May 17, 2019Illustration by https://undraw.co
Several years ago I was in a job interview for a front-end developer position when the hiring manager asked me a question that caught me off-guard, “I see you used a Wordpress template for your website, why didn’t you build it from scratch? ” I thought for a second and explained that I didn’t have the time to really build my own website and I didn’t feel like re-inventing the wheel so I customized an existing theme to my own liking. His response was, “I always like to think that as a front-end developer your website is a representation of you craft.” I didn’t know what to say but he was right. I had missed an opportunity to show off my skills by building my own website from scratch. If the job I was applying for was for a position creating custom Wordpress templates then my website would have been great but that wasn’t the case. The hiring manager’s comment was some poignant advice that as front-end developers building website UI’s are our craft. We need to practice that craft, evolve it and show it off as much as possible.
“As front-end developers building website UI’s are our craft. We need to practice that craft, evolve it and show it off as much as possible.”
That interview always stuck with me and I’ve come to realize that my website is not only a direct representation of where I was in my professional development but it also reflected where the web stood as a whole in it’s own evolution. So what happened? Why didn’t I create my own website for that interview? Well back in 2015 we were very much at the height of the Wordpress transformation of the web and I got caught up in it. Instead of putting my time into a custom website I dedicated my time into building a custom website template. When you think about it though the enterprise development experience for front-end developers at the time wasn’t far off from building Wordpress themes. For the most part we were still working with frameworks which had some kind of templating system. The good thing about all this is that as templated sites exploded all over the web so did front-end development. Since most website templates were just HTML, JS and CSS people with those skills became extremely valuable. Engineers then started to explore ways to make that front-end development experience better which resulted in tools like Angular and React emerging and becoming more popular.
As templated sites exploded all over the web so did front-end development. Since most website templates were just HTML, JS and CSS people with those skills became extremely valuable.
My old website built with a Wordpress template
Fast forward to 2019 and front-end development has definitely cemented itself in the web development world as it’s own discipline and React and/or similar technologies are now a requirement in mostly all the front-end dev job postings I have been seeing. It’s amazing how much the technological landscape has changed in just four years. It’s a testament to how rapidly the web is evolving and how as developers we have to continually re-invent ourselves.
So now that I am job hunting again I decided to take the time to rebuild my site with today’s modern technologies and when I looked at Gatsby it looked like the perfect tool. The static site nature of the framework paired with React/graphql allows me to develop rapidly using the tools I would use on the job today. I am very happy with the results and I feel this new site is a good representation of where I am in my professional career.
Just investing a little bit of time goes a long way when presenting your professional self to the world.
As developers with busy lives we don’t always have the time to do invest in our craft but I would definitely recommend building your own website from scratch if you are putting yourself out there to look for a new job or even just trying to keep yourself current with new technologies. Investing a little bit of time goes a long way when presenting your professional self to the world. I’m excited to explore and experiment with new technologies on this new site. We’ll see where we go next from here…