Regardless of age, level of education, or experience, starting a new career can be daunting. Engine Digital attracts some of the best talent directly out of school, which forces many twenty-somethings to quickly adapt to the complex and ever-evolving world of digital strategy. From Creative and Technology to Content and UX, each of our practice groups are supported by these new team members, each playing an important role in our project work from kick-off through to final delivery. After a year of working at Engine Digital, we like to check in with our new hires for a Q&A session to help make their transition from student to professional as smooth as possible. We hope sharing these stories will help others about to embark on a new career.
Meet Tim Wernke, Full-Stack Engineer.
Tell us about how you got into the web development field. Where did you go to school? What led you to pursue engineering as a career?
I started my career in accounting, with the majority of it spent at a remote accounting firm working as a Software Trainer/Consultant. In that role I would recommend back office software systems to clients, create and document processes around them, then train the client on adopting those processes. Having worked so closely with software already, I became interested in how the software I was recommending functioned, and had a desire to build things of my own. This led me to enrol in a 10 week, full-stack web development program at BrainStation. Learning the basics of web development in a 10 week program was an intense experience, but also very rewarding to see how quickly I could progress my skills in such a short span of time.
How has the past year shaped your perspective on building out web and mobile experiences?
I’ve come to realize how much it takes to make great digital experiences for all audiences across web and mobile devices. After finishing coding school I was mainly concerned with ensuring the software I wrote just worked, so performance and accessibility weren’t areas I had given much attention to. What is the experience like on different browsers? Is the experience consistent across different devices? How does the experience change for slower internet connections? How would a screen reader interpret this page? To make the best experience for a range of different users, I’ve learnt that you need to constantly ask yourself these questions during the development of a project.
Have you found your experience working in the digital agency environment to be different from what you thought it might be?
Yes and no. I knew coming in that due to agency work being project based, I’d get the chance to work with a variety of different technologies. Working on a range of different projects has also allowed me to work with a variety of people on the team, each with their own strengths and personalities. Something I didn’t expect was how much fun I’m having. Although everyone on the team is unbelievably hard working, there’s always a positive environment and room to have a laugh. I’ve definitely had times where I was overwhelmed and felt like I had no idea what I was doing, but the beauty of being part of a team like Engine Digital is that your team are always willing to support you even when they have a lot on their plate themselves. When I come across a challenging problem, that’s where I’ve found the biggest opportunity for learning lies. Changing my approach from just completing a difficult task to get it over with, to figuring out how I can learn from it going forward has made a huge difference to my growth as an Engineer.
What would you say have been the most important learnings from your time so far at Engine Digital?
Making things work is just the beginning. When writing software it’s obviously critical that it functions correctly, but there’s so much more to being a great Engineer. If the client needs another feature, how easy is it to add in? If a different Engineer has to pick up work you started, is the code easy to understand and well documented? It can be difficult to incorporate all of this when a project deadline is approaching and work just needs to be completed, but it’s well worth the extra effort. A little time spent when everything is fresh in your mind can save a lot of time in the long run.
Another learning that stands out is that collaboration with design early and often during the development of a project is essential. It’s impossible to come up with designs for all edge cases before production, so when questions come up while a project is being developed it’s important to work through these situations collaboratively with the design team as soon as possible. By not making assumptions and getting the design team involved, you can be confident that the work is being done correctly and doesn’t need to be redone down the line when it often takes longer to correct.
How have your skills and interests in engineering evolved over the past year?
I’ve also gained a strong interest in GraphQL and have built a couple personal projects with it. The Engineering team at Engine encourages each other to present any technologies they’re interested in with the rest of the team, so I gave a talk on what GraphQL is and where it can be best utilized. We’ve now started using GraphQL in a couple projects, so I’m excited to get involved with those where possible.
What would you say are the most important aspects of a great digital experience? What is necessary to achieve great work?
I’ve found digital experiences that are unnecessarily complex and convoluted to be the ones I get most frustrated with. On the contrary, a great user experience is something that’s so seamless it doesn’t require the user to think about what they need to do, they just instinctively know.
To achieve great work I believe it’s essential to be meticulous. The difference between producing something that’s good and something that’s great comes down to sweating the small stuff and paying attention to the tiniest of details. Being a perfectionist with work isn’t easy to do, but it’s this mastery of craft across Strategy, Design and Engineering that ensures the client is receiving work that’s to the highest standard and something the team can be really proud of.
Any closing thoughts?
It’s been a wild first year as an Engineer, and I couldn’t have done it without the help of the supportive team here. I’m enjoying being challenged in my work every day, and I’m looking forward to what’s to come.
We’re always on the lookout for great talent. See our current job openings.