Emerson Veenstra joined the LaFleur team in 2020 as a full-time web developer. Emerson has nurtured an interest in programming and technology since high school, and has experience working in both front-end and back-end web development. He loves to use digital tools and creative thinking to solve business challenges, and he also likes to stay engaged with the broader web development community. Notably, he has contributed code to official WordPress development tools and the Firefox web browser.
Emerson sat down with LaFleur to talk about the source of his passion for web dev, the recent renaissance of his musical interests, and getting married in the time of coronavirus.
LaFleur: Emerson, what do you do here at LaFleur?
Emerson Veenstra: I am in charge of spearheading the new web development side of LaFleur, where we’re looking more into doing custom themes, custom plugins, integrations, stuff like that, just to be able to make the marketing side of companies easier and give them a little leg up on the competition that just runs a basic WordPress site.
LF: When you say a leg up on the competition, what do you mean?
EV: Well, just to take an example, for one of our clients, we have this custom integration with a platform they use to track inventory, and being able to hook that into WooCommerce and being able to accurately display prices, stock levels, all that stuff, that’s sort of the stuff that we’re aiming for. Because that wouldn’t be possible with the standard WooCommerce instance on a normal WordPress site.
It’s also being able to deliver quality websites that load fast and are easy to make and efficient to put out.
LF: Got it. So, creating these kinds of custom solutions, is that something you’ve been doing for a long time?
EV: Yeah, it’s something I definitely have experience in. At my previous job as a web developer, that’s kind of where I learned a lot of the tools that could be useful in doing that sort of stuff. One of the things I’ve always liked to do is just make things fast, whether that’s website load times or development processes. Anything from the automation side, anything that makes things faster is always cool in my book.
LF: Does your need for speed extend to things beyond web dev? Like do you supercharge cars or hack appliances?
EV: (laughs) Not so much. There’s not a whole lot that I do that translates to other stuff like that. It’s more on the virtual side of things.
LF: So is web dev something you’ve always been doing, like for your adult life? How did you get started in it?
EV: Yeah, sort of. It kind of all started when I was a senior in high school, and I took A.P. Calculus. It was online, because that was the only way our school offered it. And when I wanted to procrastinate, I would learn web development, among other things. The school had turned on a lot of web filters that locked down social media, games, anything like that, so I was kind of limited as to what I could procrastinate with. I ended up getting into web development and liked seeing how it all worked. I got decently good at it instead of doing my actual calculus work, and it ended up with me getting an internship after I graduated. It just kind of went from there.
LF: I’m a chronic procrastinator too, but I never thought of trying to use something productive as procrastination. I tend to gravitate toward anything that will distract me from what I’m supposed to be doing. But maybe I’ll try only allowing myself to procrastinate with a useful pursuit. So, I might borrow that idea from you.
EV: Well, right now, the procrastination thing for me is Duolingo. I’m relearning Spanish.
LF: Very cool.
LF: So, what do you like about your work as a web developer? What in it appeals to you?
EV: I’d say that at the most fundamental level, it’s just making something come to life, at least in the way we do it where I’m handed an XD file with a designer’s inspiration, and being able to say, “Okay, how can I turn this into a working webpage where people can use it?” So, I think it’s just that challenge of translating vision into reality, while also staying on top of new technologies, since web browsers and development tools are constantly evolving.
LF: Outside of your work, what kinds of things do you like to do? What are you into right now?
EV: Right now, I’m mostly into music. I’ve got two acoustic guitars, a bass, and a keyboard sitting on the other side of my office. Whenever I have some free time, I’ll usually pick up one of those. I don’t really have like — I should probably practice, but it’s usually kind of scurrying around and seeing what kind of songs I can play.
LF: So, you mostly learn songs? Or do you jam? What’s your method when playing music?
EV: Generally, I’ll have a song I’ve been listening to, and I’ll look up the chords or tabs online and play along with that. I’m getting back into the whole music theory aspect of it. Some of that’s a little hard on guitar just because you only have so many finger placements, but on piano, it’s kind of cool to be able to say, hey, what if I added a minor 7th to this? Or how cool is it to play in a different mode and see what happens?
LF: Do you play with other people or mostly on your own?
EV: Right now, it’s mostly a solo thing, mainly because I have this constant nagging feeling that I’m not good enough to play with other people.
LF: Yeah, I know what you mean. I think a lot of bedroom musicians feel that way.
EV: Yeah, so that holds me back a bit, and not a lot of my friends are as musically inclined as I am, so there’s a little bit of slim pickings in terms of people to play with. But it’s definitely something I would like to do.
LF: What’s the most recent song you learned or are working on now?
EV: On guitar, I’m trying to learn “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd.
LF: Oh yeah. Classic.
EV: I have the chords down because they’re pretty easy, but it’s just getting the feel.
LF: You recently got married, right?
EV: I did.
EV: Thank you. Yeah, about a month ago, just before everything happened with the quarantine and stay-at-home order.
LF: So, did you guys manage to get in any kind of traditional wedding with guests and stuff?
EV: No, not at all. We moved the date up twice, trying to get ahead of a stay-at-home order that we assumed would come. The second date we moved it to ended up being the day the order came down. We were still planning on getting married in our church, but the stay-at-home order happened, and our pastor called us and said, “Hey, I don’t think we can do this.” So, we were like, “Well, let’s just get married tonight.”
We ended up getting married in my wife’s parents’ house at like 11 at night. It was a very quick ceremony.
LF: I don’t suppose you got in a honeymoon.
EV: We sort of did. We had access to a cabin up in northern Michigan, so we went up and stayed there for the rest of the week. It wasn’t a fancy trip like we were planning, but it was a getaway, and we had plenty of time to soak it all in, do some stuff, and just relax.
LF: Well, I’m glad to hear that. You know, they say if it rains on your wedding day or whatever, that’s good luck. So if a stay-at-home pandemic order comes down on your wedding day, I feel like you should be set for life.
EV: I hope so.