding them.

Coding is fun. We don’t want to stop doing that. True. You should never stop coding. But isn’t it time you earned the right to code what and when you want to? Things you know well are a great opportunity for a junior developer to learn. Don’t take that away from them. We shouldn’t be bored by our code. This leads to stagnation and is the antithesis of innovation.

We remember that we had no respect for people who didn’t write code but use products instead. I sincerely hope you grew up. Software Development is a service. We build things to empower people to achieve goals. The more complex these systems are, the more we move away from coding. There is no medal for being hard-core. First to market is a thing.

Other realities you have to face are things you may not be familiar with or you are in denial about. These things happen though – all the time.

There will be a time when you are too senior to be assigned work. You might as well take action on that. Make sure that you have junior engineers you trust to do that work and be the firewall for them. When you are too senior to do a job, make sure you help the product owners find the right people in your team. Your job is to take the demands from top down and translate them to manageable chunks for your team.

Anything you do can get canned at the last moment for reasons beyond your control. Take it in stride and learn from the mistakes you made. Be stringent in noting down what went wrong. That way you don’t repeat the mistakes.

You are diving into the deep end of corporate politics. Who you know, and who you impress is often more important than what you know. Networking internally is a big thing. Concentrate on corporate levels, not on individuals. People leave.

Things to start with…

I hope you found some things that resonated with you here. There are many ways to get into a place where you can stay technical and move up in your company hierarchy. Most are fresh though and companies need to change age-old approaches to the topic. It is exciting to be part of that change though.

A few things that helped me get to this place are kind of obvious:

Consider contributing to open source. Either by participating in projects or open sourcing your own products. Open source is by default a communication channel. It helps you find talent as people join your company knowing your product. It helps your company become more visible to developers. And it gives your team a sense of achievement. Even when some internal product goes pear-shaped, there is something out there. Even when people leave the company, they have something to take with them. Contribution to open source is portable. You can show the outside world your skills – no matter who pays your wage.

Look for events and meetups to attend. Instead of taking your team to the bowling alley or an escape room to do team bonding, why not attend an event? You learn something, you can talk to people about your work and you get out together. Many events also offer jam sessions or B-Track events which are a great opportunity to submit a talk. Of course, you can also host a meetup or guest presenters at your office.

Foster an internal culture of communication. When you get people to attend events on company time, ask for them to present about the event in the office later. This helps with a few things. It means you know they went there and paid attention. It means others who couldn’t go get the information. And it means your team already gets used to presenting to a group which is important later in meetings. Often technical people know solutions, but don’t speak up in meetings as they don’t see the point. The more we get used to it, the more we embrace the idea that our points only get rewarded when we tell people about them. There are many ways to foster communication and some are a lot of fun to do. Like lightning talks about solved issues in products or even something as silly as Powerpoint Karaoke.

Aim beyond the finish line

The main thing to remember as a senior developer struggling with having no role to aim for is to aim beyond that role. Your company invested a lot in you and relies on your judgement when it comes to technical delivery. It also relies on you to lead a team and keep them happy. You also deserve to be happy and to make that happen you can’t keep things as they are.

One of the biggest mistakes we make as technical people is to make ourselves irreplaceable. We put a lot of effort into our technical products and it is hard to let go. Often we stay in a position even after all the joy went out of it and we don’t believe in the company any longer. Because we want to finish that project and see it go out of the door.

The seemingly sad fact of the matter is that nobody is irreplaceable. And that project the company keep stalling on isn’t going anywhere. And if you left to pursue other things not everything will go to pot, either. The main step to get ahead in your career is to understand that. You are replaceable and you have to take an active role in it. Hire people that are technically better and more interested in new tech than you are. Don’t be afraid of them moving into your role. Instead support them and find worthy replacements. Change in companies is a given, you can be part of those driving it or worry about how it will affect you. I’ve always rolled with the punches and it served me well. Hopefully you can do the same.

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