We had a chat with one of our Rockstar Developers, Rob Gordijn, about how he came to work at BookerZzz and why he’s stuck around for the past 5 years. Read Rob’s story below and check out his LinkedIn here.
My parents started out with an MX DOS computer when I was 9 or 10. It had a load of floppy disk games and something about their simplicity caught my attention. The ability to input information and see an immediate on screen response was really exciting, and I decided that I wanted to create games myself. I started experimenting with programming with a group of friends was when I was 10 or 11. I spent a lot of time in my early teens creating programmes and websites with friends, and it soon became obvious that that was where my passion lay.
I studied electronics at school. I would’ve preferred to study IT immediately, but my test results at primary school put me on a different route. That didn’t dissuade me though, and I continued programming. I enrolled in secondary vocational education (MBO) with a very broad IT programme, covering everything from hardware to software. Finally, at higher professional education (HBO) I specialised in software, which led me to working at BookerZzz. Making websites is what I love to do, so I pretty much feel like I’m getting paid to do my hobby.
At BookerZzz, my job is to create a website which functions effectively and efficiently. When a guest searches for something on our website, I want them to be able to find it as quickly as possible, with minimal effort and just the right amount of information. We obviously have UX designers working with us to make sure that the website is attractive and user friendly, but my job is to make sure the backend is equally streamlined.
I actually have three job titles. I’m a senior software engineer, a team lead and a systems architect. The systems architect title comes from working here for a number of years, and knowing the system like the back of my hand. Our first website was built in 2002, so it’s important to understand the long digital legacy of the company – where we came from and where we want to go. Being a senior software engineer basically means I’m able to programme without any supervision, and as a team lead I’m responsible for making sure everyone is aligned.
If you can’t talk with your customer, understand their problem and communicate your solution, then you can’t do the job well.
The key is always communication, which is a really interesting part of being a developer. Many people assume that developers are unsociable and introverted, writing code in a dark corner of the office. There may be a tiny bit of truth in that, but a lot of what we do is about communicating well. If you can’t talk with your customer, understand their problem and communicate your solution, then you can’t do the job well.
The way we communicate has totally changed since we started working with Scrum. Meetings were barely existent beforehand; we had some work related talks but we never had proper retrospectives to get the team better aligned. At the beginning, when our Scrum Master introduced the method, some developers were really forced to get out of their comfort zones. The transformation has been pretty huge. We communicate better, we feel more free to speak our minds, and we get the opportunity to get valuable feedback and fresh perspectives every couple of weeks.
The travel and e-commerce industry is extremely competitive. The nature of the industry makes good communication, both within our department and across the organisation, essential. The systems are big and the market is competitive, so we have to continuously evaluate and adjust our working method. We receive a lot of requests from within the company to keep up with market demands – this creates a pretty high pressure working environment.
This also means that we get to play with new technologies. Last year, we changed hosting systems from a very old fashioned company to Amazon Web Services, which is about as dynamic as you can get. The process was tough but extremely productive. We’ve gained so much knowledge about our systems, what we need and what we don’t need. Our websites are faster and we can diagnose problems before they actually occur, rather than waiting for a complaint from a customer. We now have the opportunity to be proactive in dealing with problems.
GO is basically the hipster language of programming.
We’ve also starting programming with the GO language. It’s really exciting to be working with a language which is famous for its speed and modernity – it’s basically the hipster language of programming. We’re not all programming in GO, but we’re all sharing the underlying data and working together. It doesn’t really matter what language you’re programming in – the idea is that we work together to create a very nice end product.
The enthusiasm and willingness of the team, largely thanks to scrum, is infectious. Using new technologies makes for happy developers, and happy developers means an extremely motivated and willing department. Hosting with Amazon means we can whip up servers in 30 seconds – that is super exciting for any developer to work with. Due to the nature of the industry, we have to make software that’s processing the data in real time. If a hotel updates a price, there’s the expectation that the price will be shown on the website within a matter of minutes. We’re writing programmes that need to have a fast interaction.
First the developer learns from the company, and then the company will learn from the developer.
Every single person can have a direct effect on the working method. Even as a new developer, you can start making a fundamental difference in the company within a matter of months. That’s not available everywhere. There is flexibility to explore here; if you have a good idea, people will listen. First the developer learns from the company, and then the company will learn from the developer. This allows for plenty of growth, both personally and as a team.
We like to keep the energy around developing flowing, weather that means experimenting with a new feature or trying a new language or messing with a small bit of code. Why not try something new once in a while? Of course there are ups and downs – that’s part of any challenging working environment – but we have a community here and it feels like we’re all in it together. So when things go wrong, we fix the problem as a team, and that feels really good. I still feel like a big kid programming with my friends, only now I get paid to do so.
Are you looking for job opportunities for software developers in Holland? We might have a suitable job opening for you!