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Star Richardson


Star Richardson

Software Engineer

Makeup artist turned self-taught software engineer and crypto enthusiast. Software Engineer at This Dot. Woman of a thousand interests and maker of many things.

GraphQL Contributor Days | December 2021 cover image

GraphQL Contributor Days | December 2021

This is a recap of the December GraphQL Contributor Days, an event where maintainers and contributors came together to talk about all things current and upcoming in the GraphQL realm! Read on or rewatch the event here to see what these experts have to share, and see what they're using at companies such as Facebook, PayPal, Hasura, and Netflix. Our hosts for this event were Dustin Goodman and Tanmai Gopal. Panelists * Adhithi Ravichandran, @AdhithiRavi * Conor Hastings @stillconor * Jamie Barton, @notrab * Joey Nenni, @JoeyNenni * Jon Wong, @jnwng * Lee Byron, @leeb * Marc-André Giroux, @\_\_xuorig\_\_ * Roy Derks, @gethackteam * Tejas Kumar, @TejasKumar_ * Uri Goldshtein, @UriGoldshtein * Kyle Schrade, @NotKyleSchrade * Patrick Arminio, @patrick91 * Gabriel Nordeborn, @\_\_\_zth\_\_\_ Community Showcase & Updates GraphQL Yoga (Uri Goldshtein) GraphQL Yoga 2.0 has been in the works for the past few months, and it’s finally launched its alpha! This version is shipping with Envelop, and includes support for deferring streams, live queries, and the latest GraphiQL IDE. RescriptRelay CLI (Gabriel Nordeborn) A new feature has been added to the RescriptRelay CLI! This new command has the ability to go through your code and remove all unused fields and fragments from your GraphQL queries, which in turn helps prevent over-fetching in your application. ` GraphQL Learning What can we do to support or easily onboard team members that may be new to GraphQL? What challenges do we face? Our panelists shared some of their favorite resources and methods that have worked for their teams, as well as brought up some great points about resources the community is still lacking. The general consensus was that folks coming from REST can have trouble learning the GraphQL way of doing things. Things like introspection & HTTP 200 blanket responses can cause errors and introduce security risks that may be overlooked by those learning GraphQL for the first time. Our panelists also agreed that there’s a need for concise resources outlining some of these common pitfalls, and there’s also a need for a simple, language-agnostic GraphQL starter package (think Create React App, but for GraphQL). Unfortunately, these resources don’t seem to exist just yet. However, our panelists did still have some great tips and resources to share for those trying to learn GraphQL. - Kyle Schrade had a couple suggestions that worked for his team: - Create internal documentation where you can keep track of answers to common questions. - Create a Codegen so that it’s easier for new team members to set up subgraphs. - Adhithi Rhavichandran shared a great Pluralsight course she co-authored on GraphQL API’s with Apollo. This is a great language-agnostic intro to GraphQL that talks about the differences between GraphQL and REST. - Jamie Barton created to provide the GraphQL community with short, digestible videos on GraphQL concepts. Authorization & Security How can we handle authorization and security for our GraphQL API’s? What kinds of considerations need to be made? There is no “one size fits all” in handling authorization in GraphQL API’s. With regards to where one should place their authorization logic, some argued for placing this logic at the resolver level (keeping auth logic close to business logic), while others wished to raise this logic up to a top layer to keep responsibilities separate. If the latter is your preference, Uri Goldshtein recommended GraphQL Authz for easily adding an authorization layer to your GraphQL API. This library is compatible with all modern GraphQL architectures as well. As mentioned earlier, there were some differing ideas around whether or not to allow schema introspection. Though some saw it as a potential security risk, Joey Nenni argued that the benefits for developers can be enormous and provide a better user experience. If you've properly secured your API, there shouldn't be any significant risks involved with allowing schema introspection. Federation What are the benefits and challenges of federating? A pain point for Roy Derks is that underlying services need to be ready for federation. "It'd be nice if every schema could be federated with any schema," he said. Tanmai Gopal suggested that it'd be best to do configuration at the GraphQL entry point, rather than at the service level in order to tackle that problem. What companies use federation, and how are they implementing it? Many of our panelists' companies are either actively using or planning to use Apollo Federation. Tanmai Gopal, founder of Hasura, said that Hasura does federation in two steps - service to service federation, and data source to data source federation. At PayPal, Staff Engineer Joey Nenni shared that they're currently working on implementing the Apollo Federation spec. Marc-André Giroux also shared that Netflix uses the Apollo Federation spec, though they have their own gateway built in Kotlin. The observability federation brings to their API, and the way federation fits within Netflix's microservice architecture works "beautifully" on his team. However, federating a monolith is perhaps not the best idea. Lee Byron, co-creator of GraphQL, agreed and shared that Facebook has a different approach. "I think federation brings a lot of value, but at a lot of cost," he explained. Schema registries, query plans, and all of the other "stuff" that comes with federation can be a lot to manage. > "Facebook doesn’t use any of that ... instead they use a model ... where you have a single definition of your schema that exists at your gateway." - Lee Byron Federation can be a great fit if your organization isn't a monolith and values team autonomy. "\[At Facebook] team autonomy is an anti-pattern," Lee joked. Teams that value autonomy or that may not share a unified language, on the other hand, may find a lot of value in federating. Other panelists agreed that company culture and team structure play a big part in determining whether to use a monolith or microservice structure, which can also determine whether or not federation is a good fit for your project. Culture can be very difficult to change, and may not even be possible. > "Regardless of the decision the net result is very similar. … However it is that we arrive at that conclusion, it doesn’t matter that much, and so we should choose the one that is easier for your organization." - Lee Byron What's new at GraphQL Foundation? - The Working Group, which contributes changes to the GraphQL spec, is about to run a vote for the leaders of their technical steering committee. This steering committee will be responsible for overseeing the Working Group. - The GraphQL Foundation has a bunch of new members and sponsors, which has allowed them to launch a brand new community grant program in order to redistribute some of those funds and encourage community-driven development. You can find the grant program here! - There's a newly released cut of the GraphQL spec! That's a Wrap! GraphQL Contributor Days is always a great way to keep your ear to the ground on what's coming in the GraphQL ecosystem. This month's event provided some fascinating insight into how some of the top companies in the world are using GraphQL. If you'd like to watch the full event and hear our panelists dive deeper on some of these topics (and more), you can find it here!...

