Front End Dev – A True CSS Expert – Made in Finland

I'm Vesa Piittinen. Merri is a nickname I often use on the web.

I'm very good with things like HTML, CSS, JavaScript, React.js, jQuery and performance optimization.

I'm familiar with things like AngularJS, PHP, MySQL, Node.js, functional programming, OOP and I know when classic imperative style just does the job better and clearer.

If you like reading lengthier texts then the next three pages will work for you. Instead if you just prefer spying on me in general or want to contact me, jump to the last page.

A Finnish Front End Developer

I'm a web developer, male, born in 1983. But I'm not only that. Yet I'm very good dealing with browsers and SEO. And still those aren't the only things I'm good at.

I started off with the web back in 1998 in a school project writing some HTML pages. Before that I hadn't touched the web technologies and I didn't really know what I was getting into. In late 2000 I started a website that became somewhat popular in that it is still a living community. Over the years I experimented a lot with the site, learnt a lot of technologies and made many mistakes.

But web wasn't the only thing I was interested of. I was a bit silly at the time and I got hugely interested on making things perform with Visual Basic 6. Yeah, that's insane. But I learned a lot of how things work in the "mind" of a computer. This is something that I still consider when writing JavaScript and has been hugely beneficial in modern day's mobile web requirements. Speed and performance matter in the user experience.

I'm not a UI designer

Really. I'm not one. I'm too technical to be one and I can make good design only occasionally and mostly by either mistake or with a lot of time and care. I can see when things don't look good, but I most likely can't tell how to fix it. User interface designing is not my thing.

What I do is to compliment the UI. I give the user experience. I can make things feel good with some basic transitions, good timings and carefully crafted interface that doesn't break even when used in unusual ways. I don't think only about the mouse user or only the touch user. Keyboard is also a powerful way to access the web and it matters to some. I also care about the semantics and inner structure of what I make. I always ask the question "why?" when I write a piece of syntax or code. I give things a bit of my heart.

I'm not the fastest, but I make things so that they don't break as often, thus saving time later on.

I'm not academic

I'm 100% self taught. I've learnt programming since around 6 years old, starting with a Commodore 64. I didn't make any miracles with the machine, but I caught the mindset. When I started there was no Internet. Not widely available that is. And once Internet came and I figured out how to learn more about programming around the years of 2000 that is exactly what I did.

The big thing that happened around 2004 was Firefox. Before that browser behavior with CSS was hard to understand as there were standards and the main browser of the time was Internet Explorer 6, which wasn't still good enough with the standards. It had too many quirks to mess up with experimental learning. Firefox changed everything for me: it followed the standards well enough that I could experiment. I could learn CSS on my own.

I experiment a lot

If I have to pick a technology where I think I'm better than about anyone then that would be CSS. While I know my way around in JavaScript and I can do a lot of great stuff with HTML5 and SEO world, it is CSS that I understand in a very deep level. I've played with the properties a lot, I constantly try out new things as they become available and make use of my skills to aim for the widest plausible browser support.

I learned the quirks of IE6, IE7, IE8 and so on. I know how I can workaround issues. I know how I can avoid certain layout issues. I know how I can work my code so that it is solid enough that I have a good base to work with.

The Short Professional Career

Despite my skill level I didn't land a proper developer job in 2000's. I had some issues with my head and simply finding a job was a big thing for me. I finally got a job that eventually turned full time. It did a lot of good for me in terms of fixing my self esteem as well as becoming a better people person. But I was still afraid of attempting to find a developer job as the image of the business still seemed a bit dull: projects and deadlines. I know that I'm not a good person with set deadlines and a lack of creative freedom.

Fast forward to 2013. Moving to Helsinki became a necessary evil. It was another thing that I had avoided for a long time. I originate from northern Finland, the Lapland, where people have quite different values. The busy life of the Finnish capital isn't really a tempting thing for me. But it is quite apparent that in Finland there really isn't as many opportunities for programming jobs outside the Helsinki region.

