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Developer Spotlight: Devin Otway

by Carson Gibbons on December 3, 2017

In this Cosmic JS Developer Spotlight, we sat down with Devin Otway, a Software Engineer in San Francisco who currently works as a frontend engineer at Postmates. Devin recently launched a blog called Hacking Depression built using Cosmic JS. Check him out on Twitter or LinkedIn, and enjoy the Q/A.

How long have you been building software?
I have been building software for about 5 years, but got into frontend development 3 years ago. Coding was an accidental passion. In graduate school for environmental engineering, I got my first taste developing dynamic models in matlab and found the development process so much fun. I then started learning Python and JavaScript on my own and would find myself working into the morning on fun little projects when I should have been looking for jobs after finishing grad school. I knew I had found my passion. It tickled both the creative and analytical sides of my brain.

What is your preferred development stack?
I come from more of a JS background, so I am a bit biased towards those language options. Right now it is React, Node.js and any lightweight db that fits my project needs. I have also been playing around with Golang recently. I love its simplicity and expressiveness and have plans to rewrite my blog’s web server using it.

What past projects are you most proud of and why?
Well, two recent projects come to mind. First is , which is the blog I just finished building (now the article writing starts!). I built this project using React, Node/Express, and Cosmic JS as the cms/backend. Aside from being an extremely fun project it’s very meaningful to me on a personal level.

Depression affects 6.7% of adults (including me!) and is the leading cause of disability among people ages 15-44 and most people don’t like to talk about it. But in many ways it’s no different than other health issues like diabetes. It has causes and conditions and as a result there are things that you can do that give you an edge over the illness and things that you can do that make it worse. It’s this edge between what helps and what doesn’t that I hope to discuss and quantify on my blog.

Secondly, I currently work as a frontend engineer at Postmates. We are in the process of wrapping up a huge rewrite of our web client. Rebuilding something from the ground up with a company that already has a large user base has been an amazing opportunity. From performance, to scalability, to seo, we have to consider it all. Also, everyday I get to work with insanely talented engineers, designers, and leaders to build a world class experience for our customers. I am very proud of the work we are doing.

Talk a little bit more about your process for building apps - who’s using them? What purpose do they serve?
Well in terms of my side projects, Hacking Depression is the first that I have put in front of users. My process was really driven by my own desire to 1) play with new technologies and 2) do something that would help me solve a challenge/problem that I was experiencing. You could say that it was quite selfish! I wanted to learn, grow, and become healthier! Those were easy motivators to align with. In terms of purpose, I expect that to evolve. Right now I am focused on it serving me first, and hopefully the more that happens, the more it can serve my future readers.

What are some technologies you are excited about that you are using today, or want to learn more about?
On the language side, Golang. More broadly speaking, I am interested in learning more about cloud based service architectures and have plans to build some small services to support my blog and help me do things like quantify mood in relation to activities (exercise, diet, etc). More immediately, however, CSS-in-JS has been a client side technology that I feel has revolutionized my development. Giving CSS easy access to your JS context is a game changer!

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