My Year in: Software Development

The beginning of 2016 was a little scary for me professionally. I started the year projectless, having just left a React-based project because I needed to earn more money. I had been paying a bit of a tuition for the dubious privilege of learning React. And my country was an economic disaster.

In the end everything worked out, although, as it happens, in unforeseeable ways.

I had been contacted in 2015 by a Brazilian entrepreneur about a project he had been working on. We had both done our time (pun intended) at Startup Rio, a tech hub, in 2014. Early this year, I agreed to design his product, which I did for about a month.

I had been looking around, doing some interviews and talking to people, and my friend Lucas Alves reminded me of Toptal, a development agency. I applied and passed, and soon was working on a revamp of Spacer, an interesting space rental company from Australia. The people were quite nice at Spacer, but the technical side wasn’t much fun — the platform was template-based and files could only be uploaded through a web interface.  At least it was Ruby, but it was slow going.

Over the month or so I worked on Spacer, I kept in touch about the Brazilian project and knew the entrepreneur needed help with the development as well. It was a Rails application. I hopped along with the team, and contributed with most of the frontend but also with project management and the flow of things. Think testing, task tracking and a simple but constant way of communicating, since the team was spread around 3 cities.

We soft-launched the product and I took on another project via Toptal, which is the one I’m working on at the moment. It’s in a field I have been very interested in, finance. I’m writing their Ember web client. I learned Ember from scratch for the project, and I’m still learning it. Every day I wish it was done in React. Of course I tried to convince the team to use React, given the growing user base compared to a dwindling base for Ember. They politely declined, I suppose because the main backend dev for the project is very good at Ember. Ember itself is not bad at all. Hopefully people will maintain libs in the future, many are starting to feel old without updates for months or more than a year. I ended up contributing to a few open source Ember projects along the way, which I was happy to do.

I also managed to do some work on a project of mine, Look in Tens, an Elixir/Phoenix application. I built a nice little crawler, and enjoyed the experience a lot. When it was deemed a 1.0, I stopped, at least for now, because I realized I wanted to really analyze companies, not “screen” companies for good buying opportunities. Not a software issue here, I suppose.

All along the year I studied as much Elixir as I could. I have been retyping the Elixir code base so that I can get a feel and understanding of the internals. It’s been a blast, and my respect for the Elixir core team has grown and grown — not least for simply taking a ride on Erlang. What a great idea. I ended up contributing a number of small fixes to Elixir itself, and thanks to Github’s idiosyncratic ranking system, am now contributor #35 to the language.

My only certainties as we enter 2017 are my intention to continue studying the Elixir ecosystem and to stay open to changes in the software landscape.

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