The Dev-X Project is a series of features with industry leaders sharing their developer experience insights. In each “episode”, we ask an industry leader 10 interesting questions about DX, collect their responses and insights and share them with you.
Sunil is the Founder and CEO at In Plain English and Head of Content at Bit. He was born and raised in Nottingham - home of Robin Hood. Outside of work, Sunil likes to read (current books are ‘In Praise of Shadows’, ‘The Medium is the Message’, and ‘On the Shortness of Life’), watch football (his team is Liverpool FC), stay fit, write poetry, and curate Spotify playlists.
We appreciate Sunil sharing some of his DX insights and perspectives with us and we’re excited to share them with the community.
When did you decide to become a developer?
What drove me to become a developer was a desire to become a better person.
My first foray into coding started when I was around 12-13 years old - I used to build Pokemon websites after school and I loved it! I remember thinking how cool it was that I could put something online and friends and other people around the world could access it. At that point, I saw coding as a hobby, a hobby that I didn’t cultivate into adulthood.
Fast-forward to my mid-twenties and I started to research more into what coding might look like as a profession. I was working an office job at the time and was not satisfied with where my life was going. I knew I had more to offer and felt like coding could provide the outlet. From there, I became hooked and, for the next 18 months, spent every waking moment that wasn’t spent at work, learning how to become a developer.
What are the key ingredients to a really good engineering culture?
Humility ranks high for me and that’s not just for engineering, but work cultures in general. Team members should be willing and ready to help others, nurturing an environment where nobody feels that a question is too stupid to ask.
I think there are a lot of cliche answers I could give here and, to some extent, I feel that there are many more experienced developers who could answer this better. So one final thing I’ll put forward is that when a team is mission-orientated, and that team are all singing from the same hymn sheet, amazing things can happen.
Let’s say you’re building something from scratch. What does your ideal stack look like?
Currently, I’d opt to work with React components. I’d use Bit to create those components. If I was building a website, I’d likely reach for Next.js.
Tell us about an epic engineering fail you’ve experienced in your career. What did you learn from it?:
During my first developer job, I was tasked with creating a payment gateway for the shop section of a famous athlete’s website. While testing the code, I made loads of card transactions. At the time I could have sworn I was using sandbox account details (ie. fake bank accounts that the API provide for testing). Instead, it turns out that I had been using the client’s real account details and received a few calls from the athlete’s manager, querying why so many transactions had been made, and blocked by their bank.
Far from the typical ‘I deleted the company’s database’, but was still embarrassing enough!
How important is “Developer Experience”? Do you see this as a trend that will evolve into dedicated teams/functions for mainstream tech companies?
As more developers become decision makers in companies, and their influence over what tools and technologies are adopted grows, so does the importance of how tools and technologies are articulated. That articulation comes from excellent documentation, ease of use, and high levels of tech support.
The State of JS 2021/2022 survey found that managing dependencies and code architecture were the top two biggest pain points among developers. Tools that can solve these two issues will inevitably rank high for developer experience, and will become tools that are ripe for adoption.
As for the rise of Developer Experience teams, we’re certainly seeing the rise of positions such as Developer Advocate, which is effectively a synonym for Developer Experience. Those who advocate, do so because they are driven by a desire to provide a better experience than what is currently being offered. This sounds a bit wishy-washy, but the fact that such a position exists today is borne out of company realization that developer experience is growing in significance.
Let’s take the mono-repo question once and for all - should you ‘go mono’?
Yes - if you know what you’re doing, and you’re using good tools. The ability to easily split code into composable modules is what can make ‘going mono’ a game-changer.
What will be the hottest dev trend/adopted technology in 2022?
Composable, reusable software, spearheaded by toolchains such as Bit.
Some claim that front-end developers will become irrelevant in the future of no-code tools. Do you see this happening? If so, how soon?
Yes and no; later, rather than sooner. 😅
Share some tips to help remote teams collaborate better.
- Provide time to provide feedback.
- Be asynchronous - if all your work hinges on the reply from a colleague, you need more work.
- Be respectful of each other’s time.
- Be willing to make yourself available to help each other.
- Cultivate shared experiences. This doesn’t have to be through forced group activities, but rather through collaborative work, such as peer programming, presentations, Q&A sessions etc.
Do you want to share anything else? Please share anything you think would be of value to the broader developer community:
I would simply say, be sure to keep checking https://plainenglish.io from time to time. We have some incredible initiatives that we plan to bring to the world in the coming months. This includes a free platform for people looking to learn how to code, and a mental health initiative that aims to provide break down barriers to accessing high quality resources.