We humans like to categorize things and we make no exception with other humans. We typecast them, stereotype them, and place them into boxes. A Gemini, Type A personality, Alpha, INFP. As if any of these can accurately sum up the totality of a person.

You’re a designer or a developer or a researcher or a content strategist. Or maybe you’re a bit of everything.

How long have you known me? Do you consider me a CSS developer? Do you consider me a designer? Do you consider me a JavaScript developer? Maybe you know me as a PHP developer because of my work with CakePHP.

Many hats

My first job in the web industry, back in 1999, was as a technical architect at a digital agency. That meant I figured out how we should build the sites and applications for our clients. I also did a lot of technical writing, providing documentation for clients for said sites and applications.

Of course, working for a small agency meant wearing many hats. I did HTML production, some JavaScript, and a whole lot of whatever backend technology the client had. That meant learning MS SQL Server, Oracle, MySQL, ColdFusion, Java, Perl, ASP, and PHP.

When I moved into a larger agency, I was relegated to being a backend developer. That’s what people in the company saw me as and it was difficult to change that.

This was the catalyst to go freelance: an opportunity to break out of the box and explore new things. In those 5 years, I did a lot of JavaScript, CSS, Design, UX, MySQL, and PHP. Each project allowed me to explore different facets of web development, to stretch my skills in areas that hadn’t been stretched in awhile. I was a solid generalist with reasonably deep knowledge in a variety of areas.

After my freelance life, I’ve been a front-end developer, a designer, a product manager, and back to being a front-end developer.

Something old, something new

Every time I got known for something, I tried something new. I love the challenge of learning something new.

Don’t grow up to be a specialist. Diversity is your best defence against myopia.
— Jonathan Rosenberg, SVP of Products at Google

There’s the idea of being T-shaped. It is the idea of going deep in a particular skill but going broad to gain empathy. In this sense, I’ve aimed to be more U-shaped. I hope I’ve gained more empathy but going deep in a more extensive set of skills. (It was this extended skill set that I feel made me a better product manager.)

Our industry continues to grow and offers up even more opportunities to try new things. It may very well be time for me to try something new again.

Published February 24, 2016
Categorized as Personal
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Éber F. Dias said on February 24, 2016

Just for the record, I started following you because of CakePHP!

Kyle said on February 25, 2016

You can put Ruby on Rails, EmberJS, AngularJS, and NodeJS on your //TODO list!

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