Know This Nerd? Meet Tim Brown

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Tim Brown is a Freelance Front-end Developer and Web Designer with Hook Agency.

What initially sparked your interest in technology?

My bus stop was at the library when I was 11-12, and after I had read most of the comics in my favorite series’, I would hop on the internet and ‘surf the web’ – first to look at jokes websites, and then I wanted to make my own jokes websites.

I found ‘Homestead.com’ which had this (in hindsight god-awful) website builder that I thought was absolutely amazing.

What was the first programming language you learned?

HTML – the good old fashioned way, copying-pasting widgets and tools into my ramshackle websites at 11.

What do you do now?

Everything from HTML and CSS to Javascript and PHP.

How did you develop the skill sets to get to where you are today?

Absolutely trial and error. I sold websites before I knew how to make them very well, and just had to figure it out. I learned ‘on the job’ so to speak – when a client would ask for something that was beyond me, I’d Google, StackOverflow, and dig up endlessly until I found something that worked.

I did go to school for web design at MCTC, and there were programming classes, and that provided a framework – but honestly, I learn the most when I’m applying the things I’m trying to learn to real-world situations (and getting paid for it.)

Websites that should have taken 10-20 hours took me 120, but I eventually got the hang of it, and can now custom code just about anything, though I’ve entrenched myself pretty heavily in the WordPress ecosystem, so I generally let that framework take care of the Content Management System aspects of projects. It seemed this suited the demand of the clients I was working with, and although I started modifying themes – I eventually built my own starter theme based on Bootstrap and wield that to get quicker results and focus on the things clients care about the most – like the front end design and editability.

What tools do you use on a daily basis?

Sublime Text, Filezilla, WordPress Adobe Illustrator, and Photoshop.

What is your favorite part of your job?

I absolutely love being able to wield technology on behalf of our clients, in a way they think is kind of magical. I also love learning from small to midsize business owners who obviously have done something that took decades of hard work and ingenuity – I’m grateful we get to sit down with brilliant people on a regular basis.

What is your biggest programming pet peeve?

To be honest, it might be counter-intuitive to some programmers – but my biggest pet-peeve is when programmers get upset by syntax, or have super specific tastes and parameters that don’t actually affect the outcome of the effectiveness of a site. I think you can waste a clients money by trying to do everything so perfectly that it’s impractical. Make sure everything functions – and is effective. Effective and launched, beats perfect and 6 months behind schedule in my opinion every time.

Any advice for people considering a career in programming?

Do it. Just like highly technical manufacturing jobs were in demand 50 years ago, programming is on it’s way up – and demand will increase for the foreseeable future.

Let the speed-bumps encourage you because, each speed bump (banging your head against a keyboard at 2am because you can’t find the right solution) means one more person that isn’t going to be competing against you because they gave up. Take each obstacle as a blessing for that reason – let it get you more and more excited when you apply yourself vigorously and get past it.

Where do you think technology will be as it relates to you in five years?

I’m assuming front-end development will continue to evolve and get easier and continue to add new frameworks and new features – the stuff that was just a twinkle in a programmers eye 5 years ago is now a foregone conclusion and part of the community’s resources now. So things move quickly – but the principles and underlying logic continue to be useful, so learning programming always yields positive results from what I’ve seen, even if someone moves on from programming to other pursuits at some point.

What was the coolest, but most useful bit of programming you’ve seen lately?

Simple things. For me as someone who loves useful bits that allow for more aesthetic / effective design in CSS I love object-fit: cover; and object-size: as they allow to have control over the framing of an img element similar to how you might with a background element. Delightful small evolutions like this in front-end dev, make this job simpler, and I can only imagine what kind of awesome things will be standard in the future.

What are some things you’re into outside of tech?

I am into playing music – at one point with the hopes of being a rockstar, but now as an old-man past-time. I think it puts a lot less pressure on it, and allows me to be light-hearted when I work on music with my friends.

To be honest, the 50-60 hours a week of applying myself to my main work though, and the ability that I can do it well – makes me want to do it more, because I’m good at it and I feel like I’m ‘in the flow’ similar to the way music once made me feel. If you can feel flow, make money and be useful to people at the same time – it’s hard to mess with that.

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