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Hello, my name is Eric. I've recently joined the Developer Relations team for KendoReact. This is a story about my journey to Progress.

A Fascination with Digital Arts

From as early as I can remember I was intrigued by graphic design. Most of my early inspiration was from club flyers, brochures and magazine ads. I had grown up in Clearwater, Florida loving skateboarding, music and graffiti, in that order. I was working really hard as a telemarketer but knew that I wanted to do something more creative. I was not your normal kid - on Saturday nights you could catch me at clubs I was way too young to get into, DJing for people twice my age, sometimes with my parents and family hanging out wondering how the hell they ended up there, but admitting I was doing something cool and not like most other kids.I was definitely trying to find ways to express myself creatively and graffiti was against the law, so I only had music and skateboarding, which was not going to be something I could do forever.

Through DJing at 15 years of age, I had started to get involved with creating flyers and CD covers using Photoshop and various other tools on the computer. I was soon introduced to motion graphics and Flash design and I knew that in some way I wanted to work in a digital medium and make beautiful designs myself. A teacher in my senior year of high school (CHS, go Tornadoes) took me aside and showed me a school that was only a few hours away in Orlando called Full Sail. She knew about my interests and that I had a technical side, plus the fact that I was practicing my graffiti on our school books, desks and other places we'll not talk about - so she figured I should start focusing less on vandalizing the school and more on applying my arts through education. A year later I had toured and decided on enrolling in their digital media program.

Early Years as a Digital Media Student

In 1999 a lot of people were finding their way to programming through digital arts and so was I. Through my education I was introduced to various applications for creating media of all kinds. Intrigued by user interface design, I started learning my first object oriented programming language, Action Script, alongside building static web applications using HTML, CSS, JavaScript and Flash. This first taste of OOP made it so that when I began working with other languages later on like C#, TypeScript and ES6, I would feel like I already had a good foundation of knowledge to build on.

Within a few short years, I had graduated with an AS degree and promptly started building a web design and hosting business out of a converted garage with my new boss and good friend Steve. I was fresh out of school and he was learning web design and how to deal with servers, but back then that didn't stop us from building an extensive portfolio of web applications, print design, Flash design and hosting all of our clients applications on our own servers in a data center a few miles away.

We were learning on the go and getting new business through word of mouth and online by people finding sites we had created. After building a few applications for real estate appraisers to automate ordering appraisals, I took a brief hiatus from web development to become a real estate appraiser. Within a few years I became state certified and started my own appraisal business just as the bubble burst in 2008. I realized this was much harder in this new climate and started to think real estate was not my calling. I only stuck with it long enough to get myself trained up in web development understanding some of the new trends and technologies. I then proceeded to teach myself what I thought would be great skills to help me get a job. This involved more advanced programming techniques, learning responsive design, backend technologies, jQuery, C#, SQL and API design. Once I had the basics I let my real estate license lapse in an effort to force myself to start a new career.

Goodbye Real Estate, Hello Responsive Web!

After riding out a pretty insane few years from 2008 to 2012, I was growing bored of my job and with a new baby born, I knew I needed to reignite my career as a developer and become a self-taught software engineer. I needed to teach myself as much as possible about full stack development and computer science, as well learn responsive design techniques as the demand for HTML 5 applications was rapidly growing. I also got married during this time to my beautiful wife Gina and with our kids rapidly growing (they tend to do that), it was time to get to work!

Eric and Family

I already knew my way around the web and I just started taking as many difficult freelance jobs as possible. I was learning on the side and applying that knowledge directly to my freelance projects. I mentioned something before that I should note, a driving force that brought me back to web development and fueled my learning from 2012, which was Responsive Design. A year earlier, a well known developer, Ethan Marcotte, published a book on this subject as well as an earlier article that sparked interest in building web applications that could respond to different browser widths and device sizes among other characteristics as well. If I had been burnt out from web development back in the browser war days, this was a period of enlightenment for me.

Post "Responsive Design" Enlightenment

Having my interests piqued by responsive design, I took many online courses like Code School's JavaScript, HTML & CSS path to cover the basics as I had started to forget some of this stuff. I also took courses in ASP.NET learning to build APIs on Pluralsight as well as several other areas of interest like SQL and MSSQL. After two years I had built several responsive full stack web applications using MVC and SQL Server, and started using frameworks such as Foundation (a competitor to Bootstrap) to help me build these responsive sites more rapidly. I met a good friend and now colleague Ed Charbeneau because of his work on an Nuget package for using Foundation 4 in ASP.NET MVC. He is also the person who referred me to my current position with Progress. Thanks Ed!

