Not All Developers Wear Headphones


A convo on sliders, magical forces, and yes: Googling. Our team debunks the myths of developers. An Interview with Laura Quimby and Ivan Starbuck, facilitated by Miyuki Kasahara.

Q01: What things come to mind when you think about myths that people have about developers?

Quimby: Probably that it’s always going to be a guy. Someone who is really socially awkward and, I don’t know, maybe into other things that involve computers, so maybe also a gamer. Yeah, usually a socially awkward gamer.

Ivan: I think being a developer is a lot of problem-solving. I think one of the things that I’ve heard from people who really don’t understand developing is they view it as some sort of magical power. Some sort of archaic art that is being performed when really it’s just a lot of logical tasks.

Quimby: Yes. Thats a really good answer. I hear a lot of, “Oh, I could never do what you do,” and actually more people could than they realize. Also, people think you have to be good at math to do it, which is not necessarily true.

Ivan: Yeah, I mean, it depends on what you’re doing, but you don’t necessarily have to do math. I think people associate engineering and math with web development.

Quimby: Yeah. Or, the word “code” like it must be cryptic in some way.

Ivan: That will still code using binary code IE 0 and 1.

Quimby: We’re way past that now. It still gets used, but not by us. Another thing that people might not know is just how often developers are just using Google to see if someone else has had the same problem as you — to get ideas about how to solve whatever problem they’re facing.

Ivan: Yes! A lot of time is spent on Google searching for problems.

Quimby: And you get really good at doing Google searches.

Ivan: It’s basically just professional Googling.

Q02: What about the misconception that developers are not creative?

Ivan: In actuality, developing often requires a lot of creativity.

Quimby: People think that we’re not creative or not artistic which is not necessarily the case, you know, sometimes you have to be creative to get the right solution. I would like to think that I still exercise creativity even outside of my job, but as I said, sometimes you have to be creative to solve a problem.

Q03: Do you think becoming a developer is something that you can only do from a very early age, and that it’s not a career that you can jump into at any point?

Quimby: I am sure it doesn’t hurt if you jump into it from an early age, but I mean, I didn’t start coding until I was in my thirties, so…

Ivan: Mm-hmm. Yeah, you could definitely start it later.
I decided to become a developer when I was in college and I was looking for a career. It seemed interesting, and it looked to be a good path for me. It was a slow process where I started with one class and then built up. I don’t remember a specific moment I got excited about dev, but the first book I got about building websites was pretty interesting.

Quimby: Well, I worked in food service for a really long time and I was starting to kind of physically age out of that. I wanted to find something that was just a little easier on the body and a career that came with a more consistent salary and lifestyle. I took a couple of courses with Code Louisville, which is a free program that is run in conjunction with the city, as well as, with the mobile, free public library.

So, I did those programs and I learned a fair amount. Then one day I was at one of my food service jobs near Please & Thank You (the coffee shop) and I ran into my friend Rahman, who used to be Kale & Flax’s lead developer. We chatted for a minute and then I guess seeing me in person reminded him that I did Code Louisville.
He asked me if I wanted to have a chat with Tarik about maybe doing an apprenticeship type thing — and basically, the rest is history. I’ve been with Kale & Flax ever since. It is my first development job and I liked it enough to stay, so here I am.

Things you love -vs- things you despise about development:

Ivan: I love getting to make things. What I despise about it is how obnoxious and unintuitive some of the errors you have to address can make you lose your entire day’s progress, and it can be something going absolutely wrong (and for no reason at that).

Quimby: I love being able to use my brain because I use it a lot more than I did with serving and bartending. I also despise errors that can reroute your day. Sometimes the ole’ Google will do you right, and you can find out an answer in five minutes. But, sometimes you don’t know what is going on and you just don’t understand until you work through a list of scenarios.

Ivan: I think the worst part is when you go into a project and you’re expecting to have to sit through one set of errors and before you can even get through that, you have worse errors you have to get through. It’s like the unexpected errors seem unrelated to whatever it is that you were initially trying to do.

Quimby: For sure! Oh, and one other thing I despise about developing is developing sliders. I hate them! I remember when a previous designer showed me an initial design for a client’s site, and as we’re going through it, she’s like, “and thats a slider and thats a slider.” Seriously, the site had like five or six different sliders, and I was like, does she hate me?

Ivan: I remember in my very first development job over at Sullivan, the way that I impressed my boss was on my second day when I fixed the slider that he’d been stuck on for weeks. I was pretty proud of that. But it was also a pain, the plugin didn’t work at all and and until I had to try a new one. It was a thing.

Ivan: Oh, and I also don’t like popups because I find that whenever I go to a website and they’re a popup, it’s the most distracting thing from a user perspective.

Q04: Okay, one last question — what do you think about A.I. in terms of potentially replacing your work in the future?

Quimby: I saw a meme earlier today that someone posted that said, “In order for A.I. to take over our jobs, clients will have to be able to describe what they want accurately,” followed by, “we’re safe”. To me, that is so true. I think A.I. is smart, but it’s never really going to replace human thinking, for anything really at scale. I would rather see something made by a human, and I think I would rather have a human writing code for me than A.I.

Ivan: In terms of replacing jobs, I find that technology tends to shift jobs. So maybe 20 years from now, whatever I’m doing will be using A.I. as a tool more heavily than I do now, but I don’t think that I’m ever going to be fully replaced.