Abstract Smart: An Interview with Mary Matthews
Mary Matthews, Senior Developer at Velir shares her insights on the development process, including tips for new developers.
In this episode, you will learn:
- One example of a challenge in the development process and how to resolve it (0:55)
- Why stepping back to see how a feature fits in with everything else is important (1:40)
- What you need to do to make things as easy as possible in the development process (2:53)
"I take a step back and try to get more of an understanding of why I’m doing something, as opposed to just how it needs to be done."
Video Transcript (Edited for Clarity)
[Public Interface Intro]
Mark Stiles (Principal Web Developer): Welcome to Public Interface. I’m Mark, and joining me today is Mary Matthews, a Senior Developer at Velir. Today we're going to be talking about thinking outside the box. Mary…
Mary Matthews: Hey Mark, how ya doin?
Mark: Thanks for sitting with me! What I want to understand is kind of what your day to day is like.
Mary: So, my day-to-day mainly has to do with developing features for AEM which is a Java-based CMS. Either I help kind of come up with the features that we're going to be working on or I work with project managers to figure out what are better ways for us to tackle our work.
Mark: What are the problems you're facing when your heads-down programming?
Mary: Sometimes it can be a really exciting challenge to figure out how to do an integration. But the first thing that I almost always try to do is figure out if someone else has done it before. A couple of years ago, when I started, the AEM community was pretty small and there weren't really a lot of resources out there. But now the community is a lot more vocal so even just looking at something like Stack Overflow you find a lot of things that—even if they're not exactly what you want—they get you to a really good place where you can start your work.
Mark: What are some of the techniques that you use to solve your problems and go about trying to get into the meat of the task?
Mary: Interestingly enough I kind of go the opposite direction and I take a step back and I try to see how my future fits in with everything else. I try to get more of an understanding of why I'm doing something as opposed to just how it needs to be done. Sometimes the why actually has a really big impact on how you want to do something. Sometimes there are things that are not explicitly listed in your requirements, but you can certainly do them to make the experience easier for your client.
Mark: That touches on my next question, which is really about the client, and how does this end up benefiting the client and making a better product?
Mary: As an agency, Velir has this really nice opportunity where developers get to be very client-facing. I've worked with the same client for several years, so we've really been able to build up a relationship and I've been able to really understand their wants and needs which has helped me kind of come up with solutions either through just kind of looking through things that we've already developed or by using my intuition and figuring out how I would like a certain thing to work if I was someone who didn't know anything about this system. At the end of the day, you want to make everything that you do as easy to use as possible, and if you understand your user that really helps guide the direction you're going to take.
Mark: What advice would you give to another developer who's maybe younger who hasn't had this experience, so they can get a better idea of the context that they're in and produce something better for a client?
Mary: I would say be curious. Ask questions. There are plenty of places where you can definitely get more information—where it's not necessary but it really supplements your understanding in a much larger way. Sometimes it's reaching out to other parts of the team—people who aren't developers like analysts who are writing the tickets or project managers who know the client really well to get more context on what you're doing.
Mark: All right I've got one more question for you. In an alternate world—some kind of dark dystopia where there is no coffee what do you? What's your fallback?
Mary: Oh, don't say such words. That's just that's just cruel. Before I really got into coffee, I did drink a lot of tea. And sometimes my friends and I—when we wanted to stay up and we didn't want to use a lot of energy drinks or coffee—we would just take a lot of different tea bags from different flavors and just put them all together and over steep them and take a big chug of that. That will wake you up.
Mark: That's certainly one approach. Okay. So, thank you for sitting with me and sharing your ideas.
Mary: Well, thanks for having me.
Mark: That's our show. Follow us on Twitter (@Velir) and let us know your thoughts in the comments. And as always watch us next time as we implement another episode of Public Interface.
[Outro Music and Closing Credits]
Today’s Guest: Mary Matthews
Produced By: Velir
Director: Mark Stiles
Technical Director: Chris Brady
Audio Engineer: Sebastian Badon
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