This Is How I Became A Front-End Developer

Careers | 20th November 2017

We would like to share with you another inspiring story about one of our colleagues, Bernardo Cardoso, who is a Front-End Developer here at Hi INTERACTIVE. He agreed to tell us about his career journey and how he discovered passion for Front-End.

When did you first come across Front-End Development?

Bernardo Cardoso: I come from a very different background. I studied Archaeology at university, and my journey with Front-End began about a year ago when I started a course at FLAG about website design. This particular course was very general and we touched on different aspects of development, such as UX and UI design, and eventually Front-End Development. We learned a little bit about each one which was useful and I really liked UX at the beginning. In terms of UI, I wasn’t that interested. And finally when Front-End came into the picture I thought it was amazing, I liked it instantly. I was doing well at school, but I also spent a lot of time at home reading and thinking about Front-End on my own. This helped me to realize that this is what I want to do and I focused all my attention to it. A year later I started looking for a job, and here I am.

Front-End Developer Bernardo
Bernardo Cardoso, Front-End Developer, being interviewed. 

How does your Archaeology degree relate to Front-End and help you in this job?

Bernardo Cardoso: I would say Archaeology can be quite practical, so I am used to hands-on work. Front-End has a lot of that too. You do have to think and consider your decisions, but often it is fundamentally about doing it, trying things to see how it works. I can also see how sometimes my Archaeology background and my present work, maybe not Front-End specifically but certainly Design in general, are opposites of each other. In Archaeology we study ancient artefacts and the main goal for us is to know the users behind those artefacts, why they made them, where and how. In design, it’s the opposite process. We are the users, so we want to know what kind of products and artefacts the user wants and needs.

In archeology we study historic artefacts and the main goal for us is to know the users behind those artefacts, why they did things, where and how. In design, it’s the opposite process. We are the users, so we want to know what kind of products and artefacts the user wants and needs.

Bernardo Cardoso

Can you see more differences between the two? Was there anything that surprised you?

Bernardo Cardoso: The main thing different from Archaeology, which was a shock for me, is the amount and access of information available online about Front-End Development. In Archaeology everything is very secretive and private - the knowledge is not open to just anyone. And there are specific reasons for that, of course. But in Front-End, it’s the complete opposite. For example, go to youtube! There are thousands of video tutorials on how to do Front-End. I think it’s absolutely amazing.

As I started in web design area considerably recently and work with Front-End for quite a short time, I can feel how much knowledge I gained in the past year and it’s incredible. Before I started I didn’t even know how HTML or CSS worked, or that Front-End existed. For me design was all about Photoshop, some weird code and similar things. Front-End is a much more central area and I really enjoyed the process of learning it.

What do you enjoy the most about Front-End Development?

Bernardo Cardoso: Front-End for me is like a puzzle that needs to be solved from small pieces. And after solving that problem, you have to work to improve it and to make it work faster and better.  For me it is a complete passion as I always liked building things. Even when I was a little kid I liked playing with LEGOS and to build them in a more complex way. In Front-End we are definitely using the same way of thinking.

As a Front-End developer you are at the centre of things. You have to receive a lot of feedback from the designers, be open to different suggestions and focus on doing preparation for the Back-End guys, therefore we are at the centre of everything. We receive work and then when we finish we pass our work onto others to improve and work upon. This whole process is very interesting to me.

Bernardo Cardoso
Bernardo talking about his passion for Front-End.

What are the biggest challenges you face in this job?

Bernardo Cardoso: There is a thing with Front-End development which is kind of bittersweet, both good and challenging. Today you think you are a good Front-End developer, but tomorrow you might not be. The technology is changing and developing so much and there are so many new ways to do the work that if you don’t learn and upgrade yourself, you have a big problem. You can’t let yourself think that you know everything, because you will stay behind and it will show in your work. It may seem hard, but it is always about improving yourself. When I leave work, it is not over. I have to check online what other developers are doing, what new technologies are coming out. But I really enjoy it, because you are always growing, always learning something new.

