Computers, Open-source, Ruby, Software, Thoughts, Web

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It has been an exciting month for me. I put in my notice with Influence Health at the beginning of June, and served through the end of the month. After that took 2 weeks off before my training begins for Doximity on July 16th. The training is in San Francisco, and then immediately followed up with a July 30th co-location in Boulder, Colorado. This position is remote, aside from the several co-locations done each year. I am excited to start with a new team, on a new project, with a mix of old and new technologies.

Over the career at Influence Health I don’t feel that I got much deeper in my knowledge of Rails. What I feel I gained instead was the breadth of general programming skills. I configured Github repos, setup Jenkins, scripted a Hubot instance to assign pull requests, and made a continuous integration system. I created new policies following best practices to open a pull request with a change, write unit tests, and have one other person on the team review your changes before merging. I implemented linting, and worked with one of my coworkers to bring Webpack into Rails to rethinking how we manage Javascript. I also went very deep into the AWS services touching S3, Lambda, RDS, Redshift, Data Pipelines, Batch, Step, ELB, EC2, ECS, Cloudfront, and into other technologies like PostgreSQL, Docker, ElasticSearch, Capistrano, EventMachine, and Daemons. Being exposed to all of these new services has made me consider different approaches to traditional problems, and I feel has made me a better developer.

The new job at Doximity sheds my managerial role that I was voluntold to do at Influence Health. I thought I might have enjoyed it (maybe I would have under better circumstances). At the end of the day it wasn’t being a manager that killed the deal for me. It was being a manager, while still being a tech lead, while being an architect, a core contributor, and many other things. To manage well is a full time job. Tacking it onto an existing role made me feel inadequate as a manager, and I don’t like that feeling. So with the managerial role off my title the new role is back to software developer, and I’m ok with that. The compensation is right, and I felt like I was getting further away from the code than I wanted to be. At the end of the day developing something and seeing it work is what drives me. There is a technical lead track that I might pursue in several months if I feel like I am ready.

The technology stack is a mixture of Ruby and Javascript. After working with Javascript more heavily the last 6 months I have mixed feelings. I’m definitely excited because I do think the future of web development has coalesced on Javascript. And Javascript has risen to the challenge and gotten a lot better. Gone are the imposter “rich internet applications” like Silverlight, and Flex. Gone are the browser plugins for languages like Java and Flash. Javascript just works. And the browsers are really blazing trails, even Microsoft, so I believe that learning Javascript is a solid career investment. There is an excitement in the ecosystem (a little too excited imo, but I’ll take that over being dead)

Popularity aside, Javascript has less magic than Ruby which is a again, both good and bad. I appreciate seeing require statements, and knowing with absolute certainty that private methods are private. In Ruby for everything you can do to protect something, someone else can (and I find frequently does) find a way to circumvent it. I especially appreciate the strong linting culture that mitigates entire debates on code style.

I find the syntax of Javascript to be unattractive coming from Ruby, but it is more consistent. All of the parenthesis, semicolons, etc are just noisy. The surface area of Javascript is also much smaller which leads everyone to jump to utility libraries like Lodash, Underscore, etc. The language just needs to keep maturing and building in common methods. Date manipulation in particular is atrocious. async/await seems like we finally have a clean syntax for managing asynchronous code.

I do still feel like we are fitting a square peg into a round hole by having client side, single page applications. This isn’t the way the web was designed (it was made for request/response), and the fat client pattern still feels immature. Having a client side framework like Angular, (or even a library like React) does take care of managing some of the complexities . GraphQL takes the sting out of fetching all the combinations of data you might want from the server. Auth is taken care of with JWT and services like Auth0.

On the server side, using Node has been a mixed bag. I would like to see a few big frameworks that the community standardizes on, however the mentality seems to be build your own framework from a collection of your favorite libraries. As a result you can’t just jump into a project and immediately know where things are. I do however really enjoy asynchronous execution of code. It is a little harder to write and understand but wow can it be fast. I have already seen very positive results from Ruby implementations of batch jobs that took hours converted to Javascript and taking minutes. You simply don’t wait around, and it can think of your dependency tree in a completely new way.

At the end of the day I am excited but a little cautious. Ruby + Javascript sounds like a killer combination if you use each tool for what it does best. I don’t see the Ruby community lasting another decade so this is the perfect transition point to jump into Javascript. And I’m glad that it was Javascript that won out over Flex, Silverlight, JSP, etc. At least for the next 5 years until the new shiny technology comes out and people jump ship.

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