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Speaker interview: Alice Bartlett

Speaker interview: Alice Bartlett

About Alice

Alice is a front-end developer on GOV.UK, the single point of access to the UK Government’s digital services.

What project have you worked on recently that has really excited you?

I love coding, but doing it feels more like scratching an itch for hours than a source of excitement. Building the Tampon Club website was really exciting. It’s not technically interesting at all, it’s just a two page website, but I knew lots of my female friends were going to like it. I built it for them, really.

What piece of advice do you wish you’d received when you first started out in development?

One day all this worrying is going to make you better at your job than other people, but you’ve got to learn when to stop listening to yourself. I used to worry a lot when I first started out. Worry I wasn’t good enough, worry I was slowing people down, worry I was stupid, worry I was doing the wrong thing. Now I’m older I still worry a lot but I’ve gotten better at knowing when my anxieties are worth listening to and when they aren’t. Sometimes the worrying has helped me spot things that other people haven’t noticed yet.

What’s your favourite underrated tool/piece of software/resource for development?

This is such a lame answer, but I use Mac’s Preview app for so much image editing stuff that it’s not supposed to be used for. I’m forever using it to crop and splice images for some front-end work to get them to just the right format or shape. There’s actually not much you can’t do with it.

What new technology are you most interested in learning?

I’m looking forward to using ES6. At GDS we don’t have a lot of chances to use new shiny things. GOV.UK is mostly a website for looking at words which is, in the main, a solved problem. Making a website that can be used by as many people as possible is still a time consuming and valuable aspiration to have but it doesn’t often require new shinies.

How do you balance work and life, with so many new FE dev tools coming out all the time?

I actually don’t bother keeping up with the latest in front-end. There is so much stuff for me to discover already, 25 years of web history to pick over and learn from. When I know all of that, maybe I’ll start voraciously picking up every new thing and trying it, but right now I’m still trying to work out how to write simple, elegant JavaScript another human can just look at and run with.

As for work life balance, coding isn’t a hobby for me, it’s a thing people pay me to do, so I do it in work hours. This is helped greatly by my current job, where nobody works outside of 9am-6pm unless they really have to, and then they are encouraged to take that time back from work. Outside of the office, sometimes a project will benefit from having a bit of programming thrown in, and I really like those occasions, but mostly my hobbies of watching TV and sewing don’t require a lot of code writing.

What new/upcoming browser features do you think will most change the future of web development?

I’m sure people have given this answer to for the last five years of being asked, but the web is slowly closing the gap between native and browser. ServiceWorker is the latest feature to move us forwards. Five years ago when I worked on the Financial Times’ HTML5 app we thought the gap would be closed a lot quicker than it has been. Feature-wise, browsers have come a long way and are very slowly catching up. It might be another 5 years before we get there, or we might never. (Sorry that’s a massive downer to end this interview on! :(((( )

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