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From bricks to bytes

For as long as I can remember, I have been intrigued by technology.
Back in the 90s, before we all had a private internet connection and before I even had my first date, I was already messing around in Windows 95/98. There was no doubt that computers would be a big part of my life in the future.

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Yet, by the age of 14 I ended up quitting school, started working in construction as a bricklayer, and never got any degree in school. Being a handyman runs in the family, my dad was a entrepreneur in floors and tiles and his vision was that you can only make money by working with your hands. Every night, I would end up at my desk, doing experiments like creating simple static websites, fixing computers and laptops for friends to exploring the range of possibilities that the internet and PC had to offer. And also gaming, ofcourse!

How did I end up becoming a .Net software engineer?

Up till 2016, I had many jobs, and I always ended up being fired because of ‘economical reasons’ or the work I did was not what the job description mentioned. I kept
doing temporary contracts. The struggle was very real and the future did not look bright. I was a carpenter, insulator, bricklayer, did restaurations and even roadworks.
I had the illusion that to become an IT professional, you had to be an A-grader at school and get a bachelor’s or master’s degree in IT science.
But then, by coincidence, I discovered that VDAB offered free software-development courses for unemployed people. I didn’t hesitate and 2 weeks later I attended the info session, and passed the admission test with a score of 98/100.

Now I had a decision to make. After a short initial introduction to programming in Pascal/Delphi, I could choose between Java, .NET or PHP to start an 8-month program,
8 months with a minimal income because I still had unemployment benefits, with 2 kids to take care of… but I knew it would be worth it.
I had no experience with software development. I didn’t even know what a variable was,
I decided to take the chance, go for it and learn .NET. From the first module on, the C# fundamentals, I was addicted, intrigued. I loved how I could make things happen by writing code, creating things that help people, out of nothing. I passed every module and bagged all optional modules along while I was at it. When I finished my final test, I started a 6 week internship at a .NET consultancy company in Ghent. These were my first steps in a professional IT company, and I realised I did not only have to work on my software development skills, I needed to work on myself. It is a different world, changing from a construction site to a professional IT environment. Attending meetings, stand-ups, video conferences were all new to me and everything made me very nervous, even today.

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Sweet Mustard

Through Cooder IT, an IT recruitment company, I heard about a job opportunity only few miles from where I live. Sweet Mustard is a collaboration between TVH and Cronos Group, doing mainly front-end and Java development. There were plans to set up a .NET team for future projects and Sweet Mustard needed .NET developers to set up this environment. A few days later I already had my first -very comfortable and pleasant- interview with our manager Lander and our technical coach Mike. They shared the Sweet Mustard story with me, and I shared my background story, my motivation and ambitions.
After a second interview with Stan, our Digital Innovation Coordinator, I received a call from Lander with a contract offer. No words can describe the feeling that overwhelmed me, after all this work I got my first real job/contract as a software developer!

Onboarding & ongoing

On my first day, everything was already set up. I received my laptop and accessories, my brand new car was waiting for me in the parking lot and I also received a fuel card. I started my adventure together with Wouter, an experienced .NET developer. We have both set up a .NET environment within Sweet Mustard. We defined conventions and guidelines for future projects which are currently in the pipeline.

In the past few months we also have been part of some great initiatives and internal projects. I have been in touch with machine learning & AI, Arduino, robotics, hackathons, innovation days, design thinking, various workshops and had a full training in agile scrum. Every 2 weeks all Sweeties come together in the All Hands meeting where we all share our project experiences. Currently I’m also helping to set up the Team Member Mapping, and starting to scaffold the architectural foundations for our coaching app. Our open office policy ensures a relaxed and flexible work environment for Sweeties that are currently working remote on or internal projects.

Sweet Mustard gives me a chance to grow in the right direction, ‘cultivates talent’ by letting me attend conferences, study and learn what interests me the most, supporting me in achieving my future goal, to become a solution architect.

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