Harriet Pulford, Web Developer


This week, we have spoken to Harriet Pulford who works as a web developer in Central London

Monday mornings usually start at about 6.30am when I get up and stumble in the direction of the kettle. I have adopted an extremely efficient routine whereby the kettle is boiled by the time I’ve had a shower and the coffee is drinkable by the time I’ve dried my hair, so I do that and then if there’s time I experiment with doing different hairstyles before remembering I still haven’t mastered any hairstyle other than just ‘hair’ so I check I’ve got my laptop and head out of the door to the station.

I’m working in London but live in rural Oxfordshire so it’s a nice walk to the station across the cricket pitch to pick up my weekly travelcard and get my next coffee from the extremely grumpy lady at the station. She hates Mondays, so I wouldn’t recommend her for this particular feature but she makes great coffee. I get onto the train around 7.30 and that’s usually when ‘work’ begins.

The tech industry is constantly changing so I use the train time to catch up on whatever’s happened the day before. I subscribe to a whole bunch of sites that send out daily emails detailing the latest ideas and innovations, so I mostly check through those. My job is to write the code that controls the ‘user interface’ of a website (i.e. the bit that you see and interact with) so often there are articles about different or new ways of writing code, examples of great creativity in websites, examples of how not to do things etc. By the time I get to Paddington my head is usually in about the right place to start work, and I get to the office in Farringdon at 9.

It takes a lot of planning and expertise from a lot of different people to build a good website so usually just after 9 the project manager will call a ‘scrum’ meeting where the project team (usually comprised of web developers, graphic designers, copywriters, data analysts, SEO specialists, quality assurance specialists or user experience designers depending on what stage we’re at) discuss the plan for the day and whether or not any of us are blocking any of the others from getting work done. Once that’s over I usually make a list of priorities (always handwritten because I like to be able to physically cross things out) and get down to writing code.

Writing the code to build a website is a bit like writing an increasingly detailed description of how something looks. You start off being quite general and eventually get so specific it can make your brain hurt. You begin by stating how many sections of each page there are, how big they’ll be and where they’ll sit in relation to each other. You consider how they’ll look/behave if they’re viewed on a laptop and whether or not that’s different to how they look/behave on a mobile device, you’ll set out how the colours and fonts and images on the site behave, and you’ll eventually get to a stage where you’re trying to animate several tiny shapes at the same time to create a three-dimensional ‘page loading’ icon. I find my job to be both mathematically challenging as well as enormously creative every single day which is part of why I love it so much.

Speaking of things I love, Farringdon has an overwhelming selection of food options so lunch is always something different. Sometimes I meet up with friends working in the area at the market on Leather Lane for a break. I’m a big fan of falafel, burritos and these amazing chicken/cous cous/yoghurt/salad boxes they sell at a place called Victus & Bibo next to Chancery Lane station. Then it’s back to the office to pick up where I left off and prioritise work for the afternoon.

Generally even a medium-sized site will take a few weeks to build so it’s important to check in with the other people on the project regularly, but you must also gauge how often you need to do this. Interrupting another developer while they’re in the middle of working out a problem can mean losing a train of thought and potentially hours of work. A lot of developers wear headphones at their desks and communicate over instant messaging systems on their computers with ‘do not disturb’ functionality to prevent interruptions happening at crucial times. It may seem an isolating way of working but in an open-plan office it’s often the only way you can really concentrate on a problem. I usually work like this too so often the afternoon is a mixture of writing more code and discussing anything that might’ve caused problems that morning. I have to say outside of this environment web developers are some of the funniest and most outgoing people I’ve met so you have to remember it’s nothing personal!

I leave the office at around six and will then either go out to meet friends or get the train home, it’s nice to have the option to do either. I like going to gigs, going running or working on personal websites in the evenings so will sometimes do that too, or go and pick up some ingredients for my boyfriend to transform into something delicious for us to eat. If he’s out it’s potato smileys for dinner.

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