The true job of a Developer: Knowing how to NOT KNOW

I personally think that I’ve got more of a creative spirit now and have more of the ability to build anything I want.

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One of the most compelling reasons we see for the everyday Jane or Joe to learn code is the opportunity it provides to truly utilize our neuroplasticity. Our brain has the capacity to make room for new things, new languages, new syntax, new skills; coding can bring that out in a way that a game morning Sudoku doesn’t quite encapsulate. The subtle insinuation though is that coding is all about equations and the kind of algorithms NASA needs to land probes onto comets. The truth is, that the real quality you need as a developer is the confidence in knowing that you don’t really know anything.

  Billy Lan, Lighthouse Labs alumni, says the difficulty is in the misconceptions about developers. “You always hear that there’s quantitative skills involved and that all you do sit in front of a computer all day,” he explains, “That’s difficult because there are true elements of sitting in front of the computer and doing some logic, but it’s not that extreme.”  

Before his transition as a full-stack developer, Billy admits his idea of the culture and community wasn’t crystal clear either. “Before I came for a day of coding with HTML500 I think the whole issue for me was that I had zero idea on what it meant to be a developer. I realized that people’s explanations and definitions was pretty off.”  

Now as a full-time developer at 20 Year Media, Billy says the closest definition of a developer is more accurately described as a mad-scientist. “When someone asks you to do something, being a developer is more about saying, “I don’t know but I will try” instead of “I can totally do that”,” he laughed.  

Amber Spencer, marketer/developer hybrid and Lighthouse Labs alumni, resonates this sentiment. “Somebody comes to me with a problem or a feature and I’ll first ask myself if I’ve done this before. Then I’ll assess what I need to do to make it work and see if it’s feasible through research. If there isn’t something out there, I’ll ask for some additional help or go back to the person and talk about these problems to compromise or change the feature to make it similar,” she details thoroughly. “With regards to actual development, you just try things until it works.” Devising clean code or algorithms becomes just one aspect of her job in developing.  

There is a Catch-22 with regards to this paradigm, however: your perception of what it means to develop can only change once you take the first leap. “You can only understand when you’ve at least tried,” Billy emphasized, “When I went to HTML500, I felt like that’s what it allowed me to take the first step in realizing that this might be for me.”  

So what is the job of a developer if they are not simply hammering out code? Could it be that it is more accurate to describe them as creators?
“I personally think that I’ve got more of a creative spirit now and have more of the ability to build anything I want,” says Thomas Davis, recent Lighthouse Labs alumni and HTML500 web developer. “For example, the ability to make an app where people can rate your beards and mess around with Google maps. Before I didn’t even know where to start!”  

“Totally,” Amber responds, “A lot of the jobs I was doing before, I was doing good work but I wasn’t creating. I was doing marketing and sales before, and I wanted to be more creative and more control over building stuff. “  

Spending one day at HTML500 isn’t a full-time software developer job, but it’s a good taste of what things are all about. In fact, Davis takes this even further and says that it’s just not about touching code for the first time, but seeing how that experience can carry into other things. “I think something like this is an awesome experience because I remember messing around with HTML when I didn’t know I was going to get into it and it ignited that passion. Coding is not for everyone, and that’s okay! But at least try it once,” he pushes. “Even if coding isn’t for you, you get exposed to all the other elements of the tech industry as well.”

written by: Romila Barryman