Web Developer and Marketing Technologist
Place of Work:
UVA McIntire School of Commerce
Industry or area of focus:
I focus on web development and technology within the MarTech [Marketing Technology] stack to help organizations reach audiences and expand engagement.
What got you into Web Design/Development/working on the web?
I started my career as a communications and design professional focusing on content creation, graphic design, and marketing. I realized that my work as a communicator was dependent on the digital tools used to reach my audience – graphic design for websites and social media, content generation for web, SEO to reach target audiences. I started to gravitate more toward the technology side of marketing and solving technical problems in the MarTech space.
What does a typical day or week look like for you? What sort of things do you do?
A typical week involves managing multiple long-term website projects, enhancing existing sites with new components, routine updates and maintenance tasks, content strategy, SEO, and generating analytics reports to keep stakeholders updated on the effectiveness of site features and deployed technology.
What types of web technologies do you work with most often?
I work with a variety of modern frameworks and marketing technology daily. These include JS frameworks like Next and Nuxt, WordPress and Drupal CMS (headless and non-headless deployments), REST APIs for third-party integrations, custom APIs built in Node and Express, CI/CD pipelines, MongoDB and MySQL servers, and enterprise technology such as Chatbots and Sales Force.
What is your favorite thing about your job?
The favorite part of my job is building and deploying applications to help my team elevate their marketing and communications efforts. I get to work on projects to help the user – whether it’s engaging landing pages to delight visitors of a marketing campaigns, or internal applications for process improvements; my work is at the intersection of the human-technology interaction.
What do you wish you could change about your job?
Not much actually. I think the hardest part about my job is convincing stakeholders that a new technology, web application, feature, etc… is a worthwhile investment for achieving organizational priorities. When you work in higher-ed, you don’t have a tangible goal like revenue to drive adoption and innovation.
Where do you see your section of the web development/design/etc industry going?
The marketing industry is heavily dependent on technology and rapidly adopting new ways to communicate with their users and customers. Data is continuing to play a strong role in the industry, and I think it will become an even bigger part of the experience we provide to site users. In my work, we’ve already started to provide tailored website experiences based on the identity of the user – I think hyper-personalization and a data driven approach to web development will become the new norm.
What technology and/or skill do you wish you learned before you entered the industry?
Design patterns – both for web design and software development. It’s helpful when you’re starting out because it allows you to read other people’s code and distinguish the best solutions and implementations from the so-so ones. Following design patterns means your code is more maintainable and you don’t have to reinvent the wheel on common problems. The same concept applies in UI/UX design, because you always want to tap into existing heuristics to help your users navigate your app.
What are you looking to learn or what skill are you looking to build next?
I’m currently focusing on data engineering skills and working on more server-side projects. I think the products we build as developers will require more sophisticated understanding of data models when building websites. Users are already expecting very tailored and personalized experiences on the applications they use. Google’s launch of GA4 is a good example of this shift in web analytics and the need for developers to have some data engineering skills to use services like BigQuery to tap into that GA4 data. For designers, that could mean thinking about ways to tailor the app or website to the preferences of a single user rather than the generic visitor.
What questions should I have asked that I didn’t?
What do you need to do to be successful and stay relevant in this industry?
Continuously learn new skills. While the skills required in more traditional roles in IT have not changed, that has been the opposite in the web industry. In web development there is no time to rest on your laurels; there will always be a new framework that will replace a popular one or a new design system that users will come to expect in your applications. Having a growth mindset is very important to grow in your career.
What would you tell someone to do who’s looking to get into the industry? How should they best prepare themselves?
When I first got into web development, what helped me was to focus on learning just enough to start building something. It’s too easy to get stuck on the hamster wheel of tutorials, videos, and courses. What has worked for me is to pick a project and then learning the technology along the way. Another skill I suggest picking up quickly is reading documentation. Start with MDN and then dive deeper into your chosen framework (React, Nuxt, etc…), there is no better substitute than the docs when trying out a new framework.
Anything else you’d like to tell future designers, developers and web people?
Try to balance the need to specialize, while also broadening your exposure to the full stack, and not just the technical aspects but the other facets of the web like UI/UX, content management, analytics, etc…; It will make you a better developer, designer, and web person if you can communicate across all the disciplines. Also, don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things. My favorite part of being a developer and working in this industry is the rapidly evolving nature of the technology and skills. There’s always a new framework to learn or a better way to solve a problem.
Is there a way people can get in contact with you to ask questions etc?
LinkedIn is a good way to reach me: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sakibahmed91/
Last Question: If you had to be a zombie and you had to eat someone’s brains, whose would it be and why?
That’s a tough one, I would probably have to pick Ilya Sutskever the Co-Founder of OpenAI. I think what he and his team have done with GPT-4 and DALLE2 are incredible and there’s huge potential for those technologies to reshape the web and the products we can create in the future.