Two of our developers—Robert Darku and Brad Meiser—celebrate their Birdversaries this week. Robert started in 2021, while Brad’s been with Rare Bird since 2010. Their birthdays are on consecutive days, too, but not until next month.
Robert began working at Rare Bird during the pandemic. His first day in the office coincided with that year’s largest snowfall here in Indiana. And if you know anything about Robert, you know he does not like the cold.
Before coming to the United States in 2018, Robert led a team of PHP developers for nine years in his native Ghana. (PHP is a popular, open source scripting language.) Because most of the Flock worked remotely during his first year, Robert didn’t meet all of the developers in person until everyone started trickling back into the office.
Brad, on the other hand, started with Rare Bird right out of college. Like the writer of this post, he is a proud graduate of Purdue University (#BoilerUp). This year marks Rare Bird’s 25th year in operation, which means Brad has been part of the Flock for more than half of the agency’s existence. His dog, Gimli, is a frequent and beloved visitor to our office.
“There were six or seven employees when I started,” Brad said. “We’re still small, but back then, we were really small.” He notes that Rare Bird’s entire staff when he started was smaller than the size of the development team now.
Web developers comprise the largest specialized group here at Rare Bird, easily outnumbering both the designers and the marketing team, which is appropriate for a company that turns clients’ ideas into websites, custom ecommerce platforms, measurable email campaigns, and more.
If you look at our “About Us” page that features members of the Flock—and you should, since we’re a good-looking group—you’ll see that seven Birds are labeled as a developer, and another Bird’s title is front-end developer.
Some of our readers, however, may not know much about what web developers do. In truth, the title is a bit of a catch-all. Yes, they help develop your website, but that is somewhat vague, isn’t it? In general, developers fall into three categories:
- Front-end developers specialize in the user interface, which is a fancy way of saying they finalize coding that controls what website visitors see and interact with in the browser. A front-end developer’s work tells the browser how to visually display each page on a website. Such a focus on the user’s experience means front-end development is also concerned with accessibility issues.
- Back-end developers write the underlying code for running all website operations. Their work often involves how the website processes information or performs other actions, such as storing and securing data and other server-side functions. The work of back-end development is not seen by a website’s visitors, but it is essential. It can also involve interacting with third-party services through API (“application programming interface”) integration. If you’re interested in a more technical conversation about this, we’d be happy to hear from you.
- Full stack developers manage all aspects of developing a website. In other words, they can do either front-end or back-end development. Most of the Rare Bird developers are full stack developers, even if they are primarily asked to focus on either front-end or back-end development for the client work we produce. One goal is always to optimize a website’s performance.
Because of this, our developers can jump into the ongoing development work for a specific client at any stage of the process, if needed. Robert attributes part of his job satisfaction to this collaborative approach; working among a team with such wide-ranging capabilities keeps him energized.
Robert expected to start slow and ease into his role and the Rare Bird culture, but as many other Birds can attest, most of us immediately jump into the thick of it, which suits Robert just fine. “Having nothing to do makes me nervous,” he says.
Brad, too, was hired as a developer, but he learned about system administration (SysAdmin) on the job, and transitioned into that role on our team when co-founder Ben Rothe left the company. Brad’s duties also include DevOps (a portmanteau of “development” and “operations”), which is another way of saying he’s the glue that keeps websites secure and running smoothly, for Rare Bird and all of our clients.
- SysAdmin is the effort to keep an organization’s computer systems functioning smoothly while meeting its technology needs in a variety of other ways. SysAdmins support and maintain computer servers and networks, solving any problems that arise therein.
- DevOps is focused on improving an organization’s infrastructure management and ability to deliver services quickly, using a set of practices and tools that are often rooted in that organization’s culture and history.
When a website is ready to go live, Brad is also the person who flips the switch, so to speak. “A lot of trust is placed in each of us,” Brad says. “We have the freedom to solve problems and carve out our own paths.”
The next time you see either of these essential Birds, congratulate them on another year of excellence.