From Designer to Developer: Lessons Learned During a Career Change


From Designer to Developer: Lessons Learned During a Career Change

Becoming a Front-End Developer 

Born and raised in Indiana, Sam is a lover of crosswords, puzzles, and logic games. He is a front-end developer, a mobile and software engineer, and a former graphic designer. 

After earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) with an emphasis in graphic design from Indiana State University, Sam took a role in package design. He soon realized it was not the right long-term fit for him, and he also knew he wanted to challenge himself.  

"I was looking for something more technical and felt like I didn't see much room for personal growth in the field I was currently in," Sam said. 

Changing your career path after your first post-college job is not uncommon. The world we enter as young professionals is often different than one we imagine while in school.  

Sam decided to continue his education and pursued a User-Experience (UX) Design Graduate Certificate in Human-Computer Interaction at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). He then earned his Master's in Media Arts and Science from IUPUI. 

"I had a lucky break that the company I was working for at the time had a hybrid developer role open. It turned out to be more on the development side than the design side, and I surprisingly liked it," Sam said. "I don't like to be bored. This new career path was more my speed." 

Working for MetroStar 

In April 2020, Sam joined MetroStar as a Senior Software Developer focusing on front-end work. No matter the customer or project, his main concern is ensuring his team develops mobile-friendly applications. Without a responsive and user-friendly mobile application, the team's hard work will not have the same end-user impact. Mobile-friendly isn't the future. It's already a vital piece of application design and development.  

"I develop front-end user faces for applications, work on custom functionality for forms, develop adaptive, responsive code for applications, and more," Sam said. 

Sam wears many hats, but a cross-functional team is important to the success of his work. "I work in strong collaboration with the UX design and back-end teams. Working closely with different team members means stakeholder feedback is better, implementation of changes is faster, and applications run better for users." 

Sam always wants the end-user to have the best experience possible. At MetroStar, your work will most likely trickle down to impact everyday citizens. When you make an agency’s internal processes faster, more streamlined, and accessible, you'll see more (and better) applications available to the public. Applications that align with an agency's mission, fit the user's needs, are less prone to errors, and are distributed at a higher rate. 

Sam works with multiple agencies in his role at MetroStar. "We are building new ways to develop and deploy code in cloud infrastructure. Our code should speed up the cycles of work and help agencies easily develop future infrastructures," Sam said. "Our work will make collaboration smoother for code delivery."

On top of his customer work, Sam is also participating in this year's internship program by working as a mentor. He works one-on-one with an Indiana-based intern. A mentor's job is to encourage curiosity, help guide them through roadblocks, and ensure they learn the most they can during their time with MetroStar. 

While Sam likes to teach and mentor newbies in his field, he does not think teaching will ever be a career path he'll go down. 

"I enjoy the real-world application of things too much, and I like being constantly hands-on solving new puzzles," Sam said. 

Finishing the Puzzle and Finding the Answers 

As someone who is constantly trying to learn new skills and challenge themselves, Sam is enjoying his time at MetroStar. "This company is supportive of career growth. No matter what you're interested in, they encourage you to explore opportunities in the company and will provide the resources needed to expand your skills," Sam said.  

If you're new to the industry, just graduated college, or are looking to broaden your skillset, Sam encourages diving headfirst into the unknown. 

"You will always have your specialties and things you are good at, but so many of your skills are more transferable than you think," Sam said. "No matter the new program you are on you will use skills you already have. Just be open to learning new things." 

Some of those new things may be code-related. "Code is a tool to solve your problems," Sam said. "Coding and development are problem-solving; it's like finishing a puzzle." 

While HTML, JavaScript, and CSS are the coding trinity for front-end developers, Sam is always excited to learn new coding languages. 

"There are people here who are willing to share their knowledge about anything and everything. People are not stingy with their coding tips, so don't be afraid to ask," Sam said.

No matter where your career takes you, or if you must bounce around to learn what you love, Sam knows each path holds new lessons to be learned. 

Interested in discovering your passion for code, web development, or working with the government?

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