WebDevStudios Day in the Life of a Senior Frontend Engineer

JC Mae Palmes



This is a selfie style photo JC Palmes, Senior Frontend Engineer at the WordPress agency, WebDevStudios.
JC Palmes, Senior Frontend Engineer

Writing this is harder than I thought. I went through a lot of drafts trying to figure out how to effectively convey a day in my life as a Senior Frontend Engineer at WebDevStudios.

It’s far more complex than just waking up and doing stuff because of how my brain is wired. Which is why I have to begin this blog post from when I was really young, around 6 or 7 years old. I know that’s more backstory than just a day in my life, but humor me.

Early Childhood Education

When I was in first grade, I was the only one in my class who didn’t know how to read. I was really good in math, though.

I knew how to write, sort of. I could write my own name, just not read it correctly. I knew my name, but reading it is an entirely different thing.

I read my name as “Titimi Tamowa,” which is also the reason why my nickname is Tim. I had this teacher who was a special education teacher, and she wanted to tutor me. I didn’t want her to, until I saw my sister’s name on the honors list and my name wasn’t there (I knew how to read my older sister’s name).

I was very competitive, and I wanted my name up on that list, so I got tutored. This wonderful teacher worked with me for the rest of first grade, and I don’t really remember what she taught me, but it stuck. I got on that honors list in second grade, and I learned how to read and write.

I have dyslexia, but I had a very patient teacher who taught me how to make letters and words work for me the same way I had taught myself to make numbers work for me. I love drawing, and I could draw numbers. I understood how patterns worked, which is why math was not really an issue for me, even if I still didn’t know how to read.

I do math visually, and numbers are figures that I draw not write. I think that’s how I learned how to read and write. Letters are figures that I draw, not write, and letters have individual sounds. They form words.

I think I have a pretty good memory, but it was very hard to figure things out right away. So, I read to help me with learning words. I read a lot, and one of the first books I read was a dictionary.

I had to go through each word and memorize them in my mind—how they look and how they sound together. And as impossible as it sounds, I went on to win numerous spelling bees up to my college years.

Understanding Dyslexia

Dyslexia, contrary to what most people believe, is not reading and writing backwards. It’s a lot more complex than that.

The reality is that dyslexia is a different way of thinking. What dyslexics have is a “picture brain,” and we think in pictures not words.

There are various types and degrees of dyslexia. Sometimes, it’s hard to know you have it when you haven’t been diagnosed as a child and just branded as a slow-learner your whole life.

As an adult, sometimes words fail us. We may say another word yet mean an entirely different one. We tend to forget a lot of things that we don’t think really matters at that moment because we can only take so much information to process and have to make sure we have enough space for the ones we think matter at that exact moment. Once processed, it’s there to stay (most of the time).

This is an image with the words, "How dyslexics think," at the top. Beneath that are are four images of the same chair. First it's upright and the words, "This is a chair," are beneath it. The next chair is on its side, and the sentence, "Also a chair," is beneath that chair. The next chair is upside down, with the sentence, "This is still a chair," beneath that chair. The final chair is on its other side, and the sentence, "Yup, still a chair," is beneath it. Beneath all those chair images are the words, "Sometimes we say table," and next to that sentence is the same chair upright with the sentence, "But we really mean chair," beneath it.

Finding Inspiration

I’m fascinated with words and how they look and how they sound. Letters may not exactly look the same way to me as they do everyone else, but I understand them the same way. This fascination pushed me to learn HTML and then CSS and then PHP and JavaScript.

It was a slow process because the words look different, and the syntax is not one that I fully grasp. But, I love to learn and challenge myself.

I memorized the way these words look and how they work individually and together. And even if there are new ways to work with them, I’m able to know how to draw them and test them and make them work the way I need them to.

This is why I often shy away from talking about code. I can’t tell you exactly what each function is and how it works because I can’t. I know it works because I’ve tried it before. I draw code, not write it.

Well, I type code, which is sort of the same for me, and a lot easier than writing. Learning about new languages is a struggle for me, though, because I had to figure out how each letter and word work in the context of a new programming language. But, I always try. And, more often than not, it will just click. It takes time, patience, and tons of coffee.

A Day in My Life as a Senior Frontend Engineer

A day in my life starts with me waking up somewhere around noon to 2 p.m. I check on my two teens, ask for coffee, and check on all our dogs.

If I wake up at 12:00 p.m., I have lunch with the family. If I wake up later, I either eat lunch alone or just have coffee and snacks with my family later in the afternoon. Sometimes, when I wake up early, I get to go out and get groceries. Most of the time, I just play. My current obsession is Animal Crossing, and my island is not completed yet.

My workday starts when the sun is about to set. I’m from the Philippines and work starts between 5:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. for me, depending on what day of the week it is, or if there are meetings that I need to attend.

Getting ready for work is just me making sure I have water, coffee, and comfy clothes. I’m probably on my third or fourth cup of coffee by the time work starts, and I’ll have more while working. But I’m trying to keep my coffee intake to about five cups now.

When I start working, I often forget the time and just continue without getting up or drinking water. It’s a bad habit that I need to fix. I have to set reminders. Sometimes they work, but most times they don’t.

My husband also nudges me time and time again to get up and take a break. But problem solving is such an integral part of coding that time just stands still for me in that little bubble I’m in. I feel like I have to figure things out first before I do anything else.

More so, with the way I work, any kind of interruption disrupts my thought process, which means the drawings in my head more often than not get erased. That leads to having to restart from what I can vividly remember.

You see, I don’t code right away. I have to figure out how everything will look like before I start. It’s a puzzle that I have to first put together in my head before attempting to draw (type) it.

That method often works as-is, but sometimes I have to rearrange my drawings into different patterns to get it to work exactly the way it needs to, or as close as I can get it to what is needed. And once I have at least two clear options, I start coding and fix any details that I might have missed the first time.

Tasks for the day need to be done on that day, if I can, because I won’t be able to get a good night’s sleep otherwise. I can remember many times when I wake up suddenly because I figured out what went wrong with my code while sleeping. I know I’m not alone in this. Sleep does make you code better.

During my workday, there will be some calls, a few rubberducks with the amazing engineers I work with that help me get unstuck whenever I need help, and lots of coding. Sometimes it’s stressful, but most times the work is very rewarding.

My day ends much the same way it starts—with the sun. This time, when the sun is about to rise. I usually end my day with a cup of coffee, a few minutes of candy crush to get my mind off work, and then sleep.

The way I work and the time I keep is not for everyone, but I love what I do and I’ve been doing this for more than a decade. I’m still enjoying every single day of it.

Some days are harder than most, but life would be boring if that’s not the case. I’ve worked in a lot of companies before, but WebDevStudios has given me the freedom to spread out my wings and to not be afraid to try, embrace my uniqueness, and grow. I’ve grown a lot over the past couple of years that I’ve worked here. I’ll always take the bad with the good and season it with a bit of unicorn dust.

I leave you with these words from my fellow dyslexic:

Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them.
– Albert Einstein

TL;DR: Dyslexic Senior Frontend Engineer, works from dusk to dawn—draws code, not write it.


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