Coffee Catch Ups: Dan Harris
Updated: Jan 29, 2020
By Simon Cook
Dan Harris is a Front End Engineer with HappyCo and is well known in the Adelaide tech scene for his high energy presentations at local events. In addition to his day job, Dan is also co-organiser of both the Frontend ADL meetup (@frontenddevadl) and the Heaps Good Dev (@heapsgooddev) Adelaide Developer community.
I recently sat down with Dan to discuss his upcoming talk at DDD Adelaide on 23 November 2019. We talked career left turns, why it’s great being a Front End Engineer and his advice for new IT Graduates starting out in the industry.
First things first – best coffee shops and what are you drinking?
This is my 3rd coffee for today so I’m on the short black. Where do I start? So many good coffee spots. We’re at Fair Espresso today, but La Moka in Peel Street is a staple. Oh, and our office espresso machine at HappyCo deserves a mention!
Can you tell me about your career path into the tech industry?
I didn’t start out with a career in tech in mind – although I did play around building flash websites and game levels when I was younger. Straight out of school I initially did a marketing degree – from there I started managing bars, travelling, enjoying life.
At a certain point, things changed and I decided to go back and do an IT degree at Flinders University. Whilst studying, I landed an internship in Federal Government doing Data Analytics and Integration. At first I didn’t think that I’d like to be an ‘on the tools’ technical type, but after a little while I found I really enjoyed it.
After a brief stint with Government, I decided to branch out into the big bad world of Consulting. I joined Taptu (a local boutique IT Consultancy) in a development role. Through Taptu, I gained some great experience in consulting - broadening my skills and experience across both technical and non-technical aspects of the role. It was also where I realised my passion for Front End Development... which ultimately led me to my current role with HappyCo.
What is your favourite thing about being a Front End Engineer?
I really like being visual and creative.... but I also like building systems. I find front-end matches this mix really well. It’s really cool to be able to build a well-architected system, but also be able to show a pretty UI to someone.
You might build some amazing technical feature that can search a gazillion data points with sub-millisecond optimised database queries, but your general customer is rarely impressed. Whereas, as a Front End Engineer, you can create some shiny button animation and people are like; WHOA!!?!?!
What are you most excited about when it comes to the future of your field?
I’m really excited to see the development around AR / XR (especially the web variants). It’s going to be interesting to see how these kind of technologies change the way we interact with everyday applications.
Something else I’m excited to see is if we have another proliferation of Dreamweaver-esque app/web builders.... what that enables people to do and how these technologies affect Engineers.
What career advice would you give a graduate about to finish a degree in IT/engineering?
1. Experience different areas of IT to find your fit – get some exposure to technical and non-technical aspects of the industry to find your aptitude and interests. If you don’t like a certain part of the industry, don’t worry, try another area (there are many).
2. Get involved – possibly a bit selfish (from running a meetup and community), but try and hear from other people in the local industry about their experiences and how they got to where they are now. Meetups (or other communities) are a great place to try this.
3. Have a chat and find mentors – these people can be vital in helping you develop your career, giving you insight into the industry (and graduate roles that might be around). For the price of a coffee, or other beverage, its invaluable to take someone out for a chat.
Can you tell us a little about your talk “On the Origin of CSS : Evolution of a Stylesheet” at DDD Adelaide?
So the idea for my talk came a while ago when I was looking into the box-sizing property and the reasons behind its oddities - turns out IE was ahead of the game!
I thought, I've previously heard a bit of the history behind the web, but not much about CSS specifically. I also find there’s a couple of cool things (e.g. custom properties) that a bunch of people aren’t aware of. Finally, I really wanted to jump on the cool-train about how awesome some of the upcoming Houdini changes can be.
So... lo-and-behold, I decided to put together a talk centred around the premise of CSS’ evolutionary steps. It’s also maybe an excuse to show off my old myspace page....
What are the key takeaways?
Where CSS has come from, and some of the key turning points in its history. How is CSS being used today and what are some cool things to look forward to. Oh, and sure, CSS can be odd, but there are some valid reasons for that.
Who would you recommend comes to your talk?
People who are interested in CSS - but also people who don’t like CSS. I guess that’s anyone really? I’m hoping by giving some history, and by exploring CSS in this kind of manner, I can pull some of the haters back to the light.
Which other talk are you most looking forward to at DDD Adelaide?
I’m looking forward to so many of them – but Jess Budd’s talk on React Accessibility is probably my frontrunner. This is an area of Frontend Development I’ve really been trying to hone lately, especially in the world of React.
DDD Adelaide is on 23 November 2019 at MOD. Tickets are available now at www.dddadelaide.com/tickets
Encode Talent (www.encodetalent.com.au) is proud to be the coffee cart sponsor of this event.