Although a big fan of the ease of working in ASP.NET, I really needed to step outside of my comfort zone in order to build my next project, this job that tasked me with building and entire program for a local school that was very similar to Full Sail and in all actuality, a competitor, located less than 10 miles away. I was hired to develop an eleven month accredited web development program that still exists today. I needed to pick subjects and courses that would not be stale in 5 to 10 years. I came up with a program that would take students from zero to full stack JavaScript developers and also teach desktop publishing and print & graphic design along with an intro to computers.

By the time I had completed this program, I was also asked to become the instructor and teach, but with hold ups due to the extremely long process for accreditation, I had to move on. A few months later, I had landed a new job and would be moving my family to California to work with a Solar Energy company SolarCity (now Tesla).

Accelerating the Transition to Sustainable Energy

In September of 2015 I was offered a position with a company that I knew was changing the way we think about energy production and they had a bold mission to "accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy." They focused on deploying rooftop solar and their sister company (Tesla) built home batteries for backup power and storage. Tesla was also interesting as it was paving the way for modern electric vehicle production. They were making electric cars cool. Tesla and SolarCity had synergies, and for this reason, the two companies merged in 2017. With this change, I was noticed by someone and became a full time software engineer focusing on frontend technologies and moved over to the automotive side of the business. This brought a welcome change to my career. I was originally hired as a frontend engineer at SolarCity, but had instead only worked on full stack web applications, so I was happy to do frontend engineering full time and in the process I was part of a team that built a new greenfield application for their Service Centers.

I didn't realize at first but everything I learned on the back end in my previous job at SolarCity, like patterns and best practices, were suddenly transferable to the frontend as I started working primarily in Angular 2+ with TypeScript. I also got a lot of exposure to React from interacting with other teams and building reusable component libraries which forced me to learn about patterns like Flux and Redux. Over the past year I have spent more time with React and finally decided to take the plunge and focus primarily on React. I still love Angular and its amazing community, but I feel that my style of programming lent itself to working in React. I learned a lot from the Angular community though, like how to treat others with respect and be more inclusive of developers of all walks of life and at all levels of experience and I want to make sure I don't forget any of that as I start working with the React community.

Front-End Fremont Meetup

One of the most amazing things I got to do at Tesla was a meetup that I started with a colleague of mine to promote learning frontend development using JavaScript technologies. We had a lot of success and brought in great frontend engineers from the Angular and React communities to talk about topics such as state management and component design. You can read more about my meetup in an article that I published on the Angular Blog. I really think that activities like this opened the door to evangelism and made me think I would not only have fun, but be great at the job of being a developer advocate.

I also hosted hikes with my Tesla colleagues up to Mission Peak in the East Bay where we would get as many people together on Saturdays and hike for a few hours up to the top to take in the beautiful spring hills and magnificent views of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Hiking with my colleagues at Tesla

A Career Progresses

During the summer of 2018 I applied for a position with Progress after being recommended by a friend and fell in love with the idea of becoming a Developer Advocate working with KendoReact. I feel that I will be able to explore more in this new position and again will need to move outside of my comfort zone, but I think that is what keeps us all on our toes and learning more.

This brings us to the present, my first week with Progress is just wrapping up and I can't be more happy about joining this wonderful team of exceptional developers and engineers. They build, maintain and support one of the most mature and fully featured user interface component offerings on the market. My goal here is simple: make it easier for developers to work with Kendo UI.

Finally, I want to encourage anyone in the React community to reach out to me and let me know what you think about KendoReact, and how it could fit into your React applications. I also want to help to bring the right content and information to the community in order to ensure that it's easy to install our components and get to work with less effort while generating beautiful JavaScript applications and solid user experiences through UI. Our React components are new and will bring a different group of developers to Kendo UI. We aim to satisfy that need and provide amazing support to all JavaScript developers.

Here are some resources to get started working with Kendo UI and React!

Finally, you can get in touch with me through Twitter (@httpJunkie) and ask me any questions regarding Kendo UI and let me know how I can better serve the React community!


About the Author

John Bristowe

John Bristowe is a member of the Developer Relations team at Progress. He specialises in web and mobile app development.

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