Is it possible to become a developer on a team with no devs?
Yes. First, you need to have the technical skills to do the work. Second, you must be able to demonstrate that your development work adds value for your company. Third, be careful how much work you take on. If you are the only developer you will be in a lot of trouble if you over-extend yourself. Fourth, you must make sure that you are not violating any laws or company policy (for example: don't use tools that are free for personal use but require a license for business use...unless your company pays for a license. Make sure you are not violating any information security policies or writing insecure code that puts your company at risk)
To create a role for yourself in a company that normally outsources their development work?
There are a lot of compelling arguments to having someone internally who can do the work. In many cases you will be more familiar with the business logic and provide better or faster results than an outsider. However, you need to make sure that you have a solid business continuity plan. If you create things that only you understand then there is a lot of risk if you leave the company (or are hit by a bus). You need to make sure that you provide adequate documentation and training materials in case someone else needs to do your work in the future. You may even end up collaborating with some of the outsource teams.
On top of this - what defines a 'developer'?
There is no consistent professional requirement. If you can deliver value to your company by writing code then you are a developer. However, part of being a good developer is knowing there is always more to learn. Stay humble and keep learning. It may take a long time to fully transition to where you want to be but you will get there if you keep working at it.
Basically, you will succeed as long as you are persistent and can show that you can provide high value with low risk.
Thanks for all your feedback, it's great to hear another devs perspective! The point you mentioned about tools for personal use vs business use, I never even thought of that - so I'll keep that in mind for sure. I'm also understanding the documentation portion you speak of too - It makes sense, especially if I'm working on things that no one else within the company has before or understands, I definitely see the importance in that! And yes, I agree about being a good developer is knowing there is always more to learn! Ever since I first discovered code I've been ongoing learning on the side and I don't see this as a thing that will ever end. Not because I have to, but because I enjoy it and I want to!
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