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Career Transition: Moving from designer to front-end developer

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Today we share an interview with Inês Gomes (@theinesgomes) on her career transition from designer to front-end developer, how she made the change, and what she wishes she had known before she made the jump.

What did you study in school? What kind of exposure did you have to programming?

I studied Design and Multimedia in Coimbra, Portugal. My course of study had a lot of programming classes, even some with students from the software engineering major, so that helped when deciding on my new path.

We started by learning a program called Processing that was like a simplified version of Java. It was an incredible feeling to start understanding code, and the projects we did were very visual so it was very satisfying. (Of course, later we learned Java as well.)

I learned a lot about HTML, CSS, JavaScript and their tools through web design projects like making a personal website and creating an online game, and we did projects with  Arduinos, which use C++. In my last year of study we even covered AI, where we had to program subjects to solve puzzles or ride a street without crashing. Let me tell you, for someone who was studying design, this killed me!

What was your first job? What did you like and  dislike about it?

Codacy was actually my first job. I started as a summer design intern through Faber Ventures. About halfway through, the CTO and lead designer at the time came to me and told me it seemed like I preferred coding to designing (My response: “Yeeeeaaaah”) and offered to have me work on the website instead. The rest is history!

Why did you feel like this transition from designer to front-end developer was right for you?

Although I worked very hard on my design ideas and was very proud of them, I never felt completely satisfied. I knew I was really interested in web design, and seeing my ideas actually coming to life on a web page was amazing. The sheer amount of possibility is beautiful.

My favourite part about design was actually doing animations on websites, when I learned all about the different kinds of user interactions, like mouse interactions, scroll interactions, and all the different kinds of user responses. I found it all fascinating.

What did you consider before you did it? What were you hoping to see as differences in your job?

I was hoping I would have less client interaction and less need to think about endless user flows and user case studies. I just wanted to make things happen.

What skills from being a designer do you think help you in your role now?

Having a background as a designer helps a lot in my direct interaction with them. I feel like I understand what they are looking for and how they are thinking when they’re trying to create something, so I can give them the details they need.

What has been challenging for you in this role coming from a designer background?

There have been a lot of challenges, definitely. Not feeling like I have the same applied “logical thinking” education trained engineers have can be difficult. Sometimes it can be hard to keep track of their ideas because I lack the knowledge, but I just have to try harder, ask questions, and not be afraid of not knowing.

Now that you’ve been in this front-end developer role for 2 years, what do you like best about it in comparison to your previous designer role?

I’d always hated the need to do extensive user research as a designer. I found all that so boring even as I respect everyone that likes and can do that part of the job. This role is much more actionable, like “you have this mock up: implement it” which is so much easier for me. The work has already been done to ensure the best user experience, and I can just focus on how to make it work.

What kind of person do you think would benefit most from this transition?

I think designers, like myself, who feel they can go above and beyond the idea, who want to go further and fulfill the missing pieces on their designs. I think it all starts with a bit of curiosity: “How can I make this thing I designed? Is there any way I can help my colleagues?”, and once you start to investigate more, you’ll find multiple solutions in different ways.

What do you wish you had known before you made this transition?

It would’ve helped to know more about the front-end world, maybe even just by talking to someone in the area. I would have been more prepared and built my base on JavaScript earlier and stronger. What would’ve helped me as well was knowing more about JavaScript frameworks, and studying the possibilities to prepare myself for this challenge.

Inês Gomes is a front-end developer and has worked at Codacy for 2 years. In her spare time, she likes to watch a good TV series and discuss it passionately or hang out with friends over beers.

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