Making the inner workings work: from plumbing to web development

Making the inner workings work: from plumbing to web development

From the time I was 14 or 15 years old in Sicily my father told me to spend my summers working. He wanted me to understand what it means to work, and what it means to earn money. I studied a lot of programming in high school but in my summers, and for a few years after graduating, I did manual work.

I followed various family members, learning their trades. I worked with my uncle, who’s a plumber. I worked with my cousin, who’s an electrician. And under my father’s supervision I went to work at an iron factory, producing iron for use in building construction.

I loved all those jobs because I worked with my hands. I’d go home from work physically exhausted, but mentally refreshed.

But it was only when my sister opened a web agency and I went to work with her that I rediscovered the passion for web development that had been kindled at high school.

Family vs. hierarchy

After I did military service I found a job in Milan. It was a big agency, and they wanted someone junior that they could train. I stayed there 8 years. Programming languages, applications, tools and approaches: I learned tons from them and from my boss. As someone who has since spent a few years working freelance as well, I can assure you that having great colleagues and superiors to learn from is no small thing.

The company was big, and very hierarchical, with every department and manager well defined. And it worked.

But it wasn’t family.

A growing family

Prior to coming to Milan, I’d always worked with family. My father. My uncle. My cousin. My sister.

After a few more years of really gaining confidence in my skills as a freelancer, it was at Moskito Design that I started to feel like I was part of a family again. In 2012, when I started working with Evelina and Giulia, we were small.

But now, of course, we’re not so small. And with growth we’re trying to figure out how to implement that structure, that hierarchy, without losing what’s so precious about being small.

It’s not easy.

I’m somebody who likes doing a project from start to finish. I get that from working with small, family companies and working as a freelancer. I don’t like to hand over my work to someone else. But now we have to.

And for a founder and CEO, it must be even harder. It’s your company, but you can’t have their hands on everything anymore. It’s hard to let go. It’s hard to trust other people to be as committed as you.

And that’s why we’re creating this hierarchy, a layer of management in the company. An inner structure of strength and support.

There’s us, the managers. And there’s our growing teams. In my case, we’ve got a team of developers. In my experience it’s not so common to find women working in programming and development, but I’ve had the fortune to work with three.

What a developer is

I think there’s a lot of confusion about what a developer is and what it takes to be one. First of all, we’re not programmers. There are certain soft skills that may be the same. You’ve got to be curious. Passionate about figuring out how to make things work. Interested in doing research and solving problems. But there are different languages involved and a different approach.

Another point of confusion is that developers aren’t web designers. Just because you know how to input some plugins on WordPress or Magento doesn’t make you a web developer. A real developer gets their hands on the code.

And a front-end developer ― like we’re looking for now ― is different from a back-end developer. Many people really love one or the other, but not both. I actually talked to someone the other day who said they develop one newsletter a month, and that one newsletter is the most depressing part of their month! Definitely not a front-end developer.

Looks are everything

I’ve always loved front-end development more because I like seeing what it looks like in the end. You’ve got to see it ― and be obsessive about making something look exactly right.

You can tell right away with some people. At Moskito Design, when we’re searching for a new developer we give them a task to do: to reproduce a layout. But it’s difficult to find someone who will do the layout accurately.

There’ll be lots of problems with their final product: the spacing doesn’t end up the same or the font isn’t the correct size.

It’s not technological knowledge. Experience plays a part, but it seems more a question of character. If you tell someone to pay especially careful attention to X, Y and Z and the result is completely disregards the factors you’ve warned them about, to me it shows that precision just isn’t part of who they are.

It’s made all the difference between a developer we’ve hired and one we haven’t.

Because we’re not just working on the surface. We’re working to build the stuff on the inside, that supports what you see. And if you get that wrong, the rest doesn’t work.


Whether it was as a plumber, an electrician, an iron worker or a web developer ― or even now, that we’re structuring this family-like agency with a more solid management hierarchy ― I’ve always worked on the hidden side of the things. The support, the architecture. The inner structure you can’t see.

But the stuff you’ve got to get right to keep the whole machine humming.


At Moskito Design we take care of the design you see, and the development you don’t.


Gaetano is Senior Developer and Agency Director at Moskito Design