Senior developers and project leads need to nimbly move between projects as they advise sales, developer, and other teams. We spoke with Brandon Williams who gave us peek at what his typical day is like as a Technical Project Architect, and how having a reliable local development environment, like DDEV, makes a big difference to his day.
The technical project architect
As experienced developers grow into leadership positions, they often take on advisory roles to share knowledge and wisdom they’ve gained over the years. In an agency, the senior web developer’s responsibilities often span multiple teams. On the one hand, they work with sales teams to ensure budgets are reasonable; and on the other hand, they work with development teams on implementation, sometimes tackling the toughest problems.
Brandon Williams at Interpersonal Frequency (IF) is a Technical Project Architect or TPA for short. IF is a fully remote team based out of Washington, D.C. They focus on serving government and public entities with data-driven design and development. In addition to custom services, they use their in-house analytics tool, Voice of Citizen to collect insights into user needs and identify where they can improve designs.
A big part of his role as a TPA involves working on multiple projects in one day. As a “client facing developer,” he explains he’s responsible for “gathering business requirements, sizing project budgets, writing project scopes.” And when he has time, he pitches in on development, too.
Switching fast and often
Brandon switches between projects more often than a “typical” developer. He moves between projects and proposals in various stages of development during his workday. “I rarely have more than 30 mins on one thing,” Brandon explained that especially in his role as a TPA, he has to move more quickly than he did as a developer.
His job starts with assessing potential risks in sales proposals. “I do a pre-sales gut check on estimates to make sure proposals are reasonable.” Then he moves onto recently signed contracts to provide technical scope and budget. For those, he researches tools and extensions, like Drupal-contributed modules or external libraries to see what features are already available that match a project’s needs. He sizes the project and prepares an outline of a recommended approach. Once the strategy is defined, he either works with other developers on it or builds the solution himself.
Sometimes Brandon needs to jump in quick, “I have to help somebody on a site, or troubleshoot something or maybe jump in for some advanced algorithm or logic task.” In that case, he said there’s no alternative. “Setting up an environment for three hours? It’s just not an option. Without tools like DDEV, I would not be able to be successful for sure.”
How things have changed
“I remember years ago if you were picking up a new project or switching projects you had half a day that was just gone. It was miserable, especially if there was something urgent. A twenty-minute task could take three hours,” Brandon said. Things changed quite a bit when he started using DDEV, “Being able to switch sites quickly, and even being able to have multiple running at once; it’s a life-changer.”
He recalls using MAMP to set up environments. That involved “Manually going to the web server and extracting the database. Getting the database in. Trying to connect to settings.php file.” There were many potential points of failure and lots of manual steps to troubleshoot. “And likely a lot of Googling to find out what I did wrong in setting it up.” He said he was “miserable, even if I might not have known that because that was the reality of the situation.” Switching projects became much faster, much easier, and much more reliable when he switched to DDEV.
He likes that DDEV is open source. “You have the benefit of more people and a community behind it.” When he has any questions, he feels they have been answered and addressed. “There’s a strong, intelligent team behind DDEV along with help from the community. The team listens to the feedback and wants to improve the tool while maintaining its flexibility, which is great.”
Brandon emphasized the simplicity of using DDEV. “If you need to get something spun up and work on it, you can do it fairly easily without a lot of trouble. And just get the work done.” With DDEV, “you can focus on building the products, rather than supporting building the products.”
Brandon is looking forward to DrupalCamp Colorado in August 2018. And so is the DDEV team! See you there!