IndustryProblem-Solving as a Developer: an Interview with Guest Teacher Dean Davidson

Michael Poley
writes on August 30, 2016

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We recently had web developer and guest teacher, Dean Davidson in the Treehouse studio. We took the opportunity to sit down with him to talk about his experience as a developer, how his career has evolved, tips and resources for aspiring developers, and more.

Dean Davidson

Dean Davidson

Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.

I am Dean Davidson, and I’m a web developer. I’m an Oregon native and I always find a way to work that into conversation because it’s like Fight Club, but the opposite as you always talk about it. I also write software for a living for a company called Sembit.

Tell us about your company, what does it specialize in?

We’re a small group of consultants who specialize in medium to large organizations, line of business apps, primarily web applications and some mobile work as well. At the simplest level, I use programming at my job to solve problems for people. Clients come to us and they say either they have a problem they need solved, a roadblock, or they have a new vision that they want to see come to fruition. I use programming languages to solve those problems, create those solutions and whatever else clients might need.

I primarily use Microsoft languages. C# is my bread and butter, everyday language. Since I’m a web developer, I also deal with a lot of HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), and JavaScript. And I also dabble in some Go and other miscellaneous languages. So it’s varied.

I use programming languages to solve [client] problems, create those solutions and whatever else clients might need.

What did you do before you were a developer? Did it involve coding?

Before I was a developer I worked in IT. I’ve pretty much always been in the tech industry. When I graduated high school early my very first job at fifteen-years-old was working as a network operations technician, where I pretty much did everything. It was a lot of server engineering and maintenance. As it was for a retail company, it involved a lot of schlepping hardware from the data center to various facilities and point of sale machines, as well as configuring them, and blowing out the dust that accumulated over the years of them sitting in a retail space.

I didn’t write code at that job though, instead I used other people’s code. It’s been a really fun journey going from working in a server engineering job to naturally falling into being a developer. I feel like it’s kind of natural for me, but I wouldn’t say easy because it’s also really challenging.

What is the best programming language for beginners to learn?

I think the best language for beginners to start with is C# because the compiler is so incredibly intelligent that it can find errors for you, whereas in other languages – like JavaScript – you don’t know when you’ve created an error. In C# there’s no getting around it. You can’t compile your application until it can compile without errors. You might get some runtime errors, but it really does a good job of policing new developers and ensuring that they do things the correct way. For example, the compiler can identify bad code smells.

[C#] does a good job of policing new developers and ensuring that they do things the correct way.

Why do you think Treehouse is a good option for students who want to learn .NET?

As you’re going to continue learning over the years via online resources anyway, I think learning with Treehouse from the get go is a good option because it allows you to get into that frame of mind and learning style early on. You can then stick with it until you’ve been doing it for ten years and you’re an expert.

How could businesses like Sembit benefit from using Treehouse?

I have been focusing partially on Treehouse’s more beginner courses, but it can also be a helpful tool for people in senior positions. They’re often responsible for teaching a specific skill or language to juniors as that type of training is usually done in-house. Paired programming and having senior developers code review junior developers’ work are pretty standard practices in the industry. So if Treehouse can take on that role, that frees up time for the senior developers. I also think that Treehouse can be useful for established development organizations to help train and level up junior developers into senior positions.

What do you read or learn outside of technology that helps you on a daily basis?

I’m a self-help junkie so I read a lot of Tim Ferriss and other random self-help books. Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy and Getting Things Done by David Allen are favorites of mine. I also read Ferriss’s blog pretty frequently.

What advice would you give to aspiring developers?

My number one piece of advice would be to have fun and try to focus on finding out what you like to do and the type of code you like to write. There’s so many things you can do from server only applications – that have no UI at all – to 100% UI work, and everything in between. Just have fun and figure out what you want to do.

My number one piece of advice would be to have fun and try to focus on finding out what you like to do and the type of code you like to write.

Be sure to check out Dean’s new workshop on Treehouse: Become a Visual Studio Power User. Visual Studio is a powerful IDE (integrated development environment) and one of Microsoft’s most popular development tools. In this workshop, you’ll start on your way to becoming a Visual Studio Power User and unlock the true power of Visual Studio. 

Connect with Dean on Twitter.


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