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By Asavin Wattanajantra, writer at Metia.
This is the stereotype.
But what if you can be both?
Startup companies find that hybrid developers are worth their weight in gold, the jack of all trades with design experience who can be invaluable in taking products from conception to shipment.
They know how technology works under the hood, but are interested in aesthetics and the user experience. They are people who can translate the disparate languages of the visual and technical. They also enjoy being creative and technical at the same time.
Hybrid developers/designers have a unique advantage in a fast-moving industry. They will be able to contribute to the entire workflow of a project, and will be in high demand in the software and application development industry because they have different hats to perform a number of duties. They can see the wider picture, thinking of ideas, moving projects forward and able to see whether designs wanted by clients or bosses are technically possible.
So how do you become a hybrid developer? Here are a few ideas to get started.
Improve your skills
Learning is crucial if you're looking to pick up design skills as a hacker, or a designer looking to start coding. The first thing to say is that this process is going to take time and hard work, and may have to be in your spare time if you have a full-time job. It may take years to get your new skills good enough to use in a professional setting, so be prepared to put some long hours in.
That's the bad news. The good news is that there is a lot of information you can get online cheaply or free. In the last few years universities have started to make their courses and teaching available at low or even no cost – see Stanford University's Introduction to Computer Science or the numerous courses available from Coursera.
Whatever language or design aspect you want to study, it's more than likely you'll be able to find it with a web browsing search. You've got books easily available, while online tutorials like Codeacademy and Alison.com pop up regularly. You'll find what you're looking for – the only thing you might not have enough of is time.
Though there's a 'geek' stereotype, developers and designers can be some of the most active users of social networks and community-based websites, learning from other people working in the space and finding new clients or business. At Microsoft, we have lots of resources offering high-quality content that might be useful, as well as ways to connect with numerous evangelists who you can chat and get in contact with.
Once you've got those new design and development skills, get cracking and start using them! You'll need to practice and learn by creating small programs and designs – more often than not you'll be frustrated at the beginning, but it's valuable for experience and with practice you will get better.
This process, valuable for increasing your skill level, could also be good for building up your portfolio of work. And since you'll have both coding and design experience, it's possible that you might come up with something particularly interesting. You can do all this in your spare time away from your day job, and hopefully you might have some fun doing it!
Improve your business acumen
If you fancy having a crack at creating for the Microsoft ecosystem, we have tools like Visual Studio which could get you creating for platforms like Windows 8.1, Windows Phone, or building web apps for a product like Microsoft Office.
If you've got a good enough idea, then there are opportunities to make real money and a business by selling your app in the Windows Stores. Do you have an idea to build a startup around? Then have a look and see Microsoft Ventures or BizSpark can help.
As highlighted at the beginning, hybrid developers will be in high demand, particular by startups requiring multi-skilled workers. If it's less of a hobby and more of a career for you, then this might be a good path to go down.
If you're already working, make sure your employer knows about new skills you've developed and how useful you can be. If you're looking for a new role, edit your CV and/or website as appropriate.
If you're a contractor or freelancer make sure you update your portfolio and website with the products you make and skills you have, so people can see what you can do.