Benefits of Software Apprenticeship & How to Make the Most of Yours cover image

Benefits of Software Apprenticeship & How to Make the Most of Yours

It’s no surprise that over the past year, many have started switching careers into tech. I was one of thousands of people that hopped on the “Learn to Code” train last year after losing my retail job. Being without a college degree, I looked into programming because it was one of the few industries where you could teach yourself the necessary skills without a long and expensive college education. As with many things though, the process of learning to code, and finding a job, proved more difficult than expected. About two months into a fruitless job search, a mentor of mine told me about This Dot and their Apprentice Program that had helped her get started as a self-taught software engineer. I was so excited to find an approachable entry point into tech for self-taught folks like myself! What is an apprenticeship? So what is an apprenticeship, and how does it differ from an internship? As I understand it, an apprenticeship is a program that provides hands-on work experience with the explicit goal of placing you in a job. An internship is more focused on general exposure to a work environment, or industry, without the explicit goal of hiring or placing you at the end. Another major difference is that most internships will require you to be an active college student pursuing a degree, while apprenticeships are generally more accommodating of unconventional backgrounds. Why do an apprenticeship? These are some of the key reasons I decided to pursue an apprenticeship at This Dot Labs. Keep in mind that every apprenticeship and every company is different, and the reasons I’ve listed here are specific to my experience in This Dot’s Apprentice Program. 1. Mentorship Opportunities Before I started my apprenticeship at This Dot, I was told I would be assigned a mentor that would meet with me once or twice a week. I didn’t realize that nearly all of my teammates and managers would also become my mentors. If I have a question, someone on the team is bound to have the answer, and everyone is more than willing to help. I’m only a few weeks into the apprentice program, but the meetings I’ve had with my mentor, teammates, and managers have already helped grow my skills immensely. 2. Room to Learn and Grow The whole purpose of an apprenticeship is to give someone the room to ask questions, fail, learn, and grow. In my first week as an apprentice, I was absolutely terrified of asking too many “stupid” questions. I struggled trying to do things on my own. Over and over, my managers reassured and encouraged me to keep asking more. They understand what it’s like starting out as a dev in your first job, and they are there to help you through every struggle. I quickly learned that if I ask questions early on instead of struggling for hours, I actually end up getting more work done, and being a bigger help to my team. They strongly encourage you to follow your interests and curiosities outside of software development at This Dot as well. I’ve already been given opportunities to try out other areas of interest in tech, such as Developer Relations (DevRel). In my first few weeks, I’ve been able to do things I’ve never tried before, like speaking on a podcast, writing blog posts (like this one!) and tweets, and moderating a panel at MagnoliaJS Conference. This room to experiment is a rare and valuable opportunity for an early-career developer. 3. Hands-on Experience Working on high-impact projects for major companies, and actually being responsible for the outcomes of these projects, is incredibly rewarding and validating. Being given a high level of autonomy, and the opportunity to “rise to the occasion” will grow your skills faster than any internship where you might be given tasks unrelated to your area of interest. The opportunity to build confidence, and validate your skills so early in your career, is invaluable. 4. The Team This point is obviously specific to my experience at This Dot, but it is so important to find a company that meshes well with your personality and values. This Dot greatly values good people, good work, personal growth, and a diverse team. I’m exposed to a lot of different people with different backgrounds and unique perspectives at work, which has been immensely valuable. This Dot even has a *Hire the Fempire* program that works with companies to hire more women in tech through their apprentice program. 