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Team Snapshots: Why Learning New Skills is Always Essential For Growing Creativity

By EyeEm Team - 4 min read

We spoke to our Tech Lead Eric about why research skills, knowledge sharing, and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone can take your career to the next level.

Since the beginning, technology has been the backbone of our platform. It’s what allows us to connect millions of photographers around the world with brands and image buyers. That’s why our team is always working hard to find unique solutions, explore new approaches, and push our technology forward.

We caught up with our team member Eric Schaefer about what it takes to be working in such a dynamic environment. Keep reading to find out what skills are critical for developing your career in technology within a creative environment.

Our Tech Lead (And Part-time Music Producer) Eric Tells Us More

What drew you to EyeEm originally?

It all began when a former colleague of mine from Edenspiekermann was working here and she had me come in and meet some of the team. I really liked what everyone was working on and how they communicated about the technology here.

After moving from the US eight years ago, you’ve now developed a great career here in Berlin. What has surprised you most during your time working in technology?

Approaches that companies take to things like software quality and evaluating the way their users interact with software can vary significantly.

For example, I got a glimpse of that when I was working in an agency. We worked with so many clients, all of which had their own technology teams, code quality, and project management styles. This has taught me that there’s no ‘right way’ of doing things in software or technology.

How do you nurture your creative skills?

When I was younger I had an old plastic Holga camera that I’d carry around with me all the time. I’d practice things like double exposures and play around with the ‘dreamy’ aesthetic that Holga cameras can offer. These days, my creative side is more fulfilled by music.

I’m currently producing electronic, atmospheric music. For me, it’s a different kind of calming and in the same way, I think that’s how much of our community see photography. I really respect and love to follow the really talented photographers in our community!

What do you think are the skills that most people wouldn’t expect for the role that you’re in right now?

Part of being like a tech lead, or any technologist in general, means that you have to stay on top of new marketing gimmicks and technology. Therefore having good research skills is a huge advantage. Finding stable, long term practical solutions takes a lot of research time. Then comes the prototyping, creating proof of concepts, and evaluating the successes or failures of those new approaches.

What resources do you use to learn new things?

When I don’t have time to work on something new that I’m interested in at work, I’ve found that conferences or workshops can be a great alternative! Often the expert leading is really excited about whatever they’re talking about and this enthusiasm rubs off and makes things easier to learn.

For example, it’s really worked for me with ‘ReasonML’ which is a functional programming language that excels in building UIs.

Speaking of ReasonML, you recently gave a talk at Berlin’s ‘React Day’ Conference. What’s your top tip for anyone - technology-focused or not - to talk about their field to large audiences?

I wanted to tailor my talk to be ‘ReasonML for sceptics’ to demonstrate how it solves real problems for teams that are already working with an existing codebase. I probably spent over 60 hours preparing for that talk because it’s hard actually to fit a topic like that into 30 minutes.

I committed to practising to a number of colleagues and different members of the technology community to ensure I cut material each day. When you spend that much time cycling through your material you don’t think about it while you’re standing up in front of everyone, and that really helped with the nervous component.

You first started at EyeEm as a front end engineer. What advice would you give anyone looking to progress into a similar role that you’re in now?

If you have informed opinion about the direction that a project needs take (if it’s outside the box) then be bold and step up. I had already been building little backends for personal projects, and so one day I made a decision to branch out and I offered to build the backend for our productions product. It went really well and I learned a lot from my colleagues, making sure I asked for help when I needed it.

That’s another thing I would say that’s really valuable for developing your roles in technology - know how to ask for help. It’s not as scary as you think and you learn so much more. If your colleague really knows about the subject, they’ll be happy to share their knowledge and take you through the steps, and pointing you towards better learning materials.

Want to know more about being part of the team here at EyeEm? We are always looking for more people to join us at our Berlin and New York Studios! Head to our jobs page and get in touch!

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