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Career roadmap: How a mobile developer found his calling

Sharon Florentine | March 17, 2016
Chris Turner is now a successful mobile developer for a home automation and application development company. But his career path took some unexpected turns along the way.

"They had a primitive Access database with some of the sample information, but there wasn't any way to put that online, or so they thought. I offered to work on this for them, and to port that information over to a MySQL system so they could connect through a web app. It was really the first project I did that I had to stand up and pitch to a group of executives, and I had to incorporate so many aspects of Web design, development, backend and front-end coding, security, login checks -- I learned a lot," Turner says.

On-the-job training

His junior year in college he began working for a local Web development shop where he built on his aptitude for explaining technology's benefits to business owners and laypeople, and demonstrating the value of software and the Web to local businesses. Inspired by Jesse James Garrett's article outlining the possibilities in the "new approach to Web applications," Turner spent the summer of 2005 teaching himself AJAX, PHP and other relevant technologies like database design and functionality to advance his Web development skills.

He moved to a small insurance company in the area as a Web developer, and was sent to learn ColdFusion and Flex at a training company in Maryland, where he met one of his first mentors.

"The trainer and consultant who was teaching us was named Simon Horwith. He was just fantastic; I learned so much from him about architecting solutions and consulting with clients. At that point, I wanted to learn everything I could from him, so when he came to Lock Haven to help with a big insurance project, I took him out for a beer and grilled him about everything he could teach me," Turner says.

That relationship led to Turner being offered a position with Simon's consulting company, and after a move to Maryland, he spent the next few years working on increasingly larger and more technically advanced Web development projects for government clients, including the National Institute of Health and other federal and state contracts.

"I just started jumping on every project I could possibly find that would teach me something new. I would find the smartest person in the room and just pepper them with questions about how they were approaching problems, why they used certain solutions to solve them. I could not get enough -- I wanted to learn everything I possibly could," he says.

That persistence and willingness to learn paid off when Turner was named project lead for a large-scale, Web development project for a Texas city. Though he admits he was nervous about putting his skills to the test and the project was on an almost-impossibly-tight deadline, he buckled down and pulled the project off without a hitch.


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