Interview with Ben Adamski, Wed Developer and Consultant for General Assembly
A contributor to the blog, and power user of CloudApp, he’s always discovering new ways to use technology like magic. His hacks make life easier, and his loveable Boston-charm makes him a blast to talk to. (You should see our email threads!)
Here to share his tricks of the trade, Ben offers helpful hints on how he gets so much done....with plenty of time left over for Hogwarts.
Q - How long have you been a developer and how did you get started?
Ben - I’ve been engaged in development for about two years, working in the industry for the past year since graduating from a bootcamp in Boston. I’ve dabbled in some really basic coding before, so in retrospect it’s insane that I never got into web development sooner. I’ve always been a pop- culture- consuming- technophile that loved tinkering with tech and playing with the latest tools. I wish I could go back to my teenage self, open up the terminal, and go “This is your home, you are home now”, but I’m grateful to have found that home at all. So it goes.
Before deciding to take the bootcamp leap, I started doing small freelance projects that I now recognize were mostly editing basic HTML and CSS within templates--something that if I had known what I would be doing now, I would have automated most of that work.
It’s what got me excited about coding and after working through some free resources, I decided that a bootcamp was the best way to ramp up that progress and get thrown head first into the industry. That whole introduction to web development and jumping into a boot camp all happened in a few months, and in a really rough patch of my life; the past two years have been a hurricane for me. My only advice for those looking into the same path is to spend as much time as possible digging into free resources themselves, learning as much as they can on their own, and setting themselves up with plenty of financial buffer for `x` months of training and `y` months of job hunting.
Q - What would you say your “superpower” is?
Ben - Connecting people. Whether it’s networking for myself, connecting people to each other or mentors I think they would get along with — I just love communicating with, learning from, and connecting with others. I used to be in food service where I became an official ombudsman (I had to look it up when I first heard it, too), constantly defusing conflicts and facilitating more effective communication between employees and management.
In tech specifically, communicating effectively is one of the most critical, tough skills to master—but it’s something I’m always excited to put time into. I love hearing people’s stories, the narratives that make up who they are, and I always find that the more attention paid to narratives, the easier it is to connect with them—no matter the gap.
Q - What are some favorite “hacks” you’ve discovered that make you better at what you do?
Ben - Some of my favorite things I’ve picked up,mostly from people like Ari Meisel and Tim Ferriss, are more like heuristics that I’ve built up and never really compiled into a list—(though now, I want to). For example, for just about anything (tasks, emails), sticking to the three D’s (Delegate, Defer, Delete) is huge. Pick which one, get back to work, move on), or not agreeing to meetings that lack clear objectives or end times, investing time into time-saving, prioritize > overworking, maintaining and using metal models like GTD (Getting Things Done), GTP (Get to The Point), 80/20 rule, etc....
Q - Where do you currently work and what do love about what you’re creating?
Ben - I currently work as a consultant at General Assembly, creating, maintaining and delivering teaching materials with a focus on preparing developers for entry-level work as Full Stack Web Developers.
What a long-winded PR answer! The Ben answer: I get to live in a loop of teaching web development, learning not only from other experienced developers, but also learning the most from what developers teach. That awesome cycle of teaching and learning is definitely one of my favorite parts about what I do now. The best part ? Connecting with all sorts of beginners from diverse backgrounds, all driven by different reasons—and, working to show them all that with enough persistence and the right growth mindset, they can accomplish anything. Watching that light flicker on behind someone’s eyes when a concept resonates with them, or they build something cool is the singular best part of my job.
Q - What are the workflows or hacks you use that involve CloudApp?
Ben - I use CloudApp constantly, whether to quickly explain or show something to someone else, quickly share code snippets, or to collect GIFs from the web. I’ve used a ruby script on occasion to upload files directly to CloudApp from the terminal which can be really nifty for the right use case.
Almost every time I digitally communicate with someone, whether to explain something or report a bug and I couldprovide a supplementary visual with CloudApp, I do it. It takes so little time and always saves much that would otherwise be spent in back-and-forths of clarifying questions.
One of my favorite and most frequent hacks involving CloudApp would be using it to make very quick and easy reminders, then saving them in my calendar app of choice (fantastical). In one effortless swoop, I’ve set a reminder or event that I know I’ll see, and I’ve included contextual data for it in an image or GIF linked right in the event.
Q - Most surprising thing you’ve learned in your career?
Ben - I’m constantly surprised by Impostor Syndrome in myself and others. It amazes me how easy it is for brilliant, talented and driven people in my industry to completely doubt their abilities.
Q - Links to a favorite project you’ve worked on that most people may not know about?
Ben - Most of what I’ve worked on in the past year consists of teaching materials and internal documentation, but despite my hot and cold consistency with it, my “Today I Learned repo on Github” is still my favorite. I only made it recently, inspired by ThoughtBots version, but I love sharing things that I learn, and look forward to filling it up bit by bit, and looking back on it years later—if only to be able see a measure how I’ve learned and grown.
Q - What is the most time-saving or project streamlining tip you can share with others in your field?
Ben - Work in increments. This is something that I still struggle with, but days when I follow these heuristics are always better for productivity and happiness (and sanity). The more slowly and carefully you approach and resolve your problems, the smaller steps you take, the less time you will spend going backwards to fix sloppy mistakes. Going slow is hard, it feels like wasting time, it feels like you’ll never finish and very few environments are going to be wholly supportive of “work slower, work better” in the truest sense—but you can always go a little slower, take a little more time pseudo coding and planning out your approach before diving in and hacking your way to the elation that is “fixed!”, “delivered” or “feature complete”. It’s incredibly hard to stick to, but it will always yield a better product.
Follow Ben on Twitter for more thoughtful insights into coding and connections, CloudApp hacks, and a startling amount of Marvel Universe information. For more productivity, you can also give CloudApp a try for free!