Industry Tips in Design and Coding P1: Necessary Skills

In Web by Andrew Selepak

The University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications Master’s in Mass Communication in Web Design and Online Communication is an online graduate program for students interested in learning the design, coding, and strategic communication skills sought after in today’s digital marketplace.

Our students learn the knowledge and skills necessary to create dynamic websites to increase engagement and improve user experience. One of the ways we make this possible is through feedback from our Advisory Council who help ensure our students are gaining the knowledge they need to succeed by recommending the skills employers are seeking from graduates of our Program.

Recently I asked two of our Advisory Council members about the skills our graduates will need to be successful. Brian Holt is a Senior User Interface Engineer at Netflix. Ryan Stewart is a Senior Product Manager at Adobe.


What are your thoughts on specialization vs generalization?

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Brian Holt:

As far as coding goes, it depends on where you want to be. If you want to be an engineer at a big company like Google or Netflix, it pays to have a depth of knowledge in your facet of the trade of choice. If you want to be engineer No. 1 at the next unicorn startup, having a breadth of knowledge of operations, backend architecture, database optimizations, color theory, etc. will help because you need to wear every hat. Overall I recommend depth to everyone. As someone hiring, I’m far more impressed if you know the ins-and-outs of JavaScript than if you know a bit of JavaScript, a bit of Ruby, a bit of Go, etc. Those skills you gain by going deep in a subject translate well to other domains, be it language, framework, or programming paradigm.


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Ryan Stewart: 

I’m a big believer in generalization because I think it’s incredibly helpful for people to have a wide understanding of as many aspects of a project/business as possible. But I also believe that once you’ve got that wide understanding you can get a great sense of what you’re passionate about or what you’re good at and start diving into that area. Technology and design trends change so quickly that I find generalization to be a great way to stay on top of things and always be learning.


What is the best lesson you have learned in your career to-date and how has this impacted your work?

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Brian Holt:

The soft skills are just as important as the technical skills. Being able to effectively communicate and work with a team is huge. Being able to simplify difficult technical concepts in a non-condescending way is really important. Being able to work with people who you don’t necessarily want to grab a beer with is something you need to do. “Networking” (a term I despise) is extremely important to your career progression.


HOW IMPORTANT IS CREATIVITY IN YOUR FIELD? IN YOUR OPINION, WHICH CREATIVE SKILLS SETS DO YOU THINK ARE THE MOST COMMERCIALLY VALUABLE – AND WHY?

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Brian Holt:

Creativity is pretty important to an engineer. Designers hand engineers a series of ideas how to implement an interface but until the code is written, you don’t actually know how good the user experience is going to be. Until you actually interact with the product, you don’t know. That’s why it’s important for an engineer to be able to creatively reimplement interfaces as they go so they’re intuitive, simple, and accessible.


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Ryan Stewart:

Creativity is incredibly important. Maybe the most important thing for a couple of reasons. One, things change fast in this world, and I find that creativity makes it so much easier to adapt to those changes and think outside the box about new solutions. The second reason is that creativity is inspiring, and inspiration is huge as a way to get people on board with an idea and make them believe in it. One of the big creative skills I think that’s important is being able to tell a story. So much of how we get buy-in for projects is about telling a story. If you can weave a credible story it’s going to be the fastest way to build consensus and get everyone thinking about the same problem. It’s an incredibly helpful way to focus a team.


To learn more about our Program in Web Design and Online Communication and our Advisory Council, check out our website. And check back for Part Two in this series which will cover the coding and design industries.

About the Author

Andrew Selepak

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Dr. Selepak is a professor in the department of telecommunication at the University of Florida, and director of the graduate programs in Social Media and in Web Design and Online Communications.