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Q&A with Garann Means

Front-end and JavaScript developer from Edinburgh

My name is Garann Means, and I'm a front-end and JavaScript developer. I recently took a year-long sabbatical from coding, and right now I'm looking to jump back into it. Previously I've worked for state government, big corporations, small startups, you name it. Shortly before deciding to take time off I was lucky enough to work with an amazing group of people on a product called Editorially, which was absolutely brilliant. Sadly, it didn't get enough investment and it no longer exists.

How did you get started in JS development? What is your background? 

The first JS I can remember writing was to prompt visitors for a "password" to access my GeoCities site. It also had some JS to control image hovers, because of course using CSS in the 90s was a fool's errand. JavaScript was never the language I set out to develop in, but after getting my degree and entering the professional world, I found that many of the things I wanted to do couldn't be easily accomplished with Java or C# (the languages I considered to be my primary ones). The more complex the web work I was doing got, the more I found myself turning to my much-dogeared copy of "Dynamic HTML: The Definitive Reference". Slowly, I began to understand that JavaScript could do a lot more than just MM_swapImage. Around the time jQuery gained acknowledgment as the game-changer it was, I decided to stop doing C# development and focus full-time on the client-side. I've since dabbled in Node, but I I haven't had a role working primarily with a traditional back-end language since.

What are you working on now? 

Since I'm still technically on sabbatical, I've had time to tinker with and explore the things that I currently find most interesting. Privately I've been working on an answer to a question that seems to bother me more than most other people, that of how to best structure JavaScript templates. It's not my first stab at developing a framework of sorts, and I'm running into the familiar concern that what works best for me won't be sufficiently abstract for anyone else to use. I've also been doing a lot of information gathering around the idea of "the offline web". Editorially was running into some tricky but captivating challenges at the intersection of realtime updates, collaborative work, and offline capabilities. Now I find those same issues everywhere, and even though it isn't currently my job, I spend a lot of time dreaming up possible solutions.

What software do you use for your work? 

I was one of those people with the "Made in Notepad" gif at the bottom of my webpage, and I haven't changed a lot in the 15 years since. Sublime Text is my editor of choice, and other than that I don't have a lot of favorite tools. I'm still looking for the perfect project management software. I love the desktop GitHub client and reject the idea that using the command line when you could use something with a GUI is anything but developer obstinance.

And what hardware? 

I have the oldest, lightest MacBook Air I can get away with. I also have a Wacom tablet, but no one's ever paid me for the artwork I produced with it (for good reason).

What is your ideal work environment? 

Since I've worked remotely since 2012, my ideal work environment has changed a lot. Most of that time, the home I was working from was under serious construction, so comfort to me mostly meant being able to play my music as loud as I wanted without headphones. However, one thing I've learned the hard way in that time is that laptops are called that for a reason and there is definitely a right and wrong position in which to use them for eight to twelve hours at a stretch.

Who are the developers you admire most? 

There are a ton of developers I admire, probably more than I could ever list. The person I most look up to is my friend Divya Manian, who I admire for her astounding skill, her contributions to crucial tools, and her conscientiousness not only about the immediate concerns of our industry like best practices or culture, but the concerns of the world beyond it. She's proof that being a great developer doesn't mean being just that one thing, and a role model for everyone who does this work.