Thoughts of a developer

Kate W is our back-end technical lead. She was the driving force behind (our stupidly successful Tinder for Cats) and of course, she hammers out solutions for all our clients.

As Dare is a sponsor of Super Hi (flexible coding lessons for creative people) we asked Kate to share her thoughts on coding, engineering and leadership.

Working with other people’s code is hard

Studying programming will never prepare you for the horrors of having to deal with someone else’s code. But taking the time to understand what someone else has written is an underrated skill. The temptation will always be to start again – don’t be arrogant and assume that whatever you write will be better than what’s already there. You probably won’t have full context on why the developer has written that weird, unnecessary looking line. Think twice before you delete.

This works the other way round, too – in the future someone else is going to have to read your code. Be kind, comment your code.

Don’t forget the soft skills

As a developer, communication can easily be overlooked as a “soft” skill. But the way you communicate can make working life really hard, or really easy.

Practice explaining technical things in a non-tech friendly way. How would you explain what an API is to someone without using any specialized language? Analogies are your friend. Being able to demystify the “black magic” of what you’re doing for clients and stakeholders will make your life so much easier.

Teaching is the best way to learn

For the first few years you will feel uncomfortable trying to explain anything technical, because you’ll be worried that it will highlight what you don’t know. But that’s why talking about what you’re doing is the best way to learn.

It’s also a good way to shine a light on the areas you aren’t up to scratch on yourself, when you try to teach them to someone else. It might be uncomfortable but you can guarantee that you’ll know what it takes for the next time.

Being a woman in tech comes with challenges

Being a woman in an industry predominantly inhabited by men is something to be proud of, but it does come with its difficulties.

Be prepared for clients to refer to you as the designer, despite introducing yourself as the tech lead. Be prepared for the client’s technical questions to be directed towards the non-technical man sat next to you. And when you interview engineers? They’ll probably assume you are HR.

You need to learn how to fit in, manage the personalities that come with the territory and assert your authority when needs be.

You will never stop learning

I was going to title this “you know nothing”, but I thought I’d tone down the negativity. The world of technology is fast-paced and you never shake that feeling that you don’t know enough. But there is no shame in using stack overflow most days. And you should appreciate that you’re in a line of work where you can genuinely learn something new every day.

Final piece of advice: It’s always your fault

“This plugin doesn’t work”, “This framework is so buggy”. No it’s not, it’s you. It’s always you.

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