How does one get to becoming a frontend engineer? There are many paths. I went the route of obtaining a four-year degree in Computer Science from a university. Many of my peers have taken a different route and are self-taught, attended bootcamps, or have taken a few programming courses or any combination of learning how to code. Each individual has something to bring to the table, no matter what their background may be.

How did I specifically choose frontend engineer over engineering other parts of the stack? I felt more drawn to writing code for the UI (user interface). I worked as a fullstack engineer at the beginning of my career, where I also wrote server-side code, and I didn’t seem to enjoy it as much as client-side code. 

A few years into my professional career, I began to be more involved in working with UX designers and attending research sessions with end-users. I loved hearing our end-users’ experiences so I wanted to be closer to what the end-user sees, which is the frontend.

Frontend engineer job overview

Each company’s frontend engineer may have different cadences, but I will share what my experience looks like.

Some common job responsibilities:

  • Work closely on a team among other engineers (both frontend, backend, and full stack), a product manager, an engineering lead, and a designer

  • Write clean, maintainable code along with robust automated tests

  • Identify opportunities for code quality improvements

  • Create user interfaces alongside user experience designers

  • Mentor other awesome engineers

  • Review code written by other engineers

A common misconception about engineers is that we are coding all the time. I like to say that we spend about 5% of our time actually writing code. 

The bulk of the time spent is around brainstorming, specifically thinking about how to best write the code and considering implications of the code we are writing, and most importantly, testing. Testing and writing automated tests is what gives us confidence in the code we are delivering to our end-users.

Here’s a rough outline of my week

  • Every day
    - Participate in standup both asynchronously via Slack and live via Zoom with my team to learn what everyone did yesterday, what everyone is doing today, and whether anyone has any blockers
    - Work on the ticket that is assigned to me

  • Beginning of the week
    - Start on new work that was previously planned for the week; or, continue on carryover work from the previous week
    - Attend department meeting to hear what other teams are working on for the week or to see demos of what teams have worked on previously
    - Meet with my manager in a one-on-one 

  • Middle of the week
    - Meet with rest of frontend engineering team to discuss any frontend-specific issues or topics that come up during the week

  • End of week
    - Meet with team to discuss what we worked on during the week
    - Plan with team for work for the next week
    - Look forward to a well-deserved weekend!

And here are some occasional happenings

  • Retrospectives
    These happen once a month and are an opportunity for the team to reflect on the work accomplished since the last retrospective. It is also a time for the team to give kudos, acknowledge pain points, and create action plans to better support the team.

  • Hackathons
    This is a great way to work with other people at the company and to work on something completely separate from the day-to-day work of the team. Hackathons happen once a quarter. (Fun fact: this blog was written as part of a hackathon!)

  • Focus week
    Another event that happens once a quarter is focus week. This is dedicated time to work on something that would benefit the team or something that would improve code quality.

  • Social time
    This is my favorite activity since I think it’s important to set aside some non-work related social time with teammates. We bring our whole selves to work so it makes sense to get to know who your teammates are outside of how they do work.

My “day in the life” as a frontend engineer has varied a bit from company to company. I’m curious to hear what others’ days or weeks are like. Drop me a note!

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