The JavaScript Developer: In conversation with Alexandru R. Ghinea

The JavaScript Developer is a series of interviews with JS developers where they share their stories, inspirations and life lessons. This is the second part of the series.

Alexandru R Ghinea

Alexandru’s tryst with development started when he was about 14 and he tried his hand at modifying the Active Recovery Desktop files in Windows 98, to have pictures and blocks that pointed to different files across his PC, instead of having classical Windows icons (and it looked kind of what the new start menu in Windows 8 is today). Then he moved to Flash and Action Script for a while and it worked quite well for him, until they switched to AS3.0. Then he switched back to the HTML-CSS-JS stack but this time with a lot more know-how regarding code structure and micro optimizations and has never looked back since.

His skills range from UX (mainly concept creation, information architecture and front-end development for web and mobile) to development and testing. He is currently the Senior JavaScript Developer at Vauban and has his own startup called Digitally Inkorporated.

Here are the excerpts from the interview:

What made you choose programming as a profession?

At heart, I am a hardware engineer having a degree in Electrical Engineering. During my college years I assembled a team to launch a satellite into space, and we did a lot of digital and analog signal work at a very low level. We even had a program interface for our custom board that could read what the board was measuring in real time and those were just numbers.

Then during one of the presentations we did, it hit me…what about real time data visualization like advanced charts for our platform. Ever since that day, when we had our presentation I remember thinking on how visualizing different layers of data could help prevent accidents in enclosed and special environments, measurements that had real-time feedback loops hooked to a smartphone etc. I knew then, that software was key for me and I made a switch in my professional career into the software side.

A line or two about the current project you are working on.             

Today I find myself doing a lot of personal projects alongside my day-to-day job.

I have a passion for startups and I am involved in a couple of them like:

  • A new generation of cloud music player with my team in the UK.
  • A new kind of deployment platform exclusively for JS developers because I believe in the community factor as I call it – with my team here in Bucharest.

Tell us something about the first project you worked on: what was it, how you went about figuring it out, the obstacles you faced, the outcome, etc.

One of my first projects was during the high school years and it involved a fusion of technologies like Flash, Action Script, HTML and JS for the client side and PHP for backend. The purpose of that project was to showcase the most important figures in human history. It had real time 3D (which was big for that time), a lot of media material and a nice history tree with all the important personalities. I was responsible for all the technology stack and implementation. I knew each technology fairly well at that time but the main challenge was to make it all work together nicely! The project was a successful collaboration between teachers, historians and fellow colleagues. That project was submitted to Oracle and I received a nice award for that project. Looking back, it was a miracle for me to master that entire tech stack and still pull it off. I guess trial and error plus a high dose of commitment can do wonders for any project

What would be top 3 resources that you would recommend beginners-level JavaScript programmers to learn advanced stuff about JavaScript?

Although I am a Chrome fan, I highly recommend Mozilla’s MDN Website for the theoretical part, Codecademy for practicing and Tutsplus JavaScript Fundamentals course to brush up your knowledge about JavaScript.

If there is something you would like to say to fellow programmers to inspire them to code in JavaScript, what would it be?

As one very successful software architect once said, JavaScript is the most misunderstood programming language in the world, because of its flexibility. Therefore development can be cumbersome at times, but never give up because of that. Take advantage of that flexibility and start looking at the work of other devs out there to see how they solve common problems. You can of course go to JS meetings in your town or watch some on YouTube. Seeing the sense of commitment and interest from the community will feed your appetite and inspire you to go further. The real purpose here is to produce code that solves problems and enables people to make more engaging apps.

What is the biggest criticism you have faced till date?

I never was the typical developer sort of speak. I mingled with a lot of technologies, made hardware projects etc.  In my mind everything was and still is possible as long as I am committed to that idea. This resulted in a lot of research time allocated on how a particular technology integrates with many others, which made me unsuited for a specific niche. A colleague of mine said this was detrimental to my professional life and that I should stop following this trend immediately. Of course I never really listened to that comment.

What is the biggest compliment you have got till date?

The biggest compliment that I have received ever was the one that sounded like this:

“You are a one man team, we may be behind schedule because we are short on men, but the competition doesn’t have a man like you”. This was said to me during a very difficult period in the project’s lifecycle when we barely had a working prototype and we were short on money. That compliment changed my focus and the way I tend to see teams interact with me.

What do you do when you are not writing codes?

I watch a lot of JS conferences online and read about new emerging JS frameworks or how to optimize and manage my code. I also love playing video games and watching movies. I am a big media consumer!

3 Apps you cannot do without and why?

This is a hard one! But I’ll try my best to answer…One app that I really love is Copy, it’s fast and offers an insane amount of space and is also available for every major platform. Trillian is also great for me because it helps manage my contacts no matter what service they are using and lastly Transmit because it helps me easily manage my websites.

Two gadgets you cannot do without and why?

I just love my HTC One, has a lot of great features and an amazing build quality. The other one would be my MacBook for its portability, speed and battery life.

Which fictional character you love the most and why?

I must say Tony Stark is the best pick for me.  He doesn’t hide under a mask, sure he wears the Iron Man suit, but everyone knows who he is. I also like him because he is very inventive and crazy super rich. And while his suit makes a lot of buzz, his best attribute is really his intellect. He can kick ass with his suit yes, but I find him more enjoyable in his human appearances because of his boldness, humor and just-watch-me-do-it attitude.

Your favorite game (online or otherwise) and why?

I’m not a huge fan of online games. I mostly like games that leave your mind wondering. I must say I really enjoyed The Last of Us. I think it does an amazing job in exploring the depths of the characters and the world around them. For me it is the best game ever published to date.

Who or what is your biggest motivation?

My biggest motivation is to become one of the best JavaScript developers in the world and to start making contributions to the language specifications by the time I hit 35. I am aware of the emerging Dart language, which is faster in some synthetic tests than JS. If the world adopts Dart in 5 years’ time, I’ll switch to that and build from there on, but we will never know for sure. I think this goal is doable considering the huge time frame at my disposal.

What key traits do you think are needed to be a successful JavaScript developer?

The willingness to learn day and night, to never settle for one solution, to constantly look at what others are doing and finally to get involved in the community. You need to fully immerse yourself, because of the abundance of ways you can achieve something pattern wise and because of the flexibility that this language provides.

What would be a dream project that you would like to develop in JavaScript?

What I would really like to develop is a service of some kind or something that helps people in general. Something enjoyable for day-to-day use and at the same time a really useful tool. I can’t really think of a theme for the project but I would aim for something like a social network plus something extra to give meaning to content created there. Because content without people is useless, I think this would really test my skills from UX, JS front-end architecture all the way to the backend (something like Node.js).

One life lesson you would like to share with developers who are new to the field.

Treat programming as a way to express yourself just like any other spoken language out there, experiment your approach and constantly question things, especially things done by others. There is never one solution to a problem. Don’t be proud of what you did, be happy with what you have achieved. Being proud is a trap for your own ego. Release yourself from that trap and let others see what you did, explain if questioned why you did it and move on from there.

Have someone you’d like to see featured in this interview series? Add them in the comment section below.

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