Saturday, 29 October 2016

Web development and pressures

This is a post about the pressure that we put on ourselves as web professionals and what we can do to reduce it.

I have had a few jobs as a web developer since graduating in 2006. I spent nearly 6 years at Pearson Education, where I gained extremely valuable experience in front-end development, along with learning the ropes in gathering requirements, wireframing, SEO, testing and lots more. In June 2013 I joined the Digital department of a large global consultancy. I was very excited as I knew it would be a fast-paced and steep learning curve, but I was ready to take the next step in my career. In my first few months there, I quickly learned to use Git, SCSS, responsive design, Grunt, to name a few and I was working on exciting projects for big clients.

I remember a particular 1-2-1 I had in early 2014 with my line manager at the time. We talked about my interests, my possible career path and what I can do to continue my progress within the team and company. I mentioned that I was developing an interest in topics such as CSS architecture, SMACSS, BEM etc. He told me I shouldn't just be interested in them, I should know them off by heart by now. I also mentioned that I was constantly reading and researching other topics to broaden my knowledge and he pointed out that I "should be the person other people are reading about" rather than just regularly reading about web development.
At first, I felt I bit of confusion. I had always tried my best in everything I did, yet I felt that maybe I wasn't doing enough. I needed to be better, know more, do more, be that person that people read about. On the one hand, I was inspired and on the other, I was unsure as to what I should do next to quickly meet this goal. I had already signed up to a few email newsletters such as Responsive Design Weekly, CSS Weekly and HTML5 Weekly (now Front End Focus), but I decided to sign up for dozens more - Angular, JavaScript, Node, Web Design Weekly, and loads of others to boot. I was literally reading emails and articles in every spare minute to try and keep on top of the entire world of the web. Plus I had a Net magazine subscription so I was also reading that most days of every month. I was bookmarking everything using the Pocket app (highly recommended, by the way) and I was trying to read everything as soon as I saw it because if I didn't, I would fall even further behind.

But then, something dawned on me. There were too many frameworks, too many libraries, too many tools. And I was trying to be an expert in everything when, quite frankly, I didn't need to be and, quite frankly, I needed to take a little step back because I had a life outside of the office! I wasn't enjoying my web dev life any more - in fact I think I lost a bit of confidence in my abilities - and something needed to change.

I decided to continue bookmarking the articles and videos, but if I didn't read them immediately it didn't matter. They would still be there a few days or weeks later and I could still try them out in due course. I also decided to reduce the number of email newsletters I was subscribed to, because there were some I was reading just for the sake of it. I also noticed I was coming across more and more articles by other web professionals regarding the pressures of keeping up with the industry. So, it turned out I wasn't alone in how I felt.

The reason why I have written about my experiences is because, 2 years on, I am still regularly reading articles about fellow industry professionals feeling the same pressures. I read something the other day that stated that as a web developer, if you don't have side projects or make contributions in every opportunity of your spare time, you are not a good developer. Well, no wonder we are feeling so stressed about it all!
I'm not saying at all that you shouldn't have side projects etc but whether you do or don't shouldn't label you as a good or bad developer. And likewise, you shouldn't have to know everything about everything in web development to feel like you are up to date with the industry and doing your best in your job. Everyone has their own style, their own pace and their own personal situations outside of the office - but as long as you feel you are pushing yourself and developing yourself and your career, that is all that matters.

I think the way to reduce all this pressure is to make sure that we take a step back every once in a while. Sometimes I feel like reading dozens of articles in one go, playing around with libraries and tools etc. Sometimes I don't feel like it at all and I do something else to relax. And that's ok, because the web will still be here tomorrow and we can all still help to move it forward in our own way and our own time and we can still make a huge impact on the world we live in.

I hope you enjoyed this post - perhaps you agree with some/all of what I have written, or perhaps you disagree - I'd love to hear your thoughts! Tweet me at @theonico85 and don't forget to use #webdevgeekout!