November 1st, 2017 marked the 1 year anniversary of my move from a Fortune 200 company of 40,000 employees to a small contract development shop of less than 100. This move also happened to coincide with a large shift in my development skills and practices. As the year wraps up, and I take two weeks of vacation, I decided now is as good of time as any to reflect on the year!

Technology Changes

Angular has been a huge part of my life for the last 5 years. If you were to tell me in 2011 when I was an intern at an insurance company using outdated Java, IBM Websphere and VBScript that I would actually enjoy development work, I may have questioned your sanity.

Not only was I a “do the bare minimum” type, I was not truly interested in code. I worked on side projects when challenged by my mentor, but I always struggled with solving big picture items. When I moved from a Java developer to a web developer, my life changed forever.

My experience of web development was jQuery on top of LifeRay portal up until I was introduced to Angular. All of the things I hated about developing on Liferay went away. I interacted with APIs directly, I generated DOM dynamically on the front end using logic specific to the UI, and I could deploy in mere seconds! Life was good.

Then, after 4 years of Angular, I quit. I interviewed for months waiting for the perfect opportunity (thank you Angular, for being a marketable skill). I made that change and joined Aviture on a large scale Angular application.

As time went on, I worked with more and more people smarter than me (if you haven’t had this pleasure, I suggest a job change). One, in particular, introduced me to several new concepts. Charlie Koster played a large role in introducing fundamental concepts of Functional Programming. While not able to fully implement FP into our project, certain concepts like Immutability and Stateless Functions became integral to writing maintainable code.

These concepts, plus a team of nearly 100 developers in a single Angular project led me further and further away from suggesting Angular as a go-to framework. Given the opportunity to take a step back from the application details and focusing on the technology, I developed solutions that had to work around Angular, instead of work with it.

I don’t have a replacement for Angular yet, but I know that Angular 1.x is not one I’d suggest for new development. Its opinionated framework hampers creative developers. In addition, the newer versions of Angular doubled down on these concepts, introduced a new syntax (Typescript, too), and made many of the skills 1.x developers learned throughout the years next to useless.

I will always remain “Angular Evan” in my blogs, twitter handle, and YouTube channel. It has a special place in my heart for making me the developer I am today. But I’m ready to put it behind me.

Career Changes

At my Fortune 200 company, I was a strong developer. In addition, I was very opinionated and offered help to other teams beyond the scope of my project. This was the start of my evolution in my career. My management pushed me into roles that I, as a developer, did not appreciate. I was tasked with leading two interns to develop a site to consume analytics data. From there, I worked with an offshore team in India to develop a replacement for my Liferay application noted above. Then, I became an official team lead! That team consisted of me, myself and I, though.

I became responsible for developing reusable components, partaking in meetings to determine the future direction of a reusable component library, and playing a larger role in pitching abstract concepts to management. However, I still had a manager who ultimately forced my hand. Technical decisions were made based on “budget” and personal goals of an individual manager.

My first quarter at Aviture was what I was expecting. I was a new developer in a sea of new processes, people, development styles, and products. However, by the first quarter of 2017, I was given the opportunity to be a team lead of a full stack team that our client put together. This meant mentoring two backend developers on Angular and our process. I have been a team lead ever since (nearly a year now!). The last two quarters I’ve been given the opportunity to lead mostly Aviturians, which is a weird role to be in. These developers often have more talent than I do. In addition, I have a lead who deals with the politics and things I don’t enjoy as much. It’s a great place to be, considering the ability to add to my repertoire of skills, but also remain very heavily technical.

I have come to appreciate this position greatly as time has gone on. I look forward to exploring areas of my career that have previously been inaccessible due to “experience” (to a Fortune 200, experience is length of time alone, not personal ability).

Personal Changes

Most importantly, I have undergone quite a bit of personal change. This includes being more comfortable with business partners, being better suited to working with less experienced developers (though I have room to grow here), and also adapt to change more quickly.

I have come to appreciate time off a little more, having taken 3 weeks off this year simply to unwind and do the things I don’t have time for during the week (like blogging and YouTube).

In addition, my wife and I went through foster care classes this year and hope to be fostering children next year! This is a huge leap for us, considering both of our families have been beneficiaries of great foster families throughout our family tree.

As a result of this change, we have come to find yet another difference between a large corporation and a small development shop: the line between coworkers, friends, and family really start to blur. People I work with on a daily basis have shared in my frustrations around the class, are excited for our family, and have offered all means of support from donations to being a reference for the application to foster.

There is much more I could’ve written in my reflection on 2017. It has been a year of change and growth. I greatly appreciate the individuals in my life that have made it happen and have played a huge role in shaping my future as well. I hope that my 2018 looks much the same as this year, but with more blogs and YouTube videos. We’ll have to see what time allows!

Front End Developer