Hi there, I’m Nick.

I am (at the time of writing this) a 28 year old front-end developer in Boston (well, not really in since I technically live on the North Shore, but to everyone not from Boston it doesn’t make a difference). I work as the Front-end Lead at Gupta Media – a digital marketing firm of around 50 people in Back Bay who’s made big impacts on the music industry at large. My biggest contributions to the agency have work related to smartURL.

Ever see your favorite artist tweet out a link like this?

That’s us!

More on that later; but first, a little bit more about me!

I’ve been a developer professionally since technically 2012. I graduated RIT with a BS in New Media Interactive Development (that’s a fancy way of saying “I did a lot of Flash”) and actually started my career as an intern at Moog Inc. (the one that makes race car parts, not the synthesizer one) doing Sharepoint development. Right before graduation, I landed a second internship with Sapient Global Markets and ended up getting hired there full-time as an Interactive Developer consultant.

Over my career, I have been exposed to a lot of front-end technologies. While I started learning programming in Flash, my professional life required me to branch out so much more deeply. As a consultant, specifically, I had to learn and adapt to a variety of technologies depending on client need. Some of these include, but are not limited to, Backbone, Angular, Jquery, React, Bootstrap, Slick-grid, SCSS, LESS, BEM, Handlebars, Lodash, Underscore, Masonry — the list goes on ad nauseam. Today I predominately use React for application development, but every so often I get projects that don’t require any modern framework at all.

Outside of development, I have a lot of hobbies. My biggest one is that I collect Japanese Rock albums. I have a collection of 5 or 6 (….dozen, to my partner’s chagrin) CDs, as well as cassette tapes, VHS tapes, DVDs, flyers, and even polaroids. The intersection between my international music hobby and technology is something I will definitely be writing about in the future.

My collection circa July 2020

I also enjoy gardening. I am currently attempting to grow pumpkins and it seems to be going well. In the past I have also grown peppers, roses, basil, and a variety of flowers. I hope to one day be able to build a lattice with climbing roses to live out my Versailles fantasy.

I also game quite often. While I tend to prefer MMOs over FPSs, I do play a variety of both. I’ve also done charity streaming events and raised over $600 for Boston Children’s Hospital. I love card games as well, and have quite a collection of playing cards from various TCGs like Pokémon, Magic, and Yugioh.

The Early Years

My interest in web development happened sort of by accident, but in retrospect, not entirely. I loved going on animé forums like Gaia Online and seeing how people built their own profiles with flashy (Flash-y??) animations and cool colors that weren’t available in their generic editor. For the non-weebs reading this, MySpace did this as well, but I wasn’t allowed to use that. When I saw what people could do, I thought “wow, I want to do that!” Except, I didn’t know what that was. I knew people built websites, but I didn’t know how. So, I took an intro to web development course in high school and did really well. From there, I decided “I want to be a game developer!” because I thought that meant at some point I’d build a web-based game. Totally how that works.

Fast-forward a year and I get accepted into RIT’s Game Design program. It was a tough, rigorous program that full of concepts completely new to me. I did surprisingly well for someone who constantly felt like he didn’t belong there, since something about the course material just wasn’t clicking. Turns out I had those feelings because it was completely not what I wanted to be doing, and eventually switched over to its sister program, New Media. While my Game Design friends somewhat shaded me for “giving up”, the two tracks were actually more similar in terms of overlapping requirements than you’d think at first glance, a lot of those kids ended up dropping out completely by year two (oop!), and most importantly, I found something that made me happy. It was the marriage of technical prowess and creative sensibility, it challenged me to think logically but also think of how a message can be conveyed effectively, and biggest of all, I didn’t have to do Java anymore.

As mentioned earlier, my first professional experience came from my 3 internships at both Moog (this counted for 2) and Sapient GM. When I was brought in full-time to Sapient, I was put on a variety of projects for clients within the financial industry. These ranged from rebranding their internal design system, to creating a dashboard to monitor different fund activities, to building out a complex event tracker + calendar.

One of my favorite experiences was being able to travel to Bangalore, India to help with a new hire program. There, I acted as a T.A. of sorts and gave lessons, answered questions, and graded projects for incoming developers to get up to speed for their assignments. It was an intense 5 weeks filled with so many great memories, but it left such an imprint on my world view.

Visting Lalbagh Botanical Gardens after going to Dodda Ganapathi Temple Basavanagudi, a bull temple.

2017 – Today

One of my biggest functions at Gupta has been to rebrand and revitalize (read: smart u-r-l dot i-t. Apparently people say “smarturl-it” as one word, akin to “I’ll Google it” but that’s incorrect). Originally launched in 2007, smartURL changed the game for the music industry by providing a way for labels and artists to compactly provide one link that was smart enough (branding™) to know where in the world you are, then send you to the right place.

In 2016, Gupta decided it was time to revamp the look and feel of smartURL. Gone was the grey and orange, and in was the white, orange and blue. It was a pretty daunting task as a new employee as there was so much domain knowledge I had to master in order to build something the right way. One of the unique challenges that comes with rebranding a product is that people already know what it is supposed to do, they just want it to look better while doing it or do the thing faster. In spite of the mountains of tech-debt I inherited, I was able to help rebuild smartURL into something close to what it is today. smartURL 2.0 (not an official name) officially launched again in March of 2017.

smartURL’s Header

Since then, I have had a part in the design, architecture, and development of over a dozen features that have made the platform a better experience for customers. While I do not want to get into immense detail here, I will say some of those features include new smartURL flavors, a premium membership option via Stripe integration, and even working closely with other Gupta employees to rethink the UX of some features that had been traditionally confusing for their clients.

smartURL is built in JavaScript using React, Redux in a custom wrapper (called “Base Reducer” in-house), SCSS, a pinch of Node.js, and a Java backend. We use AmCharts for our charting and mapping features, and I have also worked with marketing tools like Google Tag Manager and Facebook Ads Manager.

More recently, I have been in charge of a new product geared towards festival owners. The goal is to provide them with a tool in which they can analyze their ticket sales in almost-real-time to see how they are doing, and even provide some business projections where they can compare this year against another year of their choosing.

For me, this project was a chance for me to really experiment and learn new things. I used it as an opportunity to learn React Hooks, as well as CSS grids. I have been involved in just about ever aspect of this project from helping design the UX, to user testing, to even being present on phone calls with clients to walk them through how it works.

My Goal

Writing is something I’ve done as a hobby since college, although it has been strictly about music. My intention with this blog is to four-fold:

  1. Document what I’m learning
  2. Provide incites into front-end development based on my experiences
  3. Tell stories
  4. Educate

I’ve found from various conversations that I have a lot of interesting things to talk about, but it’s hard for people to really get my full picture from just a copy of my résumé, skimming my LinkedIn profile, liking my angry tweets, or zoning out through my 15-second elevator pitch about what it is I do.

A part of doing this is to help combat imposter syndrome as well (the feeling of not actually being good at any thing and that you’ve faked it thus far, worrying that everyone’s going to figure it out one day). Another part is holding myself accountable to continually getting better.

Maybe I’ll also make someone laugh?

Regardless, welcome to Fat Arrow.

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Published by Fat Arrow Dev

I'm a UI developer in Boston.

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