Midterm Developer Profile

I recently got the chance to interview Jonathan Kvicky, a former Front-End Developer for U.S. News & World Report. John got into this field because he originally started messing with web development and programming at a very young age. He then began to do freelance and work for a number of individuals during the early days of high-school and college. He likes to think of himself as a self-taught developer in the sense that he went to college for Cognitive Psychology and Statistics degrees and not the traditional Computer Science degree.

When asked about the level of difficulty getting into web developing, John claims it is a “double-edged sword”, because it is easier since there are an unlimited amount of free resources available online to anybody who wants to start a journey in web development. There is no barrier of entry for somebody new who wants to dip their feet and start learning.  For this reason, there are an incredible number of successful developers out there who are self-taught. That being said, the field of web development is such a fast-moving field, and many new developers can feel overwhelmed quickly. The journey of learning as a web developer literally doesn’t end, and it’s because of this that many people new to the field only get so far. In the end though, if somebody really loves to both learn, and solve problems, John states that they will already have the two foundational requirements of being a great developer.

Jonathan recently got hired by PlayStation as a Senior Front-End Engineer in Los Angeles, so congrats to him! For the purpose of this profile, I will focus more on his last project at his last role. This project, code-named “Atlas,” is part of the education vertical and is essentially a rewrite of existing website architecture using a JavaScript library called React. The purpose of Atlas is to improve the overall user experience, responsiveness and performance while utilizing features on the U.S. News website. While there are a number of integral elements which encompass the development that takes place within the “Atlas” project, the main priority involves the translating of the current website architecture into hundreds of reusable React components. Once built, these serve as building blocks and can then be configured as needed to build different pages throughout areas of the U.S. News website.

The team that is focused on this project is currently comprised of a team lead, four software developers, a small Quality Assurance (QA) team, a project owner, and a scrum master. The software is JavaScript on the front-end with some Python incorporated as well. For source code management and version control, GitLab is utilized instead of GitHub. As far as the review process goes, the team works in two-week sprints to meet deadlines of set deliverables, which are discussed and estimated beforehand.

At its core, the React JavaScript library is still regular JavaScript, but it allows for faster, more efficient development, and provides a number of benefits related to performance/user experience because of how the JavaScript is rendered to the page and utilized. React was originally created by Facebook and first deployed on Facebook’s newsfeed in 2011 and became an open-source library in May of 2013. The project is under ongoing development, and there is no estimated time to “completion” because future projects and pages under the U.S. News education vertical will continue to be created using the React library for the foreseeable future.

A typical work day on this project involves doing a daily stand-up with the rest of the team to discuss where everybody currently is in the status of their sprint tickets. Tickets allow the other members of the team get an idea of what deliverables will be met by the end of the two-week sprint and also allow developers to collaborate with one another based on feedback. After the stand-up, the developers resume their work of either building components, or pages with their components, and replacing parts of the U.S. News website one section at a time. This project works together with mock-ups provided by designers in order to meet user-interface expectations. Once the code is written and completed, it is submitted to a fellow developer or the team lead for peer review and checked by design. Once approved, it is submitted to QA for testing, and then is pushed into the production pipeline phase.

The desired outcome of working on this project is to transform the different verticals of the U.S. News website, starting with Education, to utilize the React library in order to improve the user experience of the millions of visitors they receive monthly. This will allow their developers to create applications and features at a far more rapid pace. This project helps the company internally because the development cycle happens much faster and more efficiently, but also externally because it provides all U.S. News site visitors with a much preferable and performant experience while utilizing the U.S. News website and its many features and applications.

Since the Atlas team is fairly new, there are some challenges involving bringing everybody on the team up to speed with certain development concepts and practices in order for us to work efficiently together. The Atlas team is still in the process of discovering what areas of their development and production lifecycle may be improved by changing certain processes. Thus far, Jonathan says that everything has gone smoothly, and they have seen nothing but great benefits across the board.

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