A day in the life: Josh Rounsville (Lead Developer, Work & Co)

Josh Rounsville is a lead developer at Work & Co. The digital product agency has offices in the U.S., Europe and South America and partners with companies such as Apple, IKEA, Epic Games, Daily Harvest, and Mailchimp.

What has been your journey in tech so far?

It’s sort of funny to look back: a friend of mine was opening a restaurant and needed a website but lacked a budget. In an effort to help out, I spent a few days taking online tutorials for basic HTML & CSS to see if I could scrape something together and I was hooked immediately. Making things appear on the screen, moving them around, changing the shapes, sizes, and colors — it was all so satisfying.

I spent much of the next year teaching myself HTML, CSS and jQuery before convincing myself that I could do this professionally. I managed to get a job at a small agency where I had a boss who gave me freedom to make mistakes and learn on the fly while putting together simple Wordpress sites for nonprofits and small businesses.

From there I landed a job at a slightly larger agency where I was once again working with people who were interested in teaching and growing me as a developer and manager. Many of the early projects we built were simple marketing sites that allowed me to get comfortable building responsive layouts that relied on complex animations. As the company grew, the types of projects evolved and we started to work with javascript frameworks like Vue and Angular.

I spent four years there before moving to Work & Co where I have spent the last three years building large scale products for some of the best brands in the world —ranging from luxury ecommerce experiences to health & fitness apps. I’m surrounded by people that I learn from and inspire me to do great work everyday.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced moving into your current role?

Time management is something that I focus on quite a bit, but have yet to master. There are many opportunities to contribute to projects and company initiatives beyond the actual code that I produce. Mentorship, project planning, team management, community outreach, and recruiting are all areas of interest for me, but it requires focus and dedication to offer significant contributions in those areas while staying hands-on in a codebase.

And how you’re working to overcome the challenge

I start my day by writing a simple list of things that I need to accomplish in a notebook. Keeping the list short and generic makes it more approachable and keeping the list in a physical notebook means that my daily goals stay in front of me rather than getting lost among the tabs in my browser.

Beyond that I do my best to keep my schedule consistent with particular days dedicated to meetings or mentoring sessions and others for hands-on development.

Briefly describe your stack and workflow a. E.g. the technologies and frameworks you use, how often you ship updates etc.

One of the most exciting aspects of life at Work & Co is the team’s willingness to select technologies and frameworks that are best suited to the products that we build and the clients that we work with. On the web side we tend to work with React and Redux or GraphQL/Apollo along with a wide variety of CSS solutions, but in the last two years I’ve worked with Angular on a project and Web Components backed by StencilJS on another.

Each project offers unique challenges so each project requires a unique solution. We do our best to keep an open mind when considering the best way to deliver a quality product.

What does your typical day look like? a. Ways you interact with your team b. Tools or processes you use to organise yourself

Each day includes a short standup to touch base with the team and organize our priorities, but beyond that, no two days are the same.

It is a standard at Work & Co for everyone to be hands-on with project work, and that extends from the most junior team member to each of the partners. I do my best to be in the code everyday —whether that be building features, pairing with other developers or simply reviewing code— depends on the needs of the project. There is time spent planning sprints and reviewing progress with product managers and clients, working with design to optimize features that are in development or give feedback on ideas that they have to improve the product, and we work really closely with our QA team to track bugs and help with testing. I also make time each day for things like mentorship and team growth which are important to me and highly valued at Work & Co.

What’s the best and worst part of your job?

The best part is definitely the people that I work with. It’s an incredibly talented group that is focused on doing great things with zero ego to get in the way.

At the same time, while it's very rare that I have to do actual work at home, I find that it’s difficult to turn my brain off. I sometimes mentally take my work home with me. Luckily I have two sons at home -- my oldest is four and my youngest two -- who won’t allow me to focus on much besides the two of them.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?

This is a simple one that has really served me well: in any meeting only have your laptop open when absolutely necessary. It’s too easy to get distracted by Slack, email, or any of a thousand other distractions which limits the effectiveness of the meeting and can lead to missed opportunities for connecting with your team.

What is your most useful resource (book, blog, newsletter)?

I spend a lot of time in documentation and on StackOverflow. I subscribe to the Javascript Weekly newsletter to get a good overview of what’s new with JavaScript, as well as This Week in Web, Kent Dodd’s testing newsletter and Developer to Manager for tips and inspiration. In reality most of my growth has been driven by my colleagues. Working with and sitting near smart people who are willing to share their experience and knowledge is really the best way to learn.

What’s one thing you’d like to learn, develop or work on in 2020?

Backend development. Even though I don’t necessarily want to work in the backend, I think there is real value in understanding how it works. Debugging, organizing data, or simply communicating a need can all be streamlined if you actually know how things are set up and meant to work.