5. An Accessible Option This is perhaps the most important point to me and the reason that apprenticeships are so invaluable: They offer an easier way to break into the tech industry for people that otherwise might not have the resources to be able to pursue a degree. They allow people with unconventional backgrounds to get real job experience, and change the trajectory of their lives. How can I make the most of my apprenticeship? You've done it! You've made it past the barrier and gotten your first tech job! Here are some ways I plan to make the absolute most of my time as an apprentice. 1. Ask Questions Now is the time to ask a lot of questions, and when I say "a lot", I mean *a lot*. If you are like the majority of people who experience impostor syndrome, this is something you will need to push past very early on. It will only hold you back. If, like me, you are terrified of sounding "stupid" or being found out as a fraud, try to reframe how you view asking questions. You are not asking a stupid question. You are simply trying to get unblocked, to allow yourself to do more awesome work. Don't stifle your own progress because you're afraid of appearing less knowledgeable than you are. If you're still worried about overloading your teammates or mentors with lots of questions, try batching your questions. Keep a list of questions you'd like to ask, and ask several at a time rather than spreading them out throughout the day or week. Lastly, be sure you know how to ask a good question, and always show gratitude to the person who's helping you. 2. Go Out of Your Way to Meet People In the first few weeks, I made sure to set up a short video meeting with all my managers, teammates- anyone I would be working with directly. These are the people that will celebrate wins with you, and help you when you're struggling. Once you get to know people long enough, you'll probably start to see that everyone has a "thing" they're particularly passionate about. You'll find out who to go to for React or Angular help, who to go to for GraphQL or Elixir knowledge. Fostering good, genuine relationships is incredibly important if you want to have a meaningful career (and life). 3. Don't Hide Your Struggles If you're struggling, don't be afraid to ask for help. If you followed my last tip for building relationships, hopefully you'll have found who you can go to for emotional support. Talking out your struggles can be one of the quickest ways to move past them, and your confidant may have their own personal experiences that can help you with yours. 4. Stay Open to Criticism Feedback is the fastest way to level up as a developer and human being. To use feedback most effectively, it's important to separate yourself from your work. If someone offers you feedback that is delivered in a not-so-nice way, you can still take something constructive from it, and use it to improve your work. In a lot of development work, it can actually be hard to know how or what to improve, so I try to view criticism as a blessing in disguise, and be grateful for being given some direction. 5. Set Goals and Track Your Progress Speaking of direction, it's important to have goals to work towards in many aspects of life. Set some short and long term goals for your apprenticeship, and share them with your mentors. If your mentors are good mentors, they'll support you in achieving these goals. Along with this, it's also important to have some way to track your progress. Some people like to journal, some people keep a Google doc or a Notion page. Personally, I've been sending myself a weekly email to track my progress. Point is: find a way to track your progress, and keep up with it regularly. Closing Thoughts I hope this post was helpful and inspiring to anyone trying to break into the tech industry! My hope for the future is that more companies will adopt apprentice programs, and structure them in a way that empowers early-career devs to ask questions, fail fast and fail forward, and be fearless learners. Tech still has a major diversity problem, and a lot of marginalized groups fall into the category of those with unconventional career backgrounds. If more companies offered apprenticeships, it would be a great step in the right direction for bringing more diversity into tech....