The rise of the "/Developer"--boosting your career with code

Header Image -- Business Card Jae Han Kim from Olapic, Operations/Developer

It’s no secret that the job market for software developers is booming, but learning to code is a great investment even if you’re not interested in a pure programming position.

If you’re a marketer, salesperson, designer or customer service rep, building up your development skills can help you catapult your career toward hybrid roles that will make you an invaluable addition to any team.

A new crop of what we’re calling “/Developers” is emerging: bright, tech-literate professionals who use their coding skills to augment other critical business roles and responsibilities.

We’re highlighting some of these talented men and women to learn more about how their development skills have boosted their career trajectory. First up in this series: Jae Han Kim, an Integration Engineer at Olapic–an Operations pro who splits his time between client services and front-end dev work.

Image of Jae Han Kim from Olapic

Jae’s Background

Growing up, Jae always found himself tinkering with technology and troubleshooting computer problems for his non-technical friends. He decided to study IT in college at Florida State University, but spent a lot of time teaching himself to build sites and applications through online resources. He started freelancing as a web designer while still in school, building a lot of Wordpress and Drupal-based CMS systems and themed sites.

After graduation and a good run of freelancing, Jae decided to put his “people skills” to use and searched for a role that called on both his development knowledge and his strong ability to help non-technical people understand abstract engineering concepts.

Hi Jae, thanks for chatting with us. Tell us more about Olapic and your “/Developer” role there. 

Olapic enables e-commerce brands to collect, curate and display user-generated photos on their sites to help boost engagement and brand interaction.

My job is all about making sure our customers are satisfied with their integration with our suite of photo sharing tools. I spend about 70% of my time interacting with clients and the other 30% coding–working with our developers, surfacing feature requests and tweaking implementations on client sites.

Essentially, I teach our clients how to use our tools, helping them use our system to match the design comps from their team, and often, actually implementing Olapic on their site.

Does a “pure” development job interest you? Or are you keen to stay on a hybrid path?

I think I’m definitely going to stay on the “/Developer” track for next couple of years. I see a great potential to grow both professionally and personally as a hybrid team player. Being able to interface with clients and give the intel that our devs want and need to enhance the platform challenges me to be an effective communicator.

My knowledge of front-end development allows me to make design recommendations from a feasibility and functionality standpoint, and it also allows me to be be an integral part of the decision-making process. Having a good conceptual understanding of both front-end (HTML/CSS/JS/DOM) and server-side scripting (PHP/MySQL) on a foundational level helps me “see” things better when troubleshooting on both sides of the issue. Also, it gives me an edge in thinking of ways to enhance or add a feature to our existing framework.

How do you make sure that your development skills stay sharp as you continue to build out your client-facing responsibilities?

Our developer team is in Argentina, so we communicate directly via IRC and Google chat. Communication on IRC allows me to have access to pretty much anyone on the developer team (Google Hangouts and Skype calls are a must). It’s great to be able to ask our dev gurus questions to learn more about why certain blocks of code are written in a particular way. Luis, our CTO, sets up weekly one-on-one chat sessions between implementation team and the developers, which is a great way to get some additional help on code issues.

Image of Olapic team at work in Projected Space Offices

Team Olapic at work in their corner of NYC’s “Projected Space”

What advice would you give to non-technical folks who are considering learning front-end development to augment their existing skills?

Don’t become distracted with the minute details of front-end code elements. It’s easy to get wrapped up trying to debug little things when you first start doing front-end development, but it’s always crucial to think of the end-goal and the scalability of the “hacks” you work on. That said, big-picture thinking and being open to criticism will allow you to be a better /Developer.

The initial learning curve is steep, but if you stick with it, then you’ll be able to think on a much higher-level when it comes to tech-centric decision making. It will not only give you the upper hand in your approach to overall holistic design decisions, but also the ability to prioritize your clients’ NEEDS (vs. their wants).

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Have another question for Jae about his journey to become a /Developer? Feel free to reach out at @jaehandotcom

Our next front-end development class begins May 28th–sign up here for more info!