As our industry matures, we become more specialized and focused in our disciplines. However, web applications are still commonly built in ways that require a deep knowledge of all of the moving parts in order to fully contribute. We see this regardless of organization: large enterprises, small web applications, and even communities like Drupal. As our capabilities to build with technology grow, we desire to mitigate that complexity through comprehensive understanding while still remaining specialized within our discipline.
Enter, the Unicorn. Many organizations have these, but it's usually only one or two. They’re called “rockstars”, “10x’ers”, “magicians”, or other names that call them out as special. These are the people that really know the tech and all it’s quirks. They’ve taken the time to understand the ins and outs, and they’re the first person others ask when questions arise. They’re a huge force multiplier, but also unbelievably rare. Organizations often go to great lengths to hold on to them or risk much of the institution’s knowledge walk out the door.
Like the Unicorn, the Devsigner is also a rarity. To most organizations, they’re one of the elite few who has been able to build a tenuous bridge over the chasm between design teams and developers. Whether they are considered an “artsy” developer, or a “technically-minded” designer, they sit between these roles, seemingly omniscient in their ability to represent the “other side” to each team. With one foot in each world, but never fully belonging to either, organizations doom these talented souls to be the panacea for true collaboration between their teams.
Doesn’t it seem strange that despite our industry’s trend toward specialization, we still rely so heavily on a small group of generalists to understand such a broad spectrum of technology AND people? Wouldn’t it be better to have people spending time deeply examining their chosen discipline rather than broadly touching so many different things? Is there a ceiling to the complexity that our unicorns and devsigners can handle?
Modern changes to the way that designers and developers interact has begun to enable our ability to contribute to software projects without the need for comprehensive understanding. Further, as design and development move toward convergence and overlap, the chasm between these teams is closing. I’d like to explore how these trends enable us to “go deep” within our chosen specialization, relieve pressure on our Devsigners and Unicorns, and create better software products.
This session is appropriate for all experience levels. Individual developers, designers, and project managers should come away with some strategies and ideas about how to preserve work / life balance, respect and value contibutors, and find the time to explore the things they're most passionate about inside of organizations. Leaders of companies will understand how to invest in their contibutors, attract and retain better talent, and combat hero culture.