How did I turn into a nerd?

Written by Bob Voorneveld on 5th March 2015

November 2013, bad news. The company I am working for goes bankrupt…

I was an interior designer

I was an interior designer, mostly working together with architects to design shops: clothing companies, libraries, dentist-offices, you name it. We gave buildings a complete makeover and tried make our clients’ companies more successful in attracting new clients and businesses. We actually thought we were pretty successful, but the crisis in the retail-world, especially in the Netherlands, made it more and more difficult to sell our designs and furniture. Mid-november the boss called us together for a meeting and told us it was over.

At that time I had just bought a house, I had (and still have :-)) a lovely wife and a daughter of only 6 months old. Of course, I know, nobody wants to be jobless, but I really wasn’t in the ideal position to be out of a job! And to be honest, I really wanted to work. Luckily, a new owner bought the bankrupt company and offered me a job a couple of days after the bankruptcy. But in the meantime, I had already called a couple of people to ask if they knew anyone or a company who would like to hire a selfmade interior designer, without any diplomas or qualifications.

I didn’t have any qualifications

I didn’t have any qualifications, but did have a small passion for programming on the iPhone. I started a couple of years earlier in my free time with some very interesting courses about programming on iTunes U, all of them free of charge, complete and offered by Stanford University. The first course started off with a very basic introduction on programming using Java (CS106a), the second went a bit more in depth in C++ (CS106b) and my final goal was to learn how to program on the iPhone (at that time still an iPhone 3gs, just switching to 4s) with objective C (CS193p). For everyone with some programming background that wants to get a good base level of iOS programming, that course is a must. Paul Hegarty is great teacher, I found him really inspiring.

Round table

When all this took place, I was already a member of our local Round Table. A great group of guys who meet each other twice a month to have a lot of fun and even more beers. The purpose of the Round Table is to get in contact with people who you normally wouldn’t meet and share each other’s interests. Every month one of the guys gives a presentation about his work, hobbies, something in the news or whatever he wants to talk about. That year I gave my presentation about my interest in programming.

Mark is one of the members of our Round Table, and the founder of Voys: a VoIP telephony company based in Groningen. He called to ask how I was doing during the bankruptcy and if he had to look around to see if someone was interested in a good 3D designer (I was using Sketchup a lot). He told me this could be a good opportunity to switch careers and do something completely different. I told him, that if I really had the chance to do something else, programming was something I wanted. I missed out on university by choosing the complete wrong direction (three times, yeah, Groningen had its temptations) and should have done a programming course. Mark mentioned briefly he would ask his colleagues if there was an opportunity to do an internship at his company, but we switched topics and hung up after a while. Two days later he called again, offering me a paid internship for six months to become a professional programmer, in those six months I had to prove that I was good enough to stay.

Six months to become a Python developer

During those two days, another architect offered me a job as well, so within a couple of days of the bankruptcy I had three job offerings. But within a minute, I was sure to pick Mark’s opportunity, called him to tell him my choice and we agreed on the starting date, the first of January 2014. That gave me six weeks to become a Python developer, to get acquainted with the company and my new colleagues, while still working for my old boss. You can guess that there was no christmas holiday. My wife supported me throughout the first six months by letting me study during the evenings and ignoring her completely, and work at VoIPGRID during daytime. It was a great inspiring time, my first couple of scripts that went in production crashed some servers a couple of times (sorry…), I learned how to be a nerd, and loved my new job. A great introduction in how to become a Python programmer is through the book Test-Driven Development with Python by Harry Percival. It’s written in an amusing style and tells you a lot about testing (which became something really difficult in the ‘real’ world).

Today I still love programming, am proud to be a nerd and really looking forward to make Spindle a great success. If you think programming is a great hobby, but you feel it is a big step to go professional, please contact me or one of our team members, we’ll let you know if there is an opportunity for you as well to become a real nerd!

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