Three months ago, Steven Hall first walked the halls of our LinuxMagic office. He was fresh and inexperienced, and eager to learn everything there is to know about living and working as a full time software developer. I had the chance to sit down with Steven and ask him a few questions about how his experience here at LinuxMagic was going.
Introducing: Steven Hall
What is your exact title?
Junior PHP Developer.
Can you give an overview of the duties and responsibilities of your position?
I am responsible for writing the code (HTML, CSS, JS, PHP) for our web interfaces. Most of my work has been on our internal Wizard System Sales Tools, and the MagicMail interfaces. This includes adding new features and bug fixes. I also do testing of the changes made, and I peer review the work that other developers do.
What are the skills that are most important for an aspiring developer? How did you learn these skills?
Programming skills are obviously important. I only started programming in my first year of university for class, but it was something that I really enjoyed so I found myself doing a lot of coding in my free time.
How well did your college experience prepare you for this job?
The actual job posting I was hired for did not reference any educational requirements. I did however complete a BASc in Software Engineering from the University of British Columbia. I personally think that my educational experience has prepared me well for the workplace.
What kinds of things did you do before you started working as a developer?
I didn’t have that many jobs before this one. I worked for a summer at a computer repair shop in Surrey. I had an internship at Ericsson during my 2nd year of university as a Software Developer, and I also spent a summer working for one of my university professors in Big Data Research.
What do you wish you’d known before you entered this field?
I would have liked to have been introduced to programming earlier. My first programming experience was in university while a lot of people I knew at university started earlier.
What qualifications would you be looking for if you were hiring for a position such as yours?
For development, I don’t personally believe that people need formal education to be successful. That being said, I feel that having a formal education would help tremendously. For me I would want to look for someone that is able to show that they know what they are doing through a technical assessment, and I would also want to see some personal projects or open source project contributions. This would signify to me that they enjoy programming, and it also gives me an opportunity to see how this individual approaches different problems.
Life as a Developer
What are your interests and in what way does this job satisfy those?
Do you find your job exciting?
Yes, I would say it is exciting. It is always good when you get lost in your work and time just seems to fly by and that is how I feel every day.
Have you had to overcome any unexpected learning curves?
Probably when I first started because my experience with web development to that point was quite limited. It was a bit overwhelming at first because of this but I was able to learn a lot from it.
Is your job as you hoped it would be when you first started three months ago?
I don’t think I was too surprised. Yes. I hoped to get to do some development early on and as I mentioned earlier, I was pleasantly surprised that this is what happened. My other work experience I have had was much slower to get to that stage.
What projects have you worked on that have been particularly interesting?
I have found all the projects that I have worked on interesting. One such project was the CRM [internal customer relationship management software] which was interesting because it gave me the opportunity to learn a little about PHP Cake [a model view controller], which I had not heard of before that. I believe it was also the first assignment I got that I was able to do largely on my own since by that point I started to become more comfortable with web development.
What kinds of experience, paid or unpaid, would you encourage for anybody pursuing a career in development?
I would encourage everyone to publish personal projects to the public. Something like Github or Bitbucket. It works well as a sort of portfolio for employers to look at. Open source contributions are a plus as well since this shows that you are interested, and it is always good to give back to the community.
What trends in the field would be most likely to affect someone just entering this career now?
Just in general the fact that this field (and the computer field in general) changes so rapidly. You have to keep up with the current technologies.
Working for LinuxMagic
What is a typical day like at LinuxMagic?
Usually I get in around 8:20am and read any emails I may have. Sometimes they are bug reports so with those I will create tickets for them. Mondays and Fridays I would then go to a morning meeting. After that I would let everyone know what I will be working on for the day and then I start doing that work. Most of the time I know what I need to do already and it usually involves some coding. Other times I need to think a bit about how to approach a problem before starting it to make sure that how it would work makes sense and the changes required would ideally not be overly complex. My work can also include giving code reviews to my peers, and having code/UI reviews with others for my own work. I usually take a late lunch at around 1:00pm. Get back from lunch and continue to work on what I was working on before lunch.
Why did you decide to work for LinuxMagic?
I decided to apply to LinuxMagic because it was a web development position, and as I mentioned earlier, I recently gained an interest in web development. The company name of LinuxMagic also caught my eye because I have been using Linux as my main Operating system since early High School.
What do you like most about LinuxMagic?
I learn something new every day, I get to do web development, everyone there has been really friendly, and it is always a good sign when your days at work fly by.
What do you find unique about your position at LinuxMagic?
The fact that it is a smaller company gives me (as someone who is new to web development) more opportunities to learn, grow, and contribute. In comparison to many larger companies where newer less qualified employees may not have the opportunity to make as much of a difference early on.
Have you found any challenges working for LinuxMagic that you didn’t expect or weren’t ready for?
I wasn’t expecting the version control to be SVN [software used to track changes in code] and I needed to refresh my memory on SVN as I haven’t used it in several years before now. I also wasn’t expecting to start doing actual development as early as I did, which was a pleasant surprise.
In your opinion, what values are highly esteemed at LinuxMagic?
Willingness and ability to learn seem (to me) to be important values for employees to have.
Would you recommend LinuxMagic as a great place to work?
Yes. Just the amount you learn in a relatively short amount of time is reason enough, and I have no doubt that the learning will continue.
What are you looking forward to over the next year at LinuxMagic?
I am looking forward to what I will learn in the coming year, and to see how much I will grow and improve as a developer.
Where do you see yourself as a web professional five years from now?
I am not sure. I would still like to be in web development as I really enjoy it.
How do you think LinuxMagic will help you in achieving your professional goals?
Thus far, I have already learned so much, and I think that LinuxMagic will continue teaching me more in the future. A goal of mine would be to gain seniority and to gain the skills required to work at a more senior level. I think that LinuxMagic has the ability to make these happen.