Midterm with Emmett Jacobs

For my midterm project I had a discussion with Emmett Jacobs, who works at DoorDash in San Francisco, CA. I originally found him because my older brother works at the same company with him. I started off by asking if he had always had an interest in web development and whether or not there was a triggering moment in his life that led him onto this path.

Telling me that he had always been drawn to technology and computers since a child, he was not surprised that he pursued it and it came to be his career. Specifically, he recalled first learning how to modify websites in middle school and had hosted GeoCities websites. From my own memory, I briefly recalled hearing that name but just as a blip of a memory and nothing I had sealed with first-hand. So this initially sparked Jacobs’ interest, that and his deep-seeded pastime of developing his own AIM icons when that used to be a real cool thing to express individualism. It was then in college that he had learned more legitimate applications of that kind of technology and processes. So Jacobs has experienced self-actualization about his interest in computers and technology in his early teenage years, but really attributes more serious learning about web development to his time in college. He says that college and his first job right after graduating really helped him develop skills and the ability to learn more complex and complicated tasks.

We then proceeded to discuss what aspects of web development were the most difficult at first. He immediately recalled a few things that stuck out in his memory that were not the easiest to comprehend at first. Jacobs said that the most difficult for himself was trying to fully understand how different aspects of web development flow and eventually and hopefully link together. As I asked him to elaborate, he mentioned specifically how the back-end functions and things such as jQuery preface the HTML. To break it down even simpler for someone like myself, he mentioned this is regarding how the data flows from the back end to the front end. It is hard to believe that someone who does this as their job everyday and makes it look and sound so easy that he would have ever had difficulty with web development.

Additionally, Jacobs spoke about some instances in which he struggled or more directly, would get frustrated with CSS. He mentioned that CSS and placing an image perfectly on a webpage can be annoying — how just about placing anything on a website with visual perfection can be frustrating at times. I found this interesting because out of all the coding languishes we have gone over this semester, I have personally found CSS to make the most sense, be the easiest and most interesting compared to the other languages, which have been a little short of killing me. Overall, Jacobs says that he finds the most enjoyment in back-end tasks more, especially things that deal with processing data. He says that the computations are more enjoyable, and that it’s naturally easier for him and makes the most natural sense out of all the work he does.

I asked if Jacobs had specifically had a project in mind when he was first starting out that was memorable. He told me about a project in college where he had to build a basic shopping cart experience. This involved things such as including how much items cost, how many items you had, the user experience with each click, how the cart processes commands and so forth. He told me that this was the first time data kind of clicked for him — learning about jQuery, CSS and other languages. He said this experience was when he learned the basics of everything involved in building a website. He mentioned that the debugging was frustrating at first because when data is showing you what you want, there are multiple things to consider and multiple places that things can go wrong.

Lastly, I asked if he had any advice and best practices for a student like myself first being exposed to web development. He really hammered in the concept that examples were crucial to learning web development without getting too discouraged. Jacobs mentioned that examples go a long way, and that is what he did and does in order to figure things out. I’m addition, he recommended that when dealing with projects, you need to break down a problem into very small steps. By doing so, you can learn each small step at a time and that way you’ll achieve more success and more understanding. He describes how he thinks about how to get data from the back end and how to break it down even further — what he would like to display, what CSS he wants to use, how he should format it and so forth.

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