What’s your background, professionally?
Well this is going to give away my age, but I started studying Software Engineering back in the days of Turbo Pascal and Eiffel, then moved over to Information Technology, bridging the gap between business and technology. I have been consulting on this for the last ten years or so.
During that period, I started to specialize in web projects, predominantly using Sitefinity. I’ve had the privilege of doing this on projects in Europe, the US, Australia, Asia, Africa and Middle East.
Where are you based and why?
I recently moved from Dubai, where I worked for several years for a digital agency to take on a position with Sogeti/Cap Gemini in Switzerland. My time in Dubai was amazing. It is a vibrant work environment with a unique if-we-can-dream-it-we-can-build-it mentality. While I tremendously enjoyed working for clients like the Dubai stock exchange and Dubai Airports, when I was asked to come to Switzerland, it was the right opportunity at the right time.
As part of my new role, I’ll not only be focusing on client architectures or development but once again will be able to advocate and not only build out an internal Sitefinity team but also become a visible local and digital community member again. This is something I truly missed doing while in Dubai.
With whom are you working?
I joined Sogeti as part of the Digital & Mobile practice. This is a pillar within the organization focusing on Digital Strategy, Innovation Portfolio Management, Architecture, UX/UI, Testing, Web and Mobile. A mouthful, I know, but it means that all of my direct colleagues here in Lausanne and Geneva and my colleagues in Spain, UK and Netherlands I’ve interacted with so far, have similar backgrounds and mindsets and a shared motivation to deliver beyond client expectations.
I know this sounds like a lot of marketing talk...until you see teams organically form and dissolve to tackle a client’s architecture or discuss development best-practices. It truly is an inspiring collaborative environment here.
What project are you working on now?
Currently I’m involved with a multi-market migration project that spans the globe west-to-east, devising a product solution that has me so psyched it keeps me up at night. I'll be setting up the internal ALM and best-practices when it comes to Sitefinity development.
Aside from that, in my spare time, I’m currently working on one of my pet-peeves which is new project feather package that takes the default Bootstrap implementation to the next level. This is similar to what I’ve done for Sitefinity Web forms back in the day, but taking it farther—not just from a performance perspective but a current best-practices angle as well.
What’s the most interesting project you’ve done recently? Tell us about it!
That would be one for a telco operator, where I had the opportunity to help shape the roadmap and kick off the architecture and implementation for their ecommerce integration onto their Sitefinity based digital presence. It was a lengthy process of talking and drawing before it moved to the development stage, but we’ve recently had the first product roll-out on this new implementation and it’s been the most successful product launch in the company’s history.
What are some challenges you are encountering now in your work?
Believe it or not, but my biggest challenge so far has been my Swiss keyboard!
Switching from QWERTY to QWERTZ is one thing—but they shouldn’t have moved a developer’s punctuation marks around.
Globalization is another struggling point, not specific here at work but in general terms of software development (I discuss this more below).
In terms of development, I find myself constantly validating the latest shift in development with package-management. I’m a little OCD when it comes to structure and organization, but nonetheless quickly got on board with the NuGet approach.
I do worry that the latest build flow with NPM and its single-purpose-package-chain approach will flood my workspaces with 3rd party source, test code and document instead of managed packages. Let's not even mention the latest NPM gaffe! I’m wondering if we’re not simply going through another jquery-plugin phase where we trade knowledge for laziness and shiny looking command prompts.
What Telerik products do you use and why?
Sitefinity CMS and Kendo naturally, they’ve been in my toolbox for years and I think I also couldn’t live without the tools like Fiddler, JustCode, JustDecompile and TestStudio. Simply because they’re the best—both in ease-of-use as in the functionality they offer. Telerik Reporting is a great product but I don’t get to use it a lot unfortunately.
With too little time on my hand, I’ve only dabbled and played around with UI for Xamarin & UWP but it’s on this year’s to-do list, together with becoming more proficient with the Telerik Platform.
Sitefinity to-date still remains my most advocated and loved CMS and for the past years it has been the pivot point around which I extended my knowledge and expertise. With its recent transition into the enterprise and Digital Marketing realm, it will stay this way for years to come.
What’s the biggest software pain point, in your opinion, in the mind of your partners/clients?
If I had to give some general keywords it would be: communication, evolution over revolution and globalization.
As developers we still seem to be unable to communicate properly towards our clients about the complexity and all the variables that come into play these days when building a new product or service. On one hand we shouldn’t have to educate our clients, but the reality teaches us often otherwise.
We also have a problem iterating by means of evolution, rather than revolution. We’re increasingly delivering products as services (continuous updating products) which is a model—to a certain extent—to which we’re not proficient yet as an industry. We’re pushing ourselves into a 24/7 fluent delivery model while users still expect us to deliver a product.
Over the years I’ve seen some industry shifts where we as an industry shift our technological foundation and they’ve mostly worked out for the better, however software has become a fundamental cornerstone of our lives and economies and revolutions shouldn’t be encouraged so callously anymore. Yet we keep re-inventing wheels and ways to out-do the competition—I know it’s part of our DNA as developers, but we should also develop a consciousness that forces us to address fundamentals instead of merely reaching for new shiny niches. How can we introduce and embrace new concepts, frameworks and methodologies like SPAs, NodeJS and NPM while it takes us over six years as an industry to standardize and perfect something like responsive design—something every user is struggling with day in day out.
Which brings me to my personal biggest pain point—globalization and identity management. We, as developers, can’t seem to handle it and with the ever decreasing line between work and personal it is becoming harder and harder to manage. During my transition from Dubai to Switzerland, I found myself temporarily using two phones and a few weeks later I realized that I’m struggling to merge everything into one again or even on my Surface. We have too many identities, untransferable data, and software simply doesn't understand or accept out-of-country information.
Jen Looper is a Developer Advocate for Telerik products at Progress. She is a web and mobile developer and founder of Ladeez First Media which is a small indie mobile development studio. In her spare time, she is a dancer, teacher and multiculturalist who is always learning.