Front End Developer: Interview with Kyle Taylor


Front End Developer: Interview with Kyle Taylor

Ever thought that becoming a coder or web developer was super hard? I always did, but then I talked with Kyle Taylor, who made the whole idea of learning to build websites much less intimidating. Here's my interview with someone who makes coding seem cool:

Sky: What did you want to be when you grew up?

Kyle: When I was growing up, I always wanted to be a game designer, because I thought that video games were really interesting. I originally wanted to go to a school called Full Sail, but soon realized that I was awful at drawing. I even thought about becoming a math teacher, it was my favorite class and I had incredible math teachers when I was in grade school, and I wanted to make an impact on students how they made an impact on me. However, I was always interested in technology so I ended up just going the route of the IT crowd. When I was in high school, I was in a afterschool program called Business Professionals of America (BPA) and competed in database applications and network design competitions. It was an incredible experience that really got me involved in computer networking.

Sky: How did you get started in your career here at LevelTen?

Kyle: I went to school for an IT degree and held an internship for four months, but ultimately decided that it was boring and wanted to pursue my more creative interests. Fast-forward to my senior project, my best friend and I built an app that could track public transportation using smart phones. It wasn't a novel idea at the time, but we brought the price point down immensely. We ended up having our paper published at a conference in Washington DC and got to travel a little because of it. After that I decided, "You know, this is something I could do for the rest of my life." And that's when I decided I wanted to be a web developer.

Before I graduated, I was working on a mobile development center at school, and attended a hackathon to talk to some organizer about their experience in this space. Turns out, our [LevelTen] past president David was running a Drupal workshop, so I sat in for a bit. After I graduated, I started looking for an internship and remembered David from the event, so I looked up LevelTen online and they had an internship available. I applied, was given the internship, and three months later I was hired on full-time. 

Sky: What languages do you program in?

Kyle: Oh man, the majority I program in is in PHP, JavaScript, and a lot of CSS preprocessors.

Sky: Is it a relatively solitary job?

Kyle: Well, it depends on the day. It is nice to work remotely because I can work in my underwear. But even when I'm working out of my house I still get to talk a lot to coworkers. We use Google Hangouts and HipChat to communicate all day. When we had more in-house developers, I used to have more people to talk to about similar interests. Today, I tend to talk with the project manager and our other developer Ahmad.

If I’m stuck on something I’ll ask him for help or bounce ideas of possible solutions to a problem. Yes, it does get a little solitary at times, but I like that. I enjoy that I have some time to myself and work on other things without interruption. 

Sky: Were there any unexpected aspects in your career?

Kyle: You are expected to know things that you might not know. There are different types of developers and sometimes you need to know a little of everything. Someone might ask a front end developer to set up their server, and they would just have to learn how to do it. At times, you need to get a bit out of your comfort zone and that is how you advance your experience.

Sky: How challenging is programming? 

Kyle: It depends on the task, some things are pretty menial. From client to client, most people will ask for the same types of things, but at times you’ll get really challenging requests. These challenges used to terrify me when I first started. I had no idea what was going on and didn’t know where to start. It can be pretty challenging but once you get into the meat of it and break it down you realize what to do. It’s tough, but it’s cool to know that you get to learn these things that you wouldn't have before.

Sky: What are your favorite parts of your job?

Kyle: Definitely working in my underwear. Nah, actually I do a lot of community stuff and I work a lot with startups. I also do a lot of community evangelism with small companies. Most of these hobbies are closely tied to the tech space. I love that my job is flexible enough that it allows me to do this and get a paycheck, but then I can go do side projects and help all these other people with the same skill set.         

Sky: Do you have any advice for people looking into a career in development?

Kyle: You will never know everything, and that’s okay. When I first started programming, people would brag all the time. Well, I started programming when I was a junior in college, and I knew nothing. I didn’t understand Java until the final of my second semester. Do a little bit and see what you’re into, don’t try to master everything, you’ll eventually figure out what you love the most.

Sky: Are you reading anything currently?

Kyle: I don’t read novels, I don’t read a lot of fiction...I do read a ton of news, though. One of my super powers is “Knower of Random Stuff”, I just like to be well informed.

Sky: If you could be a superhero what would you be and what would your super powers be?

Kyle: I ask myself this question like once a week. Sometimes I wish I could fly...I usually imagine like I’d be Wolverine. I heal quickly and have never broken a bone, and I had the same sideburns. I would be Wolverine, but flying Wolverine.

Sky: What caffeinated beverage helps you code faster?

Kyle: Oh, well, it’s definitely coffee, but there is a total subset of coffee. If it’s hot outside, I’m partial to a cold brew. However, if it’s cold outside, I’m definitely up for a caramel macchiato.

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