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I’ve experienced a lot of firsts during my first few months here in Chromedia Far East Inc. My first job as a Web Developer, my first meal as a Web Developer; even my first ‘I-do-not-know-what-I’m-doing’ thoughts as a Web Developer while sitting in my swivel chair for the first time, setting up the environment and dependencies for my first project on my first Mac experience. I have a minor fear of doing or experiencing things for the first time. The gravity of the abysmal thoughts of unknowing-ness presses on me for every keystroke that I make; but I thought that I should start somewhere, somehow, before moving forward. And so, I was able to construct the first paragraph for this write-up.

Joining Spoke Health

I was assigned to the team working on the project called Spoke Health. From what I understand, it is a healthcare management web application that bridges U.S. based companies’ healthcare directly to medical/surgical facilities anywhere from local clinics to international medical centers. The idea of this project is to promote transparency of the healthcare system’s process, and eliminate excess charges in order to offer cheaper deals without compromising the quality of the services for the employees needing surgery.
Having joined the team far into the development process of the aforementioned project, a lot has already been set up and done; therefore, requiring a lot of catching up to do. I am learning the framework used for the project called Symfony, a framework for PHP web applications. It is used for big and convoluted databases such as this project because relational databases are better for its maintenance and scalability. Alongside Doctrine ORM, both constitute for the bulk of the server-side. The project also utilizes Twig as the template engine to create a more dynamic HTML.
For the front end, Spoke uses React, a JavaScript library, and integrates it with another JavaScript library called Redux to promptly transition into React -Redux pages for a more responsive user experience in an efficient and scalable manner.

Technical Firsts

With these highly-regarded technologies in practice, a lot needs to be learned for the development of Spoke Health. When I joined the project, I began at the back end where my tasks were improvements for the queries of several pages of the project which was, for me, a good introduction to the project since I gained my familiarity of its star player, Symfony, through those tasks.
For my first taste of React-Redux, the task was to implement the profile page of Spoke’s Employee Portal. It was quite the challenge since, again, the implementation was a new experience. But the more I was working with it, the more I see why it is a topnotch front end implementation. More firsts for me!
On to its new features, the biggest and most recent that Spoke Health offers are its video call and chat functionalities brought by using Tokbox’s WebRTC platform, Opentok. It was being worked on when I first joined the team. Some upcoming functionalities are also currently being developed, like a new way of creating administrative users, as well as varied functions relating to Spoke Health’s different user roles. This, along with the focus of the team’s recent Sprint which was all about the security of the system. The security measures and considerations the team undertook are in-line with the United States’ HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) compliance. Aside from the communication functionalities and new security features, another recent change for the project is the UI design which is a subtle deviation from the previous one. All the changes for Spoke made were definitely improvements from the project’s previous iterations.

A Personal Retrospective

In every Retrospective meeting I’ve attended for Spoke Health, we had to answer four questions that reflect our experiences during a Sprint. One of these questions asks: “What have you learned”? Every time, I answer “I’ve learned a lot”. Maybe a ‘template’ (lazy) answer, but it’s the truth. And until now, the statement holds true for me. Learning is a never-ending process- the more you know, the less you actually know. And in a developing environment, more challenges means more opportunities for learning. So I take on these challenges, enjoy the struggle, and look forward to more first-times in the future.

John Jewell Dino