Rehat Kathuria on juggling work as both an iOS developer and photographer
London-based Rehat Kathuria is a freelance developer and photographer, working exclusively on iOS – the operating system developed by Apple for its hardware. Graduating from Kingston with a BSc in computer science in 2014, Rehat began coding in his first year at university, but it was during an internship that he really learned the ropes of the role. Since then, he’s worked as a developer at MetaLab, Wonderbly and Curl, but insists that the key to being a good developer is being both open-minded and admitting when you don’t understand something. Rehat tells us more about how life as a freelance developer affords him time to work on his own ideas, the photo book he is working on, and why he thinks Hollywood is to blame for tech stereotypes.
iOS Developer and Photographer
Atlas by Collins, Curl, England and Wales Cricket Board, Notarize, Ping, RFU Rugby, Sudo, ZOZI Advance and more
iOS Developer, MetaLab (2015–2016)
Wonderbly, previously Lost My Name (2015)
Other Media (2012–2013)
BSc Computer Science, Kingston University (2010–2014)
How would you describe what you do?
I consider myself both a developer and a photographer.
What does a typical working day look like?
Every morning, shortly after waking up, I carry a notebook with me to the kitchen where I make myself a pot of coffee and eat some fruit. I try my best to spend these early morning moments away from a phone or laptop. Instead I try to fill a page in my notebook with things I’d like to achieve that day. A simple to-do list. There’s something very therapeutic about physically marking things off a page as the day progresses.
After that, I’ll check my emails, and respond to any that need urgent attention. Others get thrown into a ‘later’ folder which I work through when I can find the time. The rest of the day differs slightly depending on what I’m working on. If I’m working with a client on a technical job then I’ll hop onto Slack, catch up, and begin work. If I’m in-between jobs working on my own projects then I’ll do the same, except for Slack.
What do you like about working in London?
This is a bit of a loaded question; recently I’ve become disenchanted with the city and have been considering moving down to the coast and becoming fully remote. There are logistical things that need to be considered when making such a big jump so, for now, it’s just an idea. This isn’t to say I don’t enjoy London, I just think I’m ready for a slightly slower-paced life.
I think one of my favourite aspects of working in the city is how much is happening. There are folks peppered all over, working on genuinely interesting things; a huge broth of creative individuals, ideas and products. If I move, that’s the one thing I’ll miss the most.
How does your freelance work usually come about?
The majority of my freelance work in the past has come through Twitter and clients I’ve previously worked with. I’ve also had other freelancers recommend me when they’ve been overloaded with work.
How collaborative is your work?
A huge part of my work is collaborative. I always work very closely with my clients. I can’t think of a profession where working in a bubble yields good results; I think that’s especially the case when building technology.
What are the most and least enjoyable aspects of your job?
Least enjoyable is chasing clients who refuse to pay. Most enjoyable is the freedom it gives me to work on my own ideas.
“I can’t think of a profession where working in a bubble yields good results; I think that’s especially the case when building technology.”
What skills are essential to your job?
I’m almost entirely convinced that two of the most essential skills to being a good developer is the ability to openly say you don’t understand something when appropriate and being open-minded.
Are you currently working on any self-initiated projects?
For the past fifteen months I’ve been working on a street photography photo book focused on the coasts of England. It’s a few weeks off from being fully printed and I’m planning on starting a photo book publishing company alongside. I have also pledged ten percent of all proceeds to forever be donated to a charity working towards improving mental health.
What tools do you use most for your work?
Xcode, Sketch, Adobe Lightroom, InDesign and my camera.
How I Got Here
What did you want to be growing up?
Ages six to ten – an astronaut; 11 to 16 – a photographer; 16 to 26 – a developer.
How (if at all) is the subject you studied useful to your current role?
Studying computer science at university helped a lot, but the majority of my learnings came from outside the lecture halls. Theory was helpful but I learned most when making mistakes.
When and how did you learn to code?
I learned to code in Java during my first year at university, before which, I had only dabbled slightly in HTML and CSS.
“My career as a developer feeds the part of my brain that photography doesn’t – the technical”
What were your first jobs?
For a year as part of my degree, I worked as a junior iOS developer at Other Media. I was given an interview after putting an app into the store. I spent a year learning the foundations of iOS development with the lead developer. After I left the agency I rewrote the app that got me the initial interview, except this time it didn’t take me four months – I finished it in under three hours.
The confidence that the hands-on experience gave me was unparalleled. I don’t think I would’ve done half as well in my final year at university had I not spent the year writing code and learning from someone on a daily basis.
“Studying computer science at university helped a lot but the majority of my learnings came from outside the lecture halls.”
Who in particular helped you the most at the start of your career?
My mentor at Other Media, Adam Swinden, played a huge role in teaching me the ropes of iOS Development. He shaped a lot of my thinking and helped me gain a solid foundation in programming.
Is your job what you thought it would be?
Freelancing is as challenging as I initially thought it’d be and it’s a challenge that I’ve not yet grown tired of. I think Hollywood is to blame for a lot of the false preconceptions around tech, specifically the “hacker” stereotype. Usually, It’s not as exciting as that.
The reality, for me anyway, is more just adding breakpoints to code and stepping through to figure out a specific problem. And a lot of drawings of hypothetical architecture in a notepad. I guess half an hour of me staring at a notepad tapping a pen on my forehead wouldn’t make for great TV. I forgive you CSI: Miami.
What would you like to do next?
As mentioned above, I’ve been working on a photobook for the past fifteen months which is a few weeks away from coming to life. I’d like to publish other photographers, especially underrepresented ones, under the photobook company that I’m starting. I have no plans to stop my career as a developer because it feeds the part of my brain that photography doesn’t – the technical. The future is about to be filled with a fun, exciting and new challenge: balancing time.
Words of Wisdom
What advice would you give to a young creative wanting to get into the same line of work?
There has never been a better time to do what you’d like to do. The internet is this absurdly magical place where you can learn almost anything you’d like to. Hell, you’re also probably carrying it in your pocket. You could go onto YouTube right now and learn how to whittle a spatula. You could go and find a video series teaching you ways to write functional code in Swift.
Take advantage of the internet, experiment, find something that moves and intrigues you. Chase that intrigue and yearn to learn.
Interview by Marianne Hanoun
Mention Rehat Kathuria