Front-end development, I'm doing it wrong

posted by Jeff | Friday, January 5, 2018, 11:17 PM | comments: 0

This week, between my various duties as VP of Puppies and Rainbows at work, I took a story to wire up notifications between some of our back-end processes and our UI. These are some long-running things that are triggered from the UI, but then we have another thing actually doing the work. The app used to do this by spawning a thread and disregarding you from there, so that there's any indication that something is working at all is new.

I'm actually writing more code at this job than I did my previous two gigs, and more work in general. When I have written code in the last three years, it has mostly been around said back-end processes. For whatever reason, I ended up handling a lot of performance problems, which is cool, and it's certainly among the most satisfying stuff I've done. For this story, the back-end stuff I pulled together pretty quickly, and was stoked because I was beating my estimate. Then I had to get the last mile done in the UI, which is wired up using the front-end framework Knockout.js, which I haven't used, and given its infrequent development, wouldn't choose going forward.

The time I gained on the back-end stuff I lost doing the front-end work. Some of it was my non-familiarity with KO, but also with some poor decisions made before my time. Part of it was also the fact that I just haven't been in enough real-life situations where I could work with front-end stuff. So much of the time lost was just to stop throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks, and learn how this particular tool works. (Did I mention I'm not impressed? At the hackaton we did at Intuit, we tried Vue.js and I found it super obvious and easy to use.)

This takes me back to a conversation that I had with my first boss at Microsoft about eight years ago. (Eight years?!) We spent a lot of time talking about career development, and it's funny how much of that stuck with me. He suggested at the time that there would likely come a time when I simply wouldn't be able to be as hands-on as I was accustomed to, because too many other things would demand my time. Some months later, when his boss was appointed, I met with him to find that he was doing all kinds of bleeding edge stuff in his spare time, and he wondered why more people in our line of work didn't do something like my side projects. (To be fair, this was a guy who also learned Spanish just because and had a kid in his 50's.) I don't know how he did it, but I thought, shit, this guy's got street cred even at twice my salary.

I walk away from today's experience with new knowledge, but it's for something we're probably going to ditch in the long run. Honestly, my hires in the last year were strong in part because they have more experience with current front-end stuff than I do, so we're covered, but I'd really like to get my hands dirty with more of it. I imagine it's a lot like anything else, I just need to prioritize it. It just seems to get harder as I level up in career and parenting. I could really use a new science project, too.

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