Laurie Voss, CTO of NPM, Gives Engineering Fundamentals Talk

Laurie Voss, CTO of Node Package Maid (NPM), came to Hack Reactor to give his popular talk on what people entering the software industry should know, but no one bothers to tell them. The talk, titled “Stuff Everyone Knows Except You”, ranges from fundamentals, such as the importance of testing, to fine details, like Voss’ breakdown of every popular database. This was Voss’ third time giving the talk at Hack Reactor, and each time students have enjoyed themselves and come away better prepared for a career as a Software Engineer. The talk was streamed to our remote students simultaneously.

Watch Voss’ entire talk here (please be aware that there is some occasional salty language):

Through the talk, Voss provides tons of details on the coding world, but also an overall vision of the internet:

“The web is not just a way to present info,” Voss explains, “it’s a way to define information.”

Much of the talk focused on what to prioritize as a developer. Voss argues for skill development over the temptation of maximizing profit in the short term, not sacrificing one’s health and wellbeing for a company, and building skills that will save lots of time in the long run. One of the most basic of these skills is typing:

“There are hundreds and hundreds of people in this industry who are writing incredibly complicated algorithms with four fingers,” he notes.

Similarly, being fluent with a particular text editor allows one to streamline their work.

“Be good at your editor,” says Voss. “It doesn't matter which one you use.”

The talk was developed from Voss’ querying developers on what they wished all Engineers knew, but often don’t.

“One principle that everyone agreed on is ‘learn JavaScript’,” Voss observes. “Not just jQuery, not some other library, learn the thing that’s actually working in the browser.”

Voss discussed how to assess a website’s performance (speed, efficiency, throughput and latency) and what to prioritize first (speed). He pointed out that Google search results are presented as little more than a list of links, because speed is so crucial to the success of an app or page.

Voss stressed the value of testing several times throughout the talk:

“Tests save time,” he states. “They do not cost time. They feel like they cost time because you have to do them first. The analogy that someone gave me is tying your shoelaces. You can walk pretty far with your shoelaces untied, but it's a really bad idea because you're increasing the chances that you'll fall on your face at some point.”

Voss’ talk is an excellent resource for anyone interested in becoming a developer, or who is simply curious about the industry. It packs in loads of technical tips (“Understanding the box model is key to being really good at CSS.”) and life advice (“Don't undervalue the non-technical people in your organization.”). His knowledge and willingness to share it make Voss a valued member of the Hack Reactor community.

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