What Kind of Web Developer I Want to Be
August 29, 2019
This past week I attended the 2019 React Rally in Salt Lake City, and now I’m enjoying my first vacation since starting at Netflix 11 months ago. It’s a good opportunity for reflection, to think about what kind of web developer I want to be.
The question that paralyses me is: in my career as a web developer, should I dig in deeper into the areas I already know or should I expand my knowledge out to other areas so I’m more well balanced?
So if I’m being completely objective, putting aside pride and curiosity and vanity and fear of being called out as an impostor, the answer is simple: I need to dig deeper into the areas I already know. Economic and professional opportunities come from being an expert in a particular subject. There are unicorns who know everything—I’ve worked with and marveled at them—but I gave up my opportunity to be one of them when I decided to study literature in college and grad school. I’m on a path where I’m most valuable as one member of a team, not as a one man team.
So my course of study, my areas of expertise, can be abstracted into these four fundamental categories:
- The Assets - Everything that needs to be sent to the browser.
- The Wire - How the assets are sent to the browser.
- The Browser - How the browser renders the assets that have been sent.
- The Experience - How the user sees and interacts with what the browser has rendered.
As with any abstraction, I’m making assumptions about the conditions of the world outside of the abstraction. But by identifying the center of my concern and sacrificing those extra levels of granularity, control, and knowledge that lie outside my horizon I gain the ability to truly master my proscribed area. There is a crucial joy in knowing one’s limits; it’s the joy of self-knowledge, the joy of motivation, the joy of ownership.