Muhammad Usman

Crazy tech lover, endless learner

How to Promote Backend Development Work

I was once working on a project that involved working with analytical stuff— charts and so on. It was like Google analytics on steroids, and I worked on this project for three months. I imported data from several places and designed the database using my back-end code. It was a one-man show where I did everything on the project, from top to bottom.

Three months had passed, but I could not show much progress. I told my team that I was working on the project, so I just prepared a demo chart to cover up my failure to show my work. I just presented the database, and it turned out fine, fortunately. But I never realized I could do better until they decided to design the front end for this project one day. That day of realization started when Joseph came on board.

Joseph only did the CSS work. He did not even do the JavaScript because I already did it on my own using Google charts. He did the CSS magic. I did everything on the project excellently, and Joseph just presented it. It went pretty well, I suppose. He recorded some videos on a 52-inch screen and took photos using his mobile phone. He used his lovely Mac laptop, and he just posted the design. After that, everyone browsed the site, and he was getting so much unworthy praise. He worked on this project for not even less than a week— that’s all! Joseph completely stole the show just by adding icing to the cake and sprinkling some sugar on top. How sweet! My work? It didn’t obtain that much recognition. So I learned a big lesson from that day, and that is how I decided to become a Joseph.

How to be a Joseph

As a back-end developer, I will tell you how you can be more like Joseph. The secret? Demos, Demos, Demos. All you have to do is record what you are doing and start making well-designed Keynote and PowerPoint presentations. Post it to your team and present it nicely.

You could be working on a team for other people, or maybe you have your own business. You could also be a freelance coder. Regardless, just prepare a 1 to 2-minute demo on what you’re doing instead of informing them you have been working on a project. You do not have to tell; instead, just show them what you do.

Your presentation could be a simple PowerPoint, and you could do it once a week. And how about making a coding vlog or clog? Record your screen while you’re coding and fixing a complex problem. Simply record yourself for five minutes and say that “I’m doing that code”, “I’m bringing and refactoring that class”, “I’m just connecting this event to a listener”, and so on. Afterwards, post your recording somewhere.

Talk to yourself

Start learning to talk to yourself. Indeed, we all talk to ourselves sometimes, especially when alone. Maybe you talk to a duck. Instead of doing that, get a mic and speak to it. Tell how you did the process, record it, and post it as a voice message. Just don’t forget to close the curtains so Mrs. Smith won’t think you’re crazy and gossip you in the neighbourhood.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith window scene

Articulate the complexity

When you’re doing something complex, the business people— managers, clients— don’t know the complexity of the problem, so try to explain this complexity to them. Sell yourself that you are doing great work, even though they can’t see it. Simplify the complexity, explain the requirement, and present the business benefits to them. Instead of saying, “I’m working on authentication” and “I’m working on user login”, tell them that you are improving the security so that no one can use it. Inform them that you are doing it in a standard world-class way. I know you get the point.

Outsource to AWS

Speaking of authentication, why not use AWS Cognito and handle the user management stuff there so you can focus on other things and save yourself time? Even if the client doesn’t pay for it, I would certainly do that. I’d buy a package, a library like Laravel Nova, to save me some time instead of just coding it for myself.

Now you might ask, how would it show your work off? It will free you to work on other complex problems, saving your client’s time. You can bill for it this time but bill it fairly.

Speak business

Instead of telling your client that you’re focusing on a particular problem, operating on a specific framework, or working on the code, tell them their business terms. That said, you have to learn some business buzz words. But don’t stress yourself too much. You’ll not speak Bill Gates.

As I said before, like security, learn to say that you are improving the ROI. You are trying to improve the client retention rate, and you are trying to improve the login process or improve the checkout process to increase sales. Indeed, you’re attracting more leads if you speak on client’s language.

Extract your code to libraries

You might be working for your company, a client, or a particular job. The thing you frequently do, the code you write right repeatedly— extract this out. You might have already extracted it out. Just extract it as a library and make a standalone package out of it. Ask permission from the client and publish this package to make it open source.

You can ask the client for permission, of course. I’ve done it several times and never had a client say no to me. They have always agreed to extract this bit of code out of the codebase, and it helps them. Try to convince them that it will also benefit them because you will open-source it. As a result, you will attract more coders and contributors to it. They will fix the bark for free. They will just feed it back, and you will just use this library and the client’s codebase, which will eventually feed them back. You might even try to get sponsors from your client to pay something for you and get help from them additionally.

Add visuals

Now, this is an oxymoron. I know you’re a back-end developer, but you can still do lots of visuals. Add a nice diagram, maybe a mock-up, or make an animation. You can talk and just outsource the animation work for five bucks on Fiverr. Just try to visualize your work so that the client, the stakeholders, or the people will understand.

Bottom line

I know that the back-end developer job is hard. We spend extensive hours of thinking, but we spend less time coding. The hours of thinking we did are not shown in our value even if we show our code. We contemplate ideas during lunch, before going to bed, or even when we’re driving. But the reality, these hours of thinking get unnoticed, so try to sell those things.

The miner digs gold for years, but it is not always the gold that is worth having– it is the perseverance to continue digging until you find the gem. Sooner or later, the gold will pass, but your perseverance stays to keep you looking for a new quest. Show them your effort behind your gem!

If you just show code, you just show code. It’s just a few lines of code, but thinking behind that gets completely overlooked. Visualize those, make videos, anything you can— just sell.

This post was originally published on Business for Developers, which is another blog of mine.