Developers love automation. Our jobs depend on automation and taking away a bit of the pain in completing repetitive tasks. Unfortunately, not everyone at a company knows just how much basic automation of everyday work can greatly improve both their productivity and give them time to concentrate on more important decision-based tasks.

I witnessed one such case at an entry-level job about a decade ago. It was at a small company that lived off of advertising spaces that were sold by only one employee. She was the best employee on the team. We’d mainly interact whenever something went wrong with her computer, usually to scrub clean her malware-prone machine. In one such case, after cleanup, I noticed she was transferring several contacts from an email message to her Windows Address Book by retyping them with both programs’ windows tiled next to each other. I quickly learned that she wasn’t copy-pasting the information because she didn’t know that was possible. It only took 3 minutes of training, and after receiving a few flattering thank-yous, I realized just how much I took for granted the basic tools I was so familiarized with. This may be an extreme example, but it helps illustrate just how much benefit tiny improvements to our workflow can make, and how much time our team may be wasting on needlessly tedious tasks.

As a frontend developer, I can get projects up and running faster with every new tool I add to my toolkit. Armed with boilerplates, frameworks, preprocessors and building systems, I can generate more quality code while writing less than ever before. Yet this is not usually the case for designers, illustrators and image content creators. In this article, I want to give a few examples of designer-related tasks that can be improved using better toolkits.

frontend_dev

Picture by Alejandro Escamilla

Let’s start with some basic file exporting. Whether it’s preparing raster images or vector illustrations, we’re always faced with the time consuming task of adapting our work to the desired media. One such case is creating images for the web or mobile apps.

Since Photoshop’s Save-For-Web feature doesn’t export 8-bit PNG alpha channels correctly, and produces files that can be greatly reduced in size, let’s use ImageOptim-CLI along with Alfred (to avoid having to use the Terminal). After downloading and installing ImageOptim, ImageAlpha, ImageOptim-CLI, and Alfred, simply install the necessary workflow file. You can now generate small, metadata-free, web-ready JPGs and PNGs using a few keystrokes in Finder.

Another similar case are the bloated SVGs exported by Illustrator and Sketch. We’ll use SVGO and a simple folder to improve them. Any file dropped into the folder will be reduced in size and have unnecessary code removed. First we install SVGO. Next we install the Folder Action. Create a folder, right-click it and choose ‘Folder Actions Setup’. Select svgo.scpt, and close. That’s it!

For both the previous examples, creators will be able to improve how they work using familiar tools, and only using the Terminal during the installation of the dependencies.

Let’s look at a very different case: Many email newsletter design creators are familiar with HTML and CSS, but not with task runners. Email HTML has several limitations compared to what we use on the Web. Writing clean templates while minding the limited CSS support in email clients can be painful. Configuring Gulp is more complex than the tools used in the previous examples, and I’ll leave that out of this article, but the configuration I use is available for anyone wanting to use it. This building process does the following:

  • Lets you work in separate CSS and HTML files.
  • Removes unused CSS styles and reorganizes those styles for better compatibility.
  • Tells you the features you used that may conflict with specific email clients.
  • Compresses all images and optimizes their file size.
  • Generates a single HTML file that’s highly optimized.

A lengthy chore that can be replaced by running a single line of code to run the building tool.

The benefits of automation in these examples are evident, and I’m sure creative developers can think of similar cases that can help their fellow teammates. Design work is hard as it is with the creative decisions that need to be made, and the everchanging goals of the content they create. I used designers as an example in this article, but many other workmates can also benefit from our help. Taking the time to build your colleagues internal tools such as these is a worthwhile investment, and I’m sure many of them will appreciate the effort.

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by Pablo Delgadillo
Front End Developer at Camaloon

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O.

On sales leadership

These are some values that I learned that define a leader:

– A leader is somebody who reaches their goals and achieves beyond their individual abilities aligned with their own values and the organization’s values. A leader without a team is not a leader. A leader works for the team, not the other way around.

– Humbleness. Leaders must get to know themselves first, acknowledge their limitations. Acknowledge they have no recipe for success (no one does). They will succeed only by being curious and trying things faster, testing, changing things again, failing again, learning as fast as possible. In sales, everybody notices when things work well, success is measured in € vs budget. A leader must embrace results with no buts and take action to reach the goals.

– A leader works harder, a leader cares about the goals more than anybody else, they took full ownership of the goals. A leader does about anything to remove bottlenecks away on his team, they assist, train, support everybody, anything it takes. They are always the best resource for their team.

– A leader will always be available for everybody in their team, for personal and professional issues. They go the extra mile. They make sure everybody knows that. They earn the team’s trust.

– A leader makes everyone aware that teamwork is not negotiable. Without a cooperative team, there’s no leader. Lone wolves kill the growing/changing organization. Growth happens only WITH the team, not at their expense.

– Leaders communicate all the time, they don’t keep things to themselves, they are honest with their team. They share good and bad. They share the why’s. They trust their team. Trust precedes process and it is the only path to grow at a scale.

– Leaders learn fast and learn mostly from their team. The team has the most valuable knowledge a leader can get, it doesn’t come from books, blog posts, degrees or mentors. The team gets the real shit from the front line. A leader listens to their teams’ impressions and ideas, they explore them all and give feedback. Leaders generate a culture of idea generation and idea sharing. Leaders stay away from guru preaching.

– It’s important to understand people’s personal and professional ultimate goals and motivations. Leaders spend time asking them on their one on ones and they think about them. They write them down. Everybody is playing the movie of their lives, a leader must find out which one is it, they make sure each team member keeps being the hero of their movie.

– Leaders always lead by example, not by title. They show real bravery. Leaders go first to battle. They call leads and close customers. They apologize to customers when the company screws up. They take the shit first. They don’t leave anyone behind. They don’t show their rank, their status, their difference, their pedigree. Startups are flat meritocratic organizations. Leaders must understand well the company goals and they put them first, they are prepared to step down, or step aside, or leave the company at any moment if needed. Company goals are what matters most. Leaders show this to everyone. Company/collective oriented leaders always thrive.

– Leaders celebrate every victory. They visibly show the pain of every defeat. They take every opportunity to show they care. They analyze why/what/how and find out always changes to be made. Then they go and make the changes. They change anything or everything, but never keep on doing what doesn’t work. They shake the whole company inside out before/when goals are not met.

– Leaders set goals that are both ambitious and achievable. They work along the team to make sure they meet the goals. They are flexible when the goals are set wrong. They are implacable when goals are not met.

Most people will never be a leader. It takes time and patience, it takes survival skills, it takes real personal strength. But after committing to all these things, things start to work. Leaders are such when and only when they brought teams to make things work, nobody becomes a leader just by trying it. True leaders make sure they don’t leave the boat until things work (as they will work, ultimately!). They don’t leave the job undone.

– Bernat Farrero CEO at Itnig