Why I am Web Developer

I remember the very first time I got on the internet. I was a child in daycare, and at some point the daycare center had built a computer lab into the facility. My immediate draw to the computer as a child was to play games, but the IT gentleman setting everything up had said:

"We will have the internet here, and you will be able to surf the web."

What magic is this I thought to myself, surf the web? What was the web and how do I use it? What can I see and what can I do?

At home I owned a video game "Mortal Kombat 2", or "MK2" for short, and with that game came a strategy guide. The strategy guide is a large book of tips and tricks associated with playing a game. The important part of this story is that located at the very back of the MK2 strategy guide there was a URL... When I spotted that URL I could not wait to take it to that computer lab at daycare, punch it into Netscape Navigator and reveal the secret message behind it. I remember that day, I could not wait for school to end, to get on the bus and get to the facility. Even while at the facility I still had to wait for the right time of day to get into the computer lab. I had to ask for special permission during a time where our group was in the gymnasium to leave and use the computer lab. When I finally made my way to a desktop computer I remember punching in all of the characters to qualify the URL, I recall a bit of fear not knowing exactly what I was about to see, or what was about to happen. I pressed enter and waited...

That magic and mystery drew my initial interest into the web. And it has been the challenges, rewards and the benefits that the web brings that has kept my interest since.

In the Beginning

When I first started out in web development I had a difficult time catching on. What I mean by that is that I had a lot of difficulty really understanding what I should be doing with each language. There are so many to choose from, was I learning PHP or HTML? What of CSS and how does that relate to the web? And there wasn't "Javascript" per say, there was "jQuery" - what the heck is that supposed to mean?

And with all of these questions came some really complex answers like:

"Well, you should use all of them." ;-)

To be honest, I was a complete hack at developing websites as a freelancer up until my education at Full Sail University ( I will have a drink to those that maintain those messes today ). I mean sure, I got by a mostly with my design and animation chops, those hung in there while I did battle with the browser. But every time I fired up Dreamweaver... I couldn't help but to think to myself

there has to be a better way...

Breaking Through

Eventually a friend of mine pointed out to me that Full Sail University had kicked off an online degree program for web development. Once I had heard that all I wanted to do was get into that program. My reasoning for attending Full Sail was inspired by my interest and eventual career in 3D animation. And while I was self learning 3D animation it was Full Sail students that had been working on major motion pictures. Every so often I would come across an award winning Full Sail Alumni who had completed work on "Spider Man" or some other major motion film. Using good deductive reasoning, I myself thought that if I could attain an education from Full Sail I too could win at life.

My decision to invest in my professional development through education was the best professional decision of my life.

I had managed to work full time as a Graphic Designer and Full Stack Developer all the while working on my BS in Web Design and Development from Full Sail University. Full Sail was really tough, and for FS alumni you know what they put you through before you can graduate, tuition challenges excluded. I did fall on my face a few times, for example I failed an entire course and was forced to repeat the class because I was unable to finish my final project. I was unable to complete that final project because I had been working day and night to meet deadlines for my employer. Basically my reward for working hard was more work. My sad final project was hardly functioning and met maybe 1/4 of the requirements needed to pass. I even remember the final note from my Professor:

"What happened at the end there? You had executed everything so well.. right up to the end there.. sorry try again."

At some point I graduated and walking out of that program I was a completely different professional. What I had attained from education was something no one could take from me, and I had been armed with the tools to continue my professional development. I was given order to the original chaos of techno jargon and reasoning. It was all explained and sorted out for me, I could now make my own decisions on what I wanted to use and why. I could build simple or complex systems, and what I was excited about most was I was able to solve problems with code and publish to the web.

Today

I have been designing and developing for the web for over 10 years now. I came into the business while Flash was still cool, styling with CSS and floats was the new hotness and this jQuery thing was taking the front end by storm. We were making pasta all day in our web applications and we were loving it... until we hated it...

Now my days are filled with using modern front end and backend technology to solve problems as complex as building front end components that will function across a multitude of backend service stacks down to making sure a form submits when someone presses the return key on their keyboard. I run and encourage code review sessions, perform tech talks on modern tools and front end patterns like Universal Javascript, React JS and modern application design patterns to front end teams. I coach other Developer Managers on Dev Culture development, and share ideas on how to break the ice on complex conversations like "how do I get my team to get comfortable with code reviews?".

As a Director of Front End Development for a fortune 500 company, that brings many of its own challenges and rewards. By day I focus on coaching Developers and Product owners to reach their optimal performance and retention. I continue to develop and mature the hiring and onboarding processes for developers. The real treasure of management is seeing another developer succeed in their work and exceed even their own expectations.

Don't get me wrong though, when many that hit my level they tend to give up on coding but I still get in there and mix it up. Even as a manager, especially as a manager of Developers, you need to be able to connect with these gals and guys on a professional level. You need to get in there and do the hard stuff. Take on tasks that seem impossible or terrible to accomplish and inspire your team to reach for that level. Show no fear and code in the open. Take criticism from your colleagues at every level and show them how take feedback like a boss and encourage positive and professional behavior in their own work.

Good managers are leaders, and leaders are down in the thick with their colleagues, not dictating from afar.

By Night

By moonlight I kick up the startup fire by working on applications like ClassMate.io. By building applications in this way it continues to encourage my continued learning and practice as a developer. I also take more risks in my own work by exploring technology I would otherwise not have had the opportunity to work with during the day.

Having side projects helps me stay relevant in what is likely the fastest moving industry today. And I take what I learn out on my own and bring it back to the developers I coach and work with during the day.

Working on that traction!!!

What Can you Expect From Me

Really what I hope to achieve with this website and blog is share the lessons I have learned with you, get your feedback - learn from you and your experiences and promote the projects I am working on.

If you need any help or consultation send me an email, or reach out over one of the social channels I interact with.

I do hope you enjoy the stories and find the experience I have to share helpful. I look forward to an opportunity to collaborate with you.

Cheers,

~ John Masse