We've been talking with our Apprentice Android Developer, Casey Whearity, about her time at Swipe & Tap over the past six months. Casey reveals what it's like behind the scenes and if the apprenticeship is what she thought it would be...
Is the job exactly what you thought it’d be?
When I first applied for the job, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect - after all, software development is a very varied industry! One thing I did expect was a long period of learning before really getting involved with actual company projects. Even though I had coding experience, I didn’t know a thing about app development before starting, so I expected a good few months of getting to grips with the basics. It turned out I was able to help with company projects in just under a month!
Another thing I didn’t expect was just how much work goes into making an Android app. We as phone users often take apps for granted - one tap on the Play Store and a few seconds later you’ve got a fully working application on your device. What we don’t tend to consider is the months of planning, design and development that have gone into that single application - and that’s what I’ve found most interesting about my apprenticeship here at Swipe & Tap. You get to see the whole process, right from initial planning meetings with clients, to the first release on the app store. My job as a developer involves creating the actual app using documents, designs and diagrams as guidance. The development process can also be split into different parts: there’s the layouts, that’s how the app looks; the functionality, what the app should do if a button is pressed for example; and the back-end, the data storage, communicating with web servers and such. With all these different aspects to consider, work never gets boring!
What kind of skills do you gain from a software apprenticeship?
The wonderful thing about an apprenticeship is that you’re constantly learning - and that’s even more relevant within app development. For each new project we take on, there are so many things that we’ve never encountered before: I’ve been given tasks like drawing text onto an image, letting an app share posts to social media, and displaying animated images on a screen. Every task comes with its own unique challenges and learning experiences, and I think even after years of experience that never changes. One essential skill I learnt early on: research! It’s important to learn that nobody should be expected to know the answer to everything - app development is so broad, you could never possibly know how to do it all.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
It’s probably very obvious that I enjoy coding in my spare time! Having the freedom to work on whatever I like outside of work is a great feeling, and also a great way to put my newfound skills to the test. Besides that, I enjoy creative hobbies like playing the piano and drawing. In regards to hobbies that inform my job, then anything that involves a phone helps! Playing games, scrolling through social media - it all helps to give a better understanding of how different apps work and what kind of layouts they use.
What project are you most excited to work on next?
In a few weeks time, we’ll be working on an app from scratch, which is very exciting to me. So far I’ve only worked on adding new features to existing apps; building an app from the very beginning is a very different experience, and will definitely be a learning curve for me. I was given the job of writing up time estimates for different features of the app, which gave me a good opportunity to look at what kind of work the app will entail. I was also able to provide feedback on the initial designs of the app, suggesting changes in order to make the app look best on Android devices. The app’s designed to educate the user on different styles of dance, and it will include lots of videos, which will definitely be a new coding challenge for me as I’ve never worked on embedding videos into an app before.
How important is your apprenticeship to your career?
To me, my apprenticeship is very important for my career. Here at Swipe & Tap I’m learning everything I need to know about the world of development, and that’s not just about coding an app - it’s all the things that contribute towards a finished project, and knowing how to work within a team. With each task I’m given, and with the help of my fellow team members, I learn new skills that help shape me into a better developer.
What’s Swipe & Tap’s working environment like?
The office here at Swipe & Tap is a very comfortable and relaxed environment. Being an apprentice can be difficult - there’s a lot to learn, and feeling comfortable enough to ask for help is extremely important. The team couldn’t have been more welcoming to me in my first few weeks. I was starting my first job in an industry I knew very little about: naturally, I was quite nervous, but they made me feel like part of the team straight away. Every member of the team is hard working and dedicated to their work, and will always help out in any way they can.
It’s not all work and no play here - we do regular fun activities too! We go on daily walks as a team, giving us all a break from the screen for a while and allowing us to get to know each other better in an environment away from the office. We have monthly ‘fun lunches’, hold regular lunch & learn sessions in which we teach each other various skills, and more.