I got a promotion
Starting this month, my job title reads Senior Front End Web Developer.
I am getting some salary bump, which is awesome. But the promotion is mostly nominal in a sense that my day-to-day responsibilities, which have gradually expanded since I got started, remain largely the same. Nonetheless, this is an opportunity as good as any other to look back the last two years of getting paid to build web apps.
I have been extremely fortunate to work with people who trust me and my (potential) expertise even though I did not come from the tech background. Nor did I have any professional experience with "developer" or "engineer" in my job title prior to my current job. Sure, frontend web development is known to have relatively low barriers to entry, but I'm still grateful that the team took a chance on me.
From very early on, I was given a great deal of freedom as a sole Front End Web Developer in the team. As long as I delivered the requested features and fix bugs at a reasonable rate, no one really questioned how I built. This allowed me to allot a nontrivial amount of my time to improving the apps I worked on. Paying the tech debts, if you will. Refactoring code that no longer best serves the current needs, adopting newer standards, reducing bundle size, minimizing network waterfalls, improving accessibility, keeping dependencies up to date or switching to better alternatives, improving static typing, writing better tests, etc. A sort of work that is all the more important because less visible.
As I gained more understanding of my work, not only the relevant codebase and tech stack but also the products I contribute to as a whole, I started taking initiatives and proposing changes. From a label for this button and a color for that button to an API endpoint for a specific feature to the overall UI/UX for critical pages. At each time, my team listened to my proposals with an open mind. And it really feels good to build things I've suggested and do so in ways I choose--and see it getting shipped all the way to end users! (A real perk of working on end user interface, I must add.)
About a year ago, I wondered if I was stuck in a sort of local maximum--in a rut of writing mostly mediocre React code--while feeling rather uncertain about my path forward. Well, I definitely have not become better at solving LeetCode problems. And I still haven't started some fancy side project that showcases impressive technical prowess to the world. But I do think that my understanding and appreciation of the craft has deepened. I now have a better grasp of the tools available, trade-offs they make, and trends in web technology in general. At the very least, I've grown enough to feel sorry when looking at the code I wrote a year ago. 😂
Most importantly, I'm learning to take it slow and steady. I don't have to get into some unicorn tech startup or be part of some popular open source project to prove myself. If anything, this promotion tells me that my team appreciates my contributions, and I believe in their mission to push clinical cancer research forward via collaborative data sharing.1 This is not to get comfortable with where I'm sitting--there's a plenty of important work to be done! But yes, I'm more at ease with calling myself a developer.