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Web Development & Technology Perspectives: Q&A with Rubi Cabral

 

Technological advancements have undoubtedly increased the breadth and depth of the digital experiences we engage with online. As the creative industry continues to push and embrace the progression of web development, we talked with Rubi Cabral, our Lead Developer, to get her insights on technology, becoming a developer, and the ins-and-outs of data visualization.

Rubi is based out of our Los Angeles office and has been with Joystick for over a year and a half. She works with backend code and cloud services while collaborating with clients and our production team to deliver exciting digital experience projects. Rubi is also a part of the Joystick leadership team.

What must-have tools/software/products do you need for your work?
Git, of course, for keeping version control of code. Atom is my go-to text editor for coding, but mostly due to how familiar I am with its shortcuts for moving code around. I love that Slack is so developer-friendly and allows you to enter code snippets without throwing off the format; it helps when you’re communicating with other developers. My absolute favorite is Postman, it’s a tool that allows you to test your APIs while you’re coding/troubleshooting before you’re ready to deploy.

How do you stay up-to-date with new technologies/improving your skills and knowledge?
I keep in touch with the network I built at General Assembly, the coding school I attended. The other students and instructors always have something different to bring to the table and we often share noteworthy tools or features via Slack. I also read Medium articles about the topics that I know interest me the most and then see examples and tutorials on YouTube. YouTube wasn’t around when I was in high school so I get excited about how easy it is to learn from home now.

What skills do you think are most important for being a developer?
Problem-solving, patience, self-teaching/learning, and foresight. I know these are probably not the fancy hard skills most people hope to hear, but as developers our job is to identify a problem and figure out ways to solve it, and sometimes it takes hours to fix. If you walk into any task or bug without the mentality that it will probably require a lot of patience, effort, and repetition with some tweaks, this job could really frustrate you. I say foresight too because many times stakeholders think of new features to add to a project and expand the scope, so it’s important to take their vision into consideration and build something in a way that would easily integrate features they may want to add down the line.

What is your ideal project? Favorite project you’ve worked on?
I love projects that give you an opportunity to communicate with its future users and also ones that involve data. For the former, you get a clear view of what they want out of a project and can better suggest other features they may get excited about. For the latter, I think they open up many opportunities given that tracking everything has become so popular. It would be great to see us take on more backend heavy projects. We were able to do some of this for Snowpiercer, where our code interacted with the client’s CRM and database, allowing users to upload exciting public artwork that belonged to different classes within the futuristic train and send out dynamic newsletters. That project was challenging, but rewarding. Currently I’m most excited about our internal project, Newstar, that our own team will be able to use.

What are some of the biggest trends/changes you’ve seen in tech?
Cloud services offering more tools and keeping up with competitors.

What are the biggest misconceptions when it comes to data visualization?
I think at times we all get a little carried away about the data we should be representing on a graph and forget that a lot goes into it before we can achieve that. In other words, if we want to track data for something we have to first make sure we are recording it for some time and wait until we have the sufficient data to even have a graph to show. It’s very tricky to try to represent data retroactively and backwards compatibility can oftentimes be quite misleading if we jump the gun. There is no magic algorithm that resolves this without the data points. It sounds silly and obvious, but I’ve seen it happen in multiple jobs.

Why/how did you get into development and why are you still interested in it?
My first experience working with devs was after I graduated from college; a couple of friends and I founded a company in Mexico City that helped students with the college admissions process via an online portal. Once I returned to the states I stayed within the tech field and found myself constantly asking devs questions regarding their logic; they would often ask me why I cared so much. I knew I wanted to be able to solve problems like those myself, so when I quit that job I signed up for coding school that same week to become a developer myself.

I love coding because there are always multiple ways of achieving one same goal. It is full of brain teasers and you will never know all the answers to everything because the field keeps expanding. It can be overwhelming, but it’s humbling, and it’s also exciting to see how other people solve one same problem with an entirely different approach that didn’t occur to you.

How do data visualization and creativity intersect?
My answer to this relates to something I said in a previous question: there are always multiple ways of achieving one same goal. With respect to data visualization, there is a lot of data handling that goes into the code before we can render a visual representation of it. I joke that I am artistically challenged–it’s true–but the creativity that goes into handling data, dealing with patterns in the data, and how you post-process it to achieve the desired results is an art of its own, I think.

What makes an example of data visualization ‘good’?
If your target users utilize your data visualization tool, it’s helpful and reliable. If they don’t, then it might not offer them anything new of much value.

How do you think the data visualization will change in the future? (New technologies, data applications, etc.)
We’ve already started to see how popular it has become to come out with tools that track personal data. Fitness trackers show you trends in your heart rate, food consumption, etc. Many others track other forms of personal data and even connect to your social media. I think this will only get more personal with time. I think technology can be very beneficial to us in several ways, but in some cases it can be quite invasive–it’s a fine line.

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