Hello, I’m Stu Mileham. A 38-year-old web developer at After Digital. I caught the computer bug as a kid when my parents bought a ZX Spectrum 48k beast. That got me into coding through hacking around trying to make daft games.
How did you become a web developer, what made you pursue this as a career?
I began to see web development as a serious career path fairly late. After a modest musical career ground to a halt, I started studying computer science through the open university. This rekindled my love for coding and I started to build up a portfolio by doing freelance work.
This eventually lead to After Digital and I finding each other through Linkedin.
Just for fun! If you weren’t a web developer, what would you want to be?
I’m fascinated with law, so that’s always held a strange appeal to me, I’m not sure I’d actually want to be a lawyer though!
As a web developer, what is it you do at After Digital?
As a web developer, my job is to build and maintain websites and web-driven applications.
Describe an average day for you at AD.
A typical day starts with answering support tickets and general admin, tidying any bits of work left from the previous day and making sure the digital producers are updated on my progress.
We then have a daily stand up meeting. This is a chance for everyone to talk briefly about what we will be doing that day and to raise any issues. For example, if a piece of work is going to overrun or (happy days) it got finished quicker than anticipated.
Then it’s heads down and time to get into the day’s tasks. This can vary a lot from day to day. Some days it will be smaller ad hoc tasks for various clients; while often I will be working on part of a much larger project.
We plan our work in two-week sprints, so our schedule will be split into manageable chunks. This lets us know very quickly if a project is falling behind so that we can take appropriate steps to get it back on track. It also lets us prepare accordingly for the day’s work and gives everyone in the company a broad overview of the status of each project.
What is the hardest part of your job?
I don’t enjoy browser testing very much, it can be difficult to test a website on the multitude of different devices and browsers that are on the market. It’s frustrating when you have to rewrite a piece of code that works perfectly in 99% of cases because of the quirks of a particular browser, not naming any names (cough… Internet Explorer)
That said, it is nowhere near as bad as it was a few years ago. Look up “browser wars” for an insight into how the browser manufacturers have kept us developers on our toes over the years.
What is your favourite part of your job?
I love coding, it’s so satisfying to see all of the components of a project come together.
How do you get ready for your working day each day?
A good cup of coffee (or 3). I live about an hour’s walk from the office so when the weather is good, I’ll sometimes head off early and walk to work. Otherwise, it’s a 5-minute train journey.
How do you unwind from your working day?
Shooting zombies or catching Pokemon! My wife and I both love AR gaming and there’s always a mission to complete.
Top 5 tips / top 5 tools that you would recommend for everyday use?
A Macbook - I’m no Apple fanboy. I used to do all my work on a PC and then I started using a MacBook, now using a PC feels like trying to code with my hands tied behind my back.
http://stackoverflow.com/ - Got a programming question? Chances are that someone else has already answered it here.
Jira - Organising your work properly has a seriously positive effect when it comes to reducing stress.
The Command Line - The command line is your friend, don’t be afraid of it. Automating menial tasks is coding nirvana.
Rubber Duck - Sometimes a problem can only be solved by stepping away from the computer. Try and explain the problem line by line, in a way that the rubber duck will understand.
What advice would you give someone thinking about pursuing a career as a web developer?
Write as much code as you possibly can and always try and learn something new. All the tools that you need are freely available and there’s an unlimited source of learning material at your fingertips. Start building things now.