Thoughts on the importance of focus time from an Uplevel Dev

A conversation with our dev, April Bingham, about giving back to the engineering community, the power of good design, and not letting her brain turn to mush.
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April Bingham, Frontend Developer

April Bingham was going to be a Communications major. Fortunately, her department had a progressive focus on incorporating web and development into her program. Given her blended interest in analytical, technical, and creative pursuits, she migrated to dev work with a North Star of good design.

“I enjoy design,” she elaborates. “I’ve found that many front-end devs don’t—they’re more JavaScript, programmy, but I love CSS and aesthetics.” These qualities have supported April through a successful, diverse career. She previously taught a local UI class, where she encouraged students to think broadly. “It’s not just what’s on the page, but how you can group things in a way that’s helpful for users. With the right thinking, you can even make an error message useful to them.”

She lives by this logic-creative hybrid. As a working dev, “I’m solving puzzles every day,” she says. You can also find her tackling crosswords, Sudoku, or “constantly looking” for new puzzles and games. “I love exercising my brain, not letting it turn to mush,” she says with a laugh.

HIGHS AND LOWS

Something that motivates April is the all-too-common experience of engineers “being stuck in a process that isn’t working.” Unlike a car assembly, she muses, software development doesn’t move in one clear order with one reliable output. The work can go in many directions. Her work is to “clear away the uncertainty and find the hidden gems” that can guide teams toward a more efficient process. “Every day, I’m addressing ‘why is this so hard?’ for struggling teams.”

Naturally, being innovative requires deep focus for April. 

What does a great workday look like? “Definitely as few meetings as possible. Ideally, no meetings.” She’s optimistic about a day that begins with a task in front of her, one that’s challenging and requires digging in. This is in contrast to a day filled with lots of little tasks, which divide focus less efficiently.

“Deep Work really resonates,” she says, although she often dives in for relatively shorter blocks of time, like 30 or 45 minutes.

What does a frustrating workday look like? “Getting pulled in lots of directions. Constant pings.” Disruptions to that preferred single-task focus can be irritating. “If I’m pulled off a desirable assignment, then randomized, I’m not getting to my planned to-dos. At the end of the day, I might have done a lot of things, but I don’t feel like I made great progress on anything.”

Quality of life expands beyond daily tasks, leading April to talk about a crucial aspect: job satisfaction. “Ultimately, from the day-to-day angle of “Is work enjoyable?” the team has a big influence.” Like many others, she admitted that she’s stayed at past mediocre jobs because she liked her coworkers. It’s not just what she’s working on, but how that work is going.

It all comes back to her central theme. “At the end of the day, do I feel like I’m being productive and getting stuff done? Do I have a purpose here?”

WORKING AT UPLEVEL

April joined Uplevel in March 2019, exclusively focused on front-end development on the client dashboard app.

“The thing that attracted me to Uplevel was the chance to build something for the engineering community,” she says.

After 22 years in this industry, April has a drive to give back to the engineering community. “I’ve worked at a lot of places. Some were extremely dysfunctional. I like having the ability to help another company not be dysfunctional.” Now, she keeps those past experiences in the forefront as she designs tools that empower devs with data.

“Maybe I can spare a young, up-and-coming engineer from some of my experiences that were less than ideal. I want to help them have those perfect programming days [free of frustration].”

She checks her Uplevel dashboard for burnout metrics. “I became hyper-aware of Uplevel being a great company because it cares about these metrics and bends over backwards to make sure that people aren’t always “on.” Other companies weren’t always like that. You just needed something to get done.”

What recent Uplevel feature excites her? “My hackathon project!” she says, referring to the tri-annual ritual of working on personal projects and dreaming up new features for the product. Hers is focused on Project Explorer and data shareability among teams.

THE NEXT CHAPTER

If there’s anything April wants to share with the world about Uplevel, it’s “the lengths that we go to for data privacy.” Her team has frequent conversations about unintended consequences and “consciously works” to build Uplevel in a way that “uses data in the most positive, productive, useful way—not in a Big Brother way.” 

She’s clear in her resolve to help devs, not make their lives harder. “This is not to compare team members or look at a team member’s data in an unflattering way.” 

Again, she mentions giving back to the engineering community: “I want to feel like I’m doing something for a purpose.”