Roberto Ruiz
Roberto Ruiz

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Wearing Many Hats as a Developer

Wearing Many Hats as a Developer

Reflections on My Career Path - Dev Retro 2022

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Roberto Ruiz
·Dec 29, 2022·

8 min read

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Back when I chose my bachelor's, two things were clear to me. First, I wanted to work with computers. Second, I didn't want to work 8 hours in a cubicle without contact with people. Guess what I picked as my major? Yep, computer science.

When I finished my bachelor's, though, I had no idea what I wanted to do. Everyone was getting a job or moving to a different country. Or even getting married in some cases! I started feeling pressured about making a choice as well. So I did what I thought was best: I accepted my first job offer. If I could go back, I would pick differently.

From day 1, I questioned my decision about the company I had picked. And it wasn't just the first day. Every day, I asked myself the same question: Why this job? It wasn't that the company was toxic, nor was it bad. We just didn't match. So, after 6 long months, I decided to quit.

Being a Founder

When I was getting close to quitting, a friend reached out to me with a business idea. He wanted to create a videogame company. And I was thrilled by the idea. Why not give it a try?

We did a few courses on game development during our bachelors. How hard could it be? We had been gamers our whole lives. So, of course, we knew everything™ about games. Even when we had never created an entire game or app ourselves. Nor managed a team. Oh, and we didn't have much money... You can see where this is going.

We had to pivot from one of the earliest stages of our two-person company. Mainly because we couldn't figure out how to make money using only ideas. So we decided to do something different. We became a company that developed websites to fund our videogame projects.

A quick google search showed us other cases where people did this. So, of course, we could do it as well. Oh, and we also knew everything there is to know about website creation! I had created one or two myself during my bachelor's, so how hard could it be?

Needless to say, we were wrong again. That "Fake it till you make it" thing from motivational Ted Talks does not always work. More so when you create unsatisfactory products. And it took us a while to learn that lesson.

Difficult Decisions

Back then, I was starting to fall in love with React. I had just learned how to use it and could create very cool things. It was the best tool ever, and I wanted to do everything with it. You could say I had the "Man with a hammer" syndrome. But competing with faster and cheaper tools for website development was... challenging, to say the least.

People say hindsight is the best teacher. I can now see how naive I was back then. I'm sure that if you had asked me to "rebuild Twitter but make it better," I would have told you that it would take me six months. Even when I knew little about code quality, time estimation, scalable architectures, or automated testing. My only skill was writing code, and I was sure I could change the world with it. While this is true in some cases, for me, it was not.

It took us about two years, many sleepless nights, n + 1 angry clients, and a ton of stress to think it was not the best idea to keep going. We were failing as a company. We had debts to pay. And, most important of all, we weren't happy with what we were doing. So, finally, we sat down and had the big talk: should we keep going?

After a few hours of chatting, we made a choice. We split up. We were sad to leave our project behind, even when we knew it was the best decision. But we were left with a massive gap in our hearts. We had failed. What now?

Luckily, we were contacted with exciting offers. My Alma Mater asked if I wanted to join them as a professor associate. My business partner had started working as a project manager in a software company. We had something waiting.

Moreover, these two years were no waste at all. We both learned a lot of skills during our time as business owners. TypeScript, frameworks, UX, leadership, how to talk to clients, and much more. All the things we needed for our jobs. And we also had a few successful projects! We had both been able to lead a few people into creating exceptional products. Our time as founders brought us a lot of beautiful, fantastic knowledge. And we could apply it elsewhere.

Love for Teaching

It was late 2019 when I started my new job as a Game development teacher (who would have thought?). My role was to instruct 2nd-year students on creating simple game engines.

Teaching had always come easy to me. And I had expertise on the topic. But doing it in front of medium-sized groups was quite intimidating. And, because I'm an introvert, this was quite a challenge at first.

Once I got past my first two weeks, however, it became easier. And I got to enjoy every day of it. I could share my love for programming with equally passionate people. I kept looking for ways to improve both as a developer. I wanted to improve as an instructor. And it was the best feeling ever.

Covid Times

When Corona hit Mexico (where I lived back then), I would balance my time between two jobs. Apart from being a teacher, I was also doing freelance work. Mostly on Next.js-related apps.

During one of my client's projects, I had the chance to work with a highly skilled UX/UI designer who is a friend of mine. Through her, I learned more about User Experience, which started piquing my curiosity. So, during the tons of free time I had through the pandemic, I started doing online UX courses.

I finished a few of them during these months (and started a lot more!). But I still felt like I needed more. I wanted to take my UX knowledge further. Additionally, because of uni requirements, I had to do a master's to keep teaching. So, by the end of 2020, I decided to take the next step in my career by applying for a master's degree in Germany.

This new goal brought a dilemma. I wouldn't be able to do teaching in Mexico while living in Europe. But I needed the degree. So, during the spring of 2021, I quit my beloved job at the university. I had to find something new.

Shortly before quitting, I started looking for new opportunities in Europe. I reached out to a few friends to see if they could help me find a new job. A few days later, one of them contacted me and recommended me to a British company. This is how I joined an agency that would help me grow and find myself as a dev: Fx Digital.

Finding my passion

In May 2021, I moved into my new position. It consisted of doing Smart TV apps with Lightning.js. Quite the niche framework.

Because of its small community, there was little material that taught how to use it. It took me a while to grasp how it worked. But after a few months and a lot of trial and error, I got the hang of it.

Once I understood it, I started using my knowledge to teach other devs. I began creating workshops and in-company blog posts. I talked about what I thought was most important. And developed exercises to test and improve others' skills.

And I loved it.

Yet, once again, I felt a discomfort stirring inside me. It kept growing until I couldn't ignore it anymore.

Yay, Germany!

In April 2022, when I moved to Germany, I started reflecting on whether I seriously enjoyed being a dev. Yes, I like coding, but I've always found project work quite daunting.

Since my first job back when I graduated, I knew being a full-time dev wasn't for me. I had wanted to try it one last time before deciding whether it was my thing. But now, after this final push, I knew it wasn't. Thanks to the many opportunities other people had given me, I knew my aim should be education.

I wanted to keep sharing what I had learned through my mistakes. So I started doing content creation more consistently. And, once again, I've enjoyed every moment of it. While I know what I create is far from perfect, I still have a lot of fun with the process. Be it by streaming, blogging, or YouTube videos, I'm hopeful I'll be able to help others.

After an extended debate with myself a few months ago, I finally decided to talk to my manager. I told them I wanted to do something different with my career. As much as I love programming, I couldn't continue being a project developer.

They tried to convince me to keep going at first. But, after a few days of discussion, we reached an agreement. My job would now be to create more workshops and educational material. I'd now be able to help even more developers while focusing my work on what I love doing the most.

There were still some sacrifices, though. Being a small company, they didn't need a full-time educator. Instead, I will now be working with them on a case-by-case basis, only supporting them when needed. But now I know that I'm aiming toward what I want to do. And I'll find more similar opportunities throughout 2023.

What comes next?

The start of a new year brings a big question most of us face: What should my new year's resolutions be? While I rarely have a specific answer, I always focus on a particular aspect. For 2023, this will be exploring content creation, teaching, and learning in public. As a matter of fact, I've already started doing this through a few personal projects!

I still have to learn much about writing, video creation, and other related topics. I would lie if I said things don't feel shaky while changing paths again... but, as I mentioned, I finally know what I want to do and where I want to go. And with this, and some energy and time, I know many doors will open little by little.

So, for now, cheers for a new 2023. Happy Holidays, and thanks for reading :)

Cover Image from Unsplash by Alexander Schimmeck

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