Welcome Alex Brashear - React Full Stack Developer And Builder Of Things

Revelry Labs

Unleashing Human Potential with Technology

Welcome Alex Brashear – React Full Stack Developer and Builder of Things

Introduction

Hi there! I’m Alex Brashear, and I’ve been a software developer for around five years or so now. I started off doing native iOS development, working to make mobile apps and from there I’ve since drifted into working on a lot of React and React Native front-end development. I’ve also worked on a bit of backend stuff too, using tools like SQL, MongoDB, and DynamoDB.

 

What stood out about Revelry that drove your decision to join the company?

The main thing that excited me and made me want to work at Revelry is that I really enjoy working somewhere where I feel like I have an effect on the creation of the product. I like to feel connected to the products that are created. At a lot of big corporate developers, when you’re working somewhere like that, you’re just kind of developer number 500, working on small features, a small cog in the machine. But I felt like at Revelry, you really get the chance to be a part of the process and make your mark on the products that you help to build. You get to have a lot of input and be able to make yourself heard when you have ideas about how we should build out these things and things like that. To me, that’s a huge positive and made me really want to work at Revelry.

 

What was the path to Revelry?

So, I’ve taken kind of an interesting path getting here! After finishing college, I ended up attending a bootcamp style program and that was where I learned how to do iOS development. From there I actually ended up working for the company that hosted the bootcamp, doing development work. After a while doing that, I kind of got pushed into the education side of things, which was really interesting and something that I didn’t expect to enjoy as much as I did. I worked for a while to help build out their curriculum for iOS development, and actually did some work as both a teaching assistant and as an instructor. At one point, I even traveled across part of the state to teach high schoolers and under/unemployed adults. Eventually, I ended up leaving that company to help start up another software development education company where we taught remote web development. We covered content all the way from the basics of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript up to full-stack React. Following that, I moved on to freelance software development work working for a variety of clients, where I got to work on a variety of interesting projects. Eventually, I wanted something more stable, which led me to look at Revelry. It seemed like a really good fit, and here I am!

 

Why do you do what you do?

This is a question that I’ve thought about a lot, and it’s something that I’m really passionate about. I think really what it boils down to is that I love to create things. So whether that’s in my hobbies, in my work, or whatever else I do, I enjoy feeling like I’m building something with my hands. Coding may not be what you think of immediately when you think of building something with your hands, but for me it fulfills the same feeling as going outside and taking a bunch of lumber and building something out of it-  it’s that same feeling of creation. That’s why I can’t really imagine doing anything else.

 

What are your favorite things to talk about?

I find myself really getting invested into lore and world-building, such as with video games or books. Getting lost in the stories and systems of how these different worlds work really fuels my creativity and makes me want to create my own, and it’s something I get really passionate about. I’m also a big fan of talking about cooking, and I’m always on the hunt for exciting new recipes!

 

Any favorite movies or favorite books?

I would have to say my favorite book is The Stand by Stephen King. I’ve loved that book ever since I read it, and I’m a big Stephen King fan in general. As far as movies go, I think that the Shawshank Redemption is probably my favorite. It’s just a super powerful movie, and I love watching it every time I see it.

 

Since you’ve been involved in software development education – What would you tell people about it that they might not know?

I think a big thing that I’ve learned is that software development is something anyone can do. Growing up, I always felt like software development was something that you had to have all this specialized education to do, that it wasn’t something that you could necessarily just strike out and do on your own. Having gone through a boot camp program and having taught software development to both high schoolers as well as unemployed and underemployed adults, what I really learned is that you don’t have to have a specialized background to do software development work. It’s more about being able to teach yourself to learn the topics, to Google things, to be able to read documentation, to be able to put yourself in the mindset for software development so that you can pick up what you need to build on. You start with the little things that you’ve learned and then go from there, and it’s not this unassailable black box that no one can get in unless they have taken computer science courses. I think what I loved the most about teaching software development is that I was able to see people that had little to no experience go from that to building websites in a matter of months. That was really uplifting to see and be a part of.

 

Do you have any kind of tips and tricks that you would pass along as to where to get started in software development?

There are so many online resources out there now with things like YouTube and Udemy, which makes it really easy to get started learning as a beginner. I think that’s a great thing to recommend to anyone getting started because you don’t necessarily have to find someone to teach you. There’s all kinds of tutorials that will take you through building simple projects, step by step, and once you’ve built enough of those little projects, you can take the skills that you learn making those, put them all together, and you can start building bigger and bigger projects and learning more and more. Software developer skills really are just a big box of Lego pieces and you learn how each one works,  and then put them together to create new things.

Another tip I would pass along is this- learning how to continuously learn is critical. It’s a huge part of being a developer because you have to constantly keep updating yourself, learning new things, building on the blocks that you’ve already mastered.

 

What are some of your interests?

