Behind The Scenes Of A Startup Developer
Career

Behind The Scenes Of A Startup Developer

As someone whose always inspired by women in tech, my Instagram friend Tara Hackley is no exception to the rule! As someone who is always learning more about the routines and lifestyles of those in technology, check out this interview with Tara on her perspective of what her life is like as a startup developer.

About Tara Hackley

Tara Hackley is a Full-Stack developer with a background in product management and QA.

How did your education frame your career choices?

I’ve always been pretty purposeful when it comes to my career. When I thought I wanted to be a civil engineer, I pursued that. When I decided that wasn’t for me, I changed majors. But how I initially got into programming is moreso a story of me stumbling into it. The condensed version is that I had the opportunity to pursue product management and did so, until the opportunities ran out. My job market was pretty rough in terms of PM jobs for people with my experience level, so that just didn’t pan out. But since I had the time and resources, I figured I’d never be presented with a better time to learn to code. So that’s what I did.

What do your current responsibilities look like?

My official title is ‘Software Engineer’ but to be more specific, I’m a full-stack developer so I’m responsible for both the front and backend. On top of that, with such a small team, I’m responsible for nearly everything on a given feature or project. The only caveats to that are coming up with the design and requirements. That means doing a lot of testing of my own code, as well as a little bit of project management. On a few occasions I have had to be my own project manager which isn’t ideal, but things happen sometimes.

What is your morning routine like? 

As far as work goes, I don’t have much of a morning routine. The startup I work for is small and the 5 of us share a room in a coworking space. Sometimes we’ll have a quick stand up where we go over what we’re working on and what’s coming up next when I get in (I’m usually the last one to the office) but more often than not we don’t. So usually, I get in around 9:30. On days I work from home I’ll usually start earlier just because I don’t feel the need to get dressed or feel compelled to grab coffee when I’m just coming back home afterward.

Do you feel like you have work-life balance? How long are your work days?

Oh gosh, you’re really hitting hard with these questions! Truth be told, my work-life balance isn’t where I want it to be which is something I’m working on. I definitely have it better than many in terms of job flexibility which I’m grateful for. Core business hours are 10-4, then when I make up the rest of the 40 hours is up to me. Usually, I end up working later in the evenings or a few hours on the weekends to get the rest of the 40 hours, which actually helps maximize my productivity levels. But an average work day for me is anywhere from 6 – 8 hours.

What has been your most rewarding project or experience?

So before they offered me the job, I had to take a ‘code challenge’ which was building out a feature of a test project my team lead and one other developer had built. It introduced me to a lot of new technologies and I felt so out of my league just trying to get the project up and running locally. And then after I figured that out, I came to another obstacle and then another and then another. I spent so much time doubting myself and my abilities that week that I would cry every. single.day.

But then, somehow, I finished the project. How I got it all done in a week is still a blur to me and sometimes, I can’t believe I actually did it. But I did, even though I’d convinced myself that there was no way I was getting the job. At the time, my skill level just wasn’t there – I had no business trying to get a job as an entry-level developer yet. But, because I’m not the kind of person to give up easily, I decided that I was going to finish the project for myself. The job didn’t matter – what mattered was that I do it for myself.

Let’s talk tech!

This is probably the question I get asked most in DMs on Instagram and the answer is… TypeScript! It’s a typed superset of JavaScript and lends itself to Angular, which is the frontend framework I use. I use Node and Express on the backend, also written in TypeScript. Since I work for a startup that makes software for other startups, the stack and technologies can change from client to client, but the ones I listed are my company’s chosen ones. I also use MySQL, Git, Sass, and Gulp on a daily basis. As far as apps, the main ones I use are Postman for API testing, SequelPro for managing databases, IntelliJ as my IDE, and Trello for project management. Oh, and Slack! (Trello and Postman are bae).

Can you give some thoughts on why people should start developing, or why it’s great or important? Any advice for future developers?

Yes, definitely. I could talk about this forever. On the more macro scale, I think people, even if they choose not to do so professionally, should know how to code because those who code are reshaping our lives. And not being part of that change – or at least having an understanding of it – can have a direct negative impact on people’s lives. That can happen through creation of new issues or reinforcement of existing ones. This is especially true for marginalized and oppressed groups.

On a more personal level, I think being a programmer allows a lot of freedom and independence. It allows you to create your own products and pursue your own ideas. In addition to that, it’s an in-demand skill and if you have access to jobs whether that be through remote work or a decent job market, you can exercise some level of control over your place of work since it can be such a competitive market. There’s also the fact that it pays well which allows for a whole new level of freedom.

[My overall advice for future developers] and for anyone who wants to pursue programming is to be persistent. You’re probably going to fail. A lot. And that’s perfectly normal. It comes with the job.

Itching to learn more about Tara? Give her a follow @tara.vox and tell her I sent you her way! Itching to finally make some next steps in a career in tech? Get inspired with Tara’s popular Medium post about how she got employed after 6 months of unemployment: Unemployed to Full-Time Developer in 6 Months! Follow her on Medium for her other Medium posts.

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