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5 THINGS YOU WILL LEARN AS A STARTING DEVELOPER

I have been working at El Niño for over half a year now as a part-time backend developer while still being a full-time student. In these 6 months I learned a lot and not just programming. These are the lessons I learned in my first half year of being a developer at El Niño.

1. Be open and take on a challenge

As a starting developer it might be hard to determine what you are capable of and what not. It will surprise you that you can do a lot more than you think you can. Programming is not just about knowing a programming language or having a lot of experience. The most important thing is having insight. Simply put: understanding the problem and knowing how to fix it. Having insight does not mean that you can magically fix things. It means having the knowledge of how to solve a problem. Understanding your tools is what you use to solve that problem. Learning is much easier when