Getting a job wasn't the only reason in moving to Helsinki, but I knew I wouldn't want to move unless it is a "dream job" for me: a programmer job. Luckily for me Verkkokauppa.com was looking for more people to their newly adapted agile development teams. I didn't know it at the moment of agreeing to the job, but agile has been one of the key reasons I enjoy my job as much as I do. It has been quite a jackpot for me. And it is a success story for Verkkokauppa.com that they hired a person with virtually no existing dev background in his CV.

Accomplishments

I've done my share of changes within my first two years in the company:

  • I introduced HTML5 within two months of my arrival to the production site.
  • I've improved semantics of the site.
  • I wrote the current implementation of "desktop site" AJAX shopping cart.
  • I rewrote the header of the site as well. If you think it feels right then I am to blame.
  • I've improved client side loading times a lot.
  • Google ranking has improved a lot.
  • I've pushed performance as an important factor in general.
  • I've been the person who has taken main responsibility of the technical side of the new responsive checkout process UI.

Learning to be a dev

Before being hired to Verkkokauppa.com I wasn't really familiar with a lot of dev stuff. I didn't know how to speak like one, I didn't know what kind of people devs are and I didn't know how to compare what I know with what others know. All this has changed.

I've purposefully chosen the path of being specialized as a front end developer. Thus I've avoided touching the back end code even if I do have the capability to become good with that side as well. But I think specializing is a good thing especially now as the company has been hiring even more developers.

There have been ups and downs and I still struggle with having constantly solid productivity. But I'm finding my way and I'm becoming good with things that I hardly knew anything about before, such as application architecture and code that is understandable to not only me but others as well. (I have the issue of being very good at reading badly written code so it took me a while to understand that writing readable and understandable code is a good goal: I shouldn't repeat sillyness for the sake of mimicing and uniformness even if I'm very good at that too.)

Things I do that I enjoy doing

In case you didn't notice I can write somewhat okay. Maybe not the most touching text you've ever read, but I get my point across. At least I hope I do…

Translating to Finnish

I've translated a couple of games and programs to the Finnish language. Games include Civilization V, Transport Tycoon Deluxe and The Settlers II. Programs include phpBB2, MyBB and XenForo, which are all PHP based forum software. I've done some others as well but nothing particularly notable comes to my mind so these are good enough.

PC

For a long time I've built my computer setups myself. Chosen the parts, put things together, installed Windows, bothered with it's quirks and issues. In the meanwhile I've also fixed computers and I also have a couple of retro DOS/Win9X setups still laying around that I'm not planning of getting rid of. I did choose to sell my C64 though.

Misc

In late 2000 I started a Tolkien fansite, Kontu. It grew. It got a forum. Now it is a living community, it is deeply linked with the Finnish Tolkien Society and the quality of Kontuwiki has been acknowledged in the Finnish translation of The Lord of the Rings books. I take care of the technical aspects of the site and try to keep things active online.

I like fantasy and scifi movies. Marvel's superhero movies are quite nice. Occasionally you may also find me watching anime. I also enjoy documentaries, especially ones on science and/or history.

Links!

Programming
GitHub
CodePen
Finnish homepage
Some of my hobby sites
Kontu: Finnish community and wiki on Tolkien's Middle-earth
Settlers II.net
Maaya's Forum

Cool stuff I've done

The Settlers II.net Map Generator creates playable maps for the game. The maps have a very great variety. I think the landscape it creates is quite superior to about any other map generator tool I've seen. The end result works very well with the game.

This tool is probably the best offering that I can give of my skills outside the "web tech stuff" category. The logic that creates the landscape is not based on any existing algorithm – it is 100% hand crafted by me.

Web stuff

CodePen is the playground where I experiment the most these days. But sometimes it is hard to test older browsers there so I put my stuff on this site instead.

Would I like to work elsewhere?

Nope. I'm locked to Helsinki for now.

But here is my LinkedIn anyway.