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My Experience as a Junior Developer at Aztek (So Far)

At Aztek, we’re all about finding the right people for the right seats at our company. Of course, every journey is a bit different than the others. Sarah Slivka shares her path to Aztek and what she’s learned during her first year as a junior developer.

Many people consider the beginning of a new year as a time to look forward. You hear about other people’s resolutions and how they plan on bettering themselves in the coming months. I personally find that there is some benefit in a little self-reflection too, and when I consider where I was at the beginning of last year versus the end, I can’t help but think about how far I’ve come.

About a year ago, I was working as a librarian and had been working in the library system in various capacities my entire adult life. I was one of the librarians that people would go to for help with “tech questions,” such as:

  • Why is the Internet not working?
  • How do I use an e-reader?
  • Can you help me set up a VPN?

I facilitated basic computer classes to older adults, taught lessons on the anatomy of a computer and 3-D printing to others, and educated myself about Scratch, a simple programming language. All these lessons got me interested in how programming works – but I didn’t know how to code.

We Can Code IT Bootcamp

After taking some online courses about the foundations of programming and really wanting to learn how to code in a more structured environment, I decided to attend We Can Code IT’s January 2019 Java Flex Code cohort. The program was a combination of self-directed and in-person learning, and it happened to be some of the most challenging and rewarding 16 weeks of my life. Every week there was measurable progress made learning the principles of programming, including when we worked together as a team on our final project, which kept track of medications that users entered and sent email reminders based on the times entered for dosages.

While working on our final project, I came across a junior developer job posting for Aztek, and after reading about the company’s dedication to professional growth (and appreciation of hot sauce), I knew that I had to apply. After two interviews, I was offered the position!

Starting at Aztek

My first day at Aztek was not an entire day of administrative onboarding – instead, I was immediately paired with Senior Developer Jared Bacik to triage a bug and committing code. I was pretty nervous about learning a new programming language (Aztek uses Umbraco as their content management system (CMS) of choice, which is written in C#). However, the development team selected projects from my GitHub page to convert to C#. I found this process to be extremely helpful in getting the hang of this new programming language.

I met every week with Jared, my senior developer “swim-buddy,” to discuss my progress and work on my 30/60/90-day expectations. In addition to Jared, Senior Developer Frank Branicky and Chief Technology Officer Keith Rowe were always willing to lend me a hand (or a whiteboarding/pair programming session) when I would get stuck and point me in the right direction so that I could come up with my own answers. I especially enjoyed (and continue to participate in) Aztek’s “innovation days,” where every other Monday afternoon is reserved to work on “non-client” work, with the goal of trying to improve our company processes.

Progress at Aztek

I’ve come a long way as a developer at Aztek from being fresh out of bootcamp. In the seven months that I have been here, I’ve been challenged to learn about how to extend Umbraco for custom features while leveling-up my general programming skills. Some of the things I’ve contributed to that lead to my biggest “growth spurts” include:

  • Writing code for event handlers that update a product database table anytime a product is added/changed/deleted in the Umbraco Back Office.
  • Using the aforementioned product database table, create a product wizard where users can enter information and are recommended a product based on their answers.
  • Contributing code to Aztek’s Template Project, which is used as the starting point for all new Umbraco sites.
  • Creating a custom rate calculation, and then writing and implementing unit tests for that calculation.
  • Writing code that uses custom Umbraco fields to build out a Google XML shopping feed, including selecting default images for the feed based on a hierarchy.
  • Creating a console application that consumes an API, deserializes the JSON into a feed response class, and using that class to update/create products in a database table.
  • Working on a unique software application to speed up and standardize the proposal process for the Aztek sales team.
  • Taking part in migrating our test environment sites to Azure.

Future Goals

Although I’ve come a long way, there is still so much for me to learn. Thus, my main goal is to be increasingly more autonomous as I continue to pick up more skills. By the end of this year, I’m hoping to take part in automating something for the company, write a .Net Core MVC application, write some JavaScript on a project from “scratch,” and attend a developer conference!

Favorite Part About Working at Aztek

It’s the people. Even though we have different disciplines at Aztek (design, development, digital marketing, sales), collaboration is widespread, and it always feels like we’re on the same team working toward the same set of goals. Everyone has been very welcoming and is always willing to go out of their way to help. Plus, the people at Aztek have an excellent sense of humor and taste in memes!

I’m really proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish in a short amount of time at Aztek, and a big part of that is because of how supportive the team is. I’m excited to keep improving my skills, and I can’t wait to see what cool website features I’ll be able to work on in the future!