While the work is very collaborative, sometime you don’t have a lot of freedom or can’t let your imagination go too much, because we have to make things in a way that the designers and UX developers want to happen. Then you also have to be careful and keep in mind Back-End specialities. However, there is space between all that to do something of your own which I think is very cool.

The technology is changing and developing so much and there are so many new ways to do the work that if you don’t learn and upgrade yourself, you have a big problem. You can’t let yourself think that you know everything, because you will stay behind and it will show in your work.

Bernardo Cardoso 

Who in the industry do you follow and look up to?

Bernardo Cardoso: There are two main resources that I follow. I really love this website called CodePen. It is an open website where everyone who wants can put a little snippet of code, and most of the time I go there I see something new and amazing that inspires me. Things that I didn’t even know were possible to do with a little bit of CSS or even Javascript! I also really like and look up to this guy called Brad Frost who, I would say, is one of the main names in Front-End development these days. What he brought to us was very important as he wrote a book, called Atomic Design, with this new way of approaching your workflow and development. He may not have brought something radical, and a lot of it may seem obvious, but if someone writes a book or article about something, it becomes true. It becomes valid.

What kind of projects you enjoy working on the most?

Bernardo Cardoso: What I’m doing right now at Hi INTERACTIVE is very interesting to me. It is a little bit related to Brad Frost’s atomic design. I’m improving a StyleGuide for OutSystems. In a sense, i'm writing code that is not final, but it will be used by other developers, to build custom things. The whole process is awesome, but it is also very challenging as I have to build something very open to allow every possibility of code that people may want to write in the future. It’s been a very motivating project, and I am looking forward to starting to use it and see what new challenges and new problems will arise from that.

Front-End Developer Bernardo Cardoso

Are there any other projects you would like to get involved in?

Bernardo Cardoso: In my job right now I am very close to everything related to OutSystems so I would like to work more with that. Also, I would like to try writing a web app or a mobile app which would be something outside of OutSystems expertise, using frameworks as Angular, React or Vue. That would be a great chance to improve myself and open new possibilities for the company, which is important.

In general, I want to learn everything the job throws at me! That is currently my main goal. Of course we have to filter the knowledge and the time we spend with certain things. But in Front-End, there is a very logical way of progression, of improving. If you worked with CSS or Javascript, you will want to improve with some new framework. It is a topic that everyone is talking about and it will be even more important in the near future.

What are the most important skills that a good Front-End Developer needs to have?

Bernardo Cardoso: I’m not going to elaborate much on the technical skills, as you need to know HTML, CSS and other coding languages to start with things. As a person, however, you have to be very focused, as you are writing something very particular. Imagine, if you only change one letter in your code incorrectly, everything can go wrong. Also, you have to be very open, which is quite a touchy subject for many people in the industry. You have to be able to change how you do things, to change your workflow because it may not be the best or most appropriate for a particular project. It is hard, because you can get really accustomed to one way and struggle being flexible. If you are willing to change how you work and think, then that’s 50% of the work done.

You have to be able to change how you do things, to change your workflow because it may not be the best or most appropriate for a particular project.

Bernardo Cardoso

What would be your advice to somebody, just like you, who wants to become a Front-End Developer?

Bernardo Cardoso: My biggest advice to someone who is where I was a year ago would be don’t divide your attention too much and think that you need to know everything. Try things of course, but if Front-End is really what you want to do, then focus on it specifically and start learning different frameworks from the beginning. On the other hand, pay attention to UX design, because I think it is very important for great Front-End developers to know at least the basis of UX and how it works.

In terms of a degree, I am not the best person to advise on it as I studied something different. But for me, a web development course like I did, which I believe is very good, was invaluable and definitely enough to learn the basis. But in the end, more than half of work and learning you have to do yourself, at home, using online resources. The course will push you to a certain point for sure, but the rest will be up to you to explore and take in all the knowledge available.

More than half of work and learning you have to do yourself, at home using online resources. The course will push you to a certain point for sure, but the rest will be up to you explore and take in all the knowledge.

Bernardo Cardoso

 
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