Today is world programmer day. Meet one of our own!
Today is September 13. It also just happens to be World Programmer Day.
We’re serious, it’s a real thing.
It’s a way to thank programmers for their hard work and dedication, as well as to celebrate the role they play in making our world a better place.
And as turns out, that it actually has a neat story behind it. Russian programmers Michael Cherviakov and Valentin Balt chose the day in 2002 because September 13th is the 256th day of the year. In computing, ‘‘256’ is a unique number because it is the number of distinct values that can be represented with an eight-bit byte.
Meet Dave the software Dave-loper! (Editor’s note: His joke, not mine.)
In lieu of World Programmer Day, we sat down with Dave, a software developer/programmer at GovTech, to discuss his work, advocacy in the Software Engineering (SWE) community, and much more.
Known for his sense of humour and passion for front-end development, Dave took a little break from writing code to give us a glimpse into his world.
Q: Hello Dave! Tell us more about what your team does at GovTech.
I’m a software Dave-loper (pun intended) who enjoys front-end development.
I love to code with CSS and experiment with new web technologies such as new CSS properties and browser APIs. I’ve been involved in many projects over the past several years, the more prominent ones would be Immigrations & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) NRIC e-Services and COVID-19 MaskGoWhere, VoteQGoWhere and other GoWhere websites.
My day-to-day typically involves a mix of technical discussions, meetings, administrative work and coding. My team is currently building and trialling a “Personal Assisted Living Solution (PALS)” to help seniors with their daily needs and to encourage active ageing.
This system is hooked up to an Active Ageing Centre (AAC) where the staff are able to monitor health-related aspects of the senior (e.g. blood pressure, weight, mood) and also display social events/activities that the senior can view and attend.
Q: What is it like working in your team?
Stressful la! 😂
In all seriousness, It’s a fun environment. We try to make internal meetings more enjoyable with snacks or drinks, go for walk/run sessions, participate in GovTech events together, and play badminton as well. It is also very encouraging to see my teammates come together and make decisions based on the perspective of the user/senior.
But, there are also a lot of high expectations by various stakeholders for us to deliver this well and fast. After all, we are playing our part in securing the nation’s long term plans for sustainable healthcare!
So instead of “stressful”, the better word is “challenging”!.
Q: We understand that you are an active advocate in the SWE community. Could you share more about what you advocate for?
In my opinion, frontend engineering is one of those things that is easy to pick up but difficult to master. I have a stubborn love for the frontend, particularly in CSS, and I believe this is where my strengths lie and what I can contribute in.
Q: Any specific community(s) are you active in?
Frontend Mentor – It’s an online global platform/community where you can pick a web design challenge, code it out, share your solution and receive/give feedback. I’m a small-time contributor, I’ve shared several solutions to challenges and my learnings as well. Have had interesting one-on-one conversations with random strangers on the Internet about frontend topics, learnt neat tips and tricks and provided feedback to others either via the web platform or Slack/Discord. Check out my profile here.
Frontend Learning Group – This is a small group of us, seven engineers and one designer consisting of GovTechies and Augmented Staff. I’m hosting this fortnightly/monthly and have been planning and adjusting the “challenges roadmap” based on how the group is progressing. It’s a nice way to share my learnings with others and to learn as well. I’ve been asked questions that I can’t answer, which would prompt me to dive deeper into the subject.
Typically we would attempt a frontend challenge before meeting, then when we come together, we’ll give each other feedback, share our experiences/learnings and ask questions. We talk about HTML, CSS and accessibility in more detail, and also share useful tips and tricks, upcoming CSS properties, browser APIs, etc.
CodePen – An online platform to quickly build, test and share code. I have several “creative coding” (i.e. looks cool but maybe not practical 😂) snippets on CodePen that have received a few thousand views. Some of it have gained a little recognition by the platform and its founder. These days I’m not so active though, I write mostly experimental code snippets that are hidden from the public. Check out my profile here.
Q: Why did you want to be an advocate? It seems like involves a lot of time and effort.
It feels rewarding to be able to help others be better at their work – to work faster, smarter and more efficiently. Plus, I get to have interesting conversations with strangers on the Internet and also learn from them as well.
Q: Do you have a favourite programming experience at GovTech?
There was a tech task that involved upgrading a particular package by several major versions. This was a herculean undertaking as it was unpredictable and would definitely break a lot of things. My pair programming partner and I took this up, spent about two weeks troubleshooting the various issues and eventually completed the upgrade. This was my favourite programming experience because we got along very well, and learnt a lot from each other. More importantly, we approached this gargantuan task with a very positive attitude and can-do spirit and delivered.
Q: What kind of skillsets/attitudes do you think programmers should have to thrive in this field?
Always be curious and quick to adapt. Technology moves fast and the knowledge pool grows exponentially. We must adopt a lifelong learning approach and adapt to new situations quickly – look at how Large Language Models (LLMs) are changing businesses today.
Q: Outside of work, what are some things you have programmed on your own?
Oh, so many, too many. Mostly on Frontend Mentor and CodePen, and a few prototypes on GitHub. Some of these have been implemented in government products, e.g. mobile app crawlers, broken link checkers, and telegram bots for consolidating test feedback. But here’s a fun one – Many moons ago, I coded a website to help tackle the toughest question of human history – “What to eat for lunch”.
This website would randomly recommend and route you to a nearby eatery/restaurant based on your current location or an entered location. So essentially, I outsourced my lunch decisions! 😂 I took down the website though because it was using Google Maps API and Google started charging for their API usage and I’m too cheap and didn’t want to pay for it.https://www.tech.gov.sg/images/technews/today-is-world-programmers-day