So much of what I’m interested in really falls under the umbrella of creating things. Over the past year or so, I’ve really gotten into 3D printing which has been good for me because I’m someone that would love to be artistic, but I’m just not. I feel like I have the artistic mindset, but my hands don’t agree. Whereas with 3D printing I can design and create models of things I’d like to print using software, and then the printer does all the artistic part of actually creating the finished piece. It’s nice being able to create things that way.

I’ve also really gotten into cooking, and I’ve become really, really passionate about it. Being able to make and try new dishes is very satisfying. Gardening is also something that I’ve gotten into. We have a nice little bit of land up here, so I built a little garden bed and I’ve been growing some kale and peppers and onions and other things. It’s really, really rewarding to be able to plant something and watch it grow (and then eventually eat it!). 

Other than that, books, video games, and tabletop games like D&D are also hobbies that I’m into. I also really enjoy world-building. I love to think up ideas for these worlds and try to come up with all the different countries and different races and magic and everything else for them. It’s another thing that helps scratch that creative itch.

 

Why did you decide to learn to program?

As a child, I had several different things that I wanted to be when I grew up. However, the thing that was always in the back of my mind since I’ve been playing video games since I can remember, was learning how to make them. That’s kinda just stuck with me my whole life. When I started college, originally I had a few different ideas about things that I wanted to do. I entertained the idea of being a veterinarian or or even trying to do med school. Eventually, I took some computer science classes, got pulled into that, and changed my major to CS pretty quick, and never looked back. Once I started coding for real, more than just having an idea that I wanted to make games in my head, I knew there was nothing else that I wanted to do.

 

Have you discovered anything new about yourself during your time at Revelry?

The first project that I was brought onto at Revelry used a completely different tech stack than I had used in the past. Coming into the project, it was kind of a scramble at first to start learning this different tech that was completely foreign to me. What I found out was that the learning I’ve done for software development in the past really prepared me for this because I was really able to pick up on these new technologies very quickly and start making contributions to the team. I feel like I’m really comfortable with it now. I think it really showed me that I can pick up new technologies really quickly if I need to, which is a really good confidence builder when there are a large amount of different potential projects that we may need to use different tech stacks to complete. Being able to adapt like that is a really good feeling.

 

What is your programming language of choice?

I’ve got to say I’ve really come to love JavaScript over the last few years that I’ve been using it. I learned a bit of web development before I started doing it professionally but I didn’t really care for it at the time. I enjoyed the HTML and CSS portions, but the JavaScript side of things was never my favorite compared to other programming languages I had used. Ever since I’ve got involved with React I’ve loved it, and that’s made my feelings toward JavaScript change a lot as well. I find that it’s just so versatile. There are just so many different things that you can do with it that I really, really enjoy working with it now.

One thing that I love about it is the flexibility that it gives you. Since Javascript has been used so frequently and it’s so popular there are so many tools that you can integrate with it to do almost anything that you want to do. That is very useful because if you have a use case that you need a library or framework for, there’s almost a one hundred percent chance that you can find something that’ll work with JavaScript, which comes in really handy.

As far as something that I dislike about JavaScript, is that it doesn’t give you a lot of warnings, which I’m sure is a pretty common complaint with a lot of developers that come from more rigid languages with more rigid rules. If you do something wrong, whatever code you wrote, JavaScript will attempt to run it. Then you’ll run into errors at runtime, but there’s no nice little compile-time errors to tell you “Hey, you should do this over here!”. It’s more, “Hey, this behavior is not working right at all, so now you need to go through and figure out what you did!”.

 

If you were explaining React Native or React to a new developer who has not done anything aside from maybe web work, how would you explain React?

How I see React at its most basic form is a toolbox. It’s a toolbox for JavaScript that lets you build reusable components for building a website. So let’s say you had a header that you wanted to use on multiple pages. You could build a header component using React, and then you just use that React component on each page where you want it to be where you want it to appear. There’s a lot of advantages to that. It helps cut down on the amount of code that you need to write. Instead of writing JavaScript code that applies to a whole page, you can write JavaScript that applies to the component itself and its functionality. Not only that, but you can break apart the design into the component as well. So when you build out a component with React it kind of encapsulates its HTML, which is like its skeleton, and you can also put the design and functionality for the component in there as well. You completely encapsulate all the things that make up that component inside the component itself, which makes the components easily reusable and easy to combine with other components. 

 

What non-digital product could you not live without?

Books, definitely. Being able to learn new things and stimulate my mind through reading books is absolutely critical to me, and I can’t imagine living without them.

 

What is the last book you read?

I believe the last book I read was The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (again). It’s the first part of a fantasy book series that I really love, called the Kingkiller Chronicles. I’m still waiting on the third book in the trilogy, so hopefully someday that’ll come out!

 

What is your favorite slack channel at Revelry?

I’ve really enjoyed the Rev Beats channel. I love listening to music, so seeing everybody posting all their favorite music has been super cool. I’ve gotten a ton of good recommendations from there as well!