Past, Present, and Future

When was the last time you’ve sat down and thought about your career? Do you like what you do? Are you getting what you want out of it? Does it challenge you in ways you want to be challenged? Are you thriving, or simply surviving?

I love writing code. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that I’ve worked primarily in the WordPress space for the last 8 1/2 years, and that I’ve simultaneously kept my feet firmly planted in the broader developer communities. I’ve done this because I feel that it’s important to get a full range of perspectives to inform my craft, and to determine whether there’s something someone is saying from outside of WordPress that could help improve the way we do things within it. I love writing code, and I’m also passionate about software architecture and finding ways to reduce the friction involved in maintaining code. This is a big reason why I’ve focused my attention over the years on concepts like modular development, the five principles of S.O.L.I.D., writing clean code, incoporating testing into your workflow, etc.

I write about these topics here not because I think of myself as an expert in any of them, but because I find them interesting and I think that by discussing the way in which we write code, we can start to consider whether how we write it today is serving us both now and in the future. How difficult is it to change your existing codebase because of some design decision you made in the past, because you didn’t write tests to support it, or because you didn’t document it, or perhaps all three and you’re maintaining a codebase that wasn’t even written by you?

There’s a lot of friction in writing software. In my experience, that friction is lessened over time through coding practices such as code review and pair programming, particularly on small teams, because those are the times in which we can discuss our craft and the current state of our projects, share ideas, and come to consensus about the way in which we want to do things going forward. No two people have the same pool of knowledge, and only by encouraging these practices do teams, over time, grow together to understand the existing state of their codebase and agree upon a vision in which they want it to evolve.

There’s also friction in change. Just think about how passionately people have been opposed to the WordPress block editor! It’s come a long way since it was first released a few years ago, and what I think is most exciting about the project is more willingness to make drastic changes to the way we do things: the chance to try something new and break out of the status quo.

As a fan of PHP, I wish that same mentality transferred to the server-side language. In early 2019, WordPress bumped the minimum required version of PHP from 5.3 to 5.6, and stated as a goal that it was aiming for 7+ as a minimum by the end of that year. Around the same time, there was also some discussion about how we could now, finally, start to incorporate some modern syntax into the core application. Two years later, the same minimum version and much of the ways we write PHP in WordPress remains the same.

Going Forward

All of this is a long way of saying that there is a lot of momentum and focus on JavaScript: not just in WordPress, but everywhere. I need to acknowledge that momentum, accept change myself, and determine what all of this means for me.

At the start of my career, I worked on a broad range of projects, building full sites atop WordPress and Shopify for small businesses and non-profits. I enjoyed this work because it exposed me to a variety of technologies and I was learning something new nearly every day. I collaborated directly with designers and my clients to help meet their visions, and when my projects were finished, I got to launch them for the world to see and use. In fact, just two weekends ago, my partner’s aunt told me that she visited the Glensheen Museum in Duluth, purchasing tickets via the site I built several years ago during my time at a previous agency.

For the last 4 1/2 years, I migrated into plugin development, both at agencies and on the product side. I still learned a lot, and in fact, learned so much from one client in particular that it helped further shape my curiosity and interest in the software development lifecycle and software architecture in general. But, due to the nature of the kinds of projects I worked on, I rarely got to build something that I could celebrate and share with others. I’ve felt further and further isolated from the advancements in WordPress, few of which have come to the language in which I’ve specialized.

I have been only surviving, not thriving.

Last spring, I began studying Python with the goal of landing an engineering role outside of my comfort zone. Interviewing was going really well, but then the pandemic hit, and hiring ceased. This summer, I am continuing my Python exploration, brushing up on Node.js and React, getting better at understanding Docker, digging deeper into CLI scripting, refactoring some existing projects and thinking up new ones. I attended DevOpsDays Minneapolis (online) and was completely in over my head with terminology and concepts I have had virtually no exposure to during my time in WordPress, and I loved every minute of it.

I am motivated to get back to the time when working on projects was delightful; when I could launch something new and show it off to my friends and family. I want to write modern code, to collaborate with my peers, discuss pros and cons of various architectural approaches, and create beautiful, well-tested, and stable applications. And I hope to do so at a company, like so many companies that I have already worked for, who value a positive and supportive engineering culture.

I know I can get there. Perhaps it could be with you? If you or your company is hiring and you think I might be a fit, then I’d love to chat. Please get in touch.