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Talent Tuesdays – The inside on how to be a Software Developer

As part of our Talent Tuesdays offering, Software Developer Yuan Phoon offers his advice on the industry.

Tell us about what your job involves?

Being a software developer in an ad agency is a lot less War Games and much more The Social Network. Rather than focusing on plain text, the magic is really in product design. My job is to provide digital capabilities to the team and see what we can build. If we have a campaign around mobile interactions, I can arm the creatives with the ability to do push notifications, send SMS messages and see if they want to use the phone’s gyroscope. The coding takes care of itself after that.

How did you get to where you are now?

I was always interested in building a website but never had a formal education in anything computer-y. It was more of something I pursued myself with the resources on the internet to teach myself. Eventually the opportunity to apply those self-taught skills came about and from there it just started to take up more hours of my working day. I went from being a student, to journalist, to event co-ordinator and then a software developer!

What are the biggest challenges and how do you overcome them?

The biggest challenge I find is going from a blank page to something. I have to take on this challenge in a very structured approach by breaking down a build into tiny to-do’s (or tickets/issues in tech parlance), and then getting on with it. The pieces fall into place by themselves once all the small pieces are built.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Working with the wider team, for sure. Rather than be an office drone, just processing work tickets, I’m able to contribute to the shaping of a campaign or product. I can offer to the end-user a really slick experience because what I’m building has been designed with really modern features in mind.

What characteristics do you need to do your job?

Self-motivation to go the extra step for your colleagues. It’s easy for a developer to shield themselves in techno-babble that will alienate a non-dev, but that’s not what it’s about. It’s about going that extra step to enable your team to produce higher quality work. Whenever I turn up to a colleague’s desk, I want them to feel glad because I’m someone that makes their job easier. If some pixels need shifting, let’s do it as many times as it takes until it’s correct.

How do you think your job will evolve over the next few years?

Hopefully everyone’s on Internet Explorer Edge or above. Better software and hardware will mean that software will be able to provide experiences with that extra level of magic, and hopefully we can roll out those cool modern features for everyone, not just those at the cutting edge.

How are you adapting for this change?

I’m always learning. It’s actually impossible to keep up with everything new in the technology space, so the true challenge is choosing what to learn. Trying to figure out what is going to be of value in the future is the tough part. For me, I think Virtual Reality interfaces is going to be a mainstream form of entertainment consumption so I’m learning about what kind of experiences I can deliver with the concept of VR.

What would you recommend to anyone thinking of doing what you do?

Be prepared to use a search engine for any query you have. The answers to all your questions are out there. A good keyword to include in your query is ‘tutorial’. Also pick JavaScript as your first language; it’s the most popular and versatile language that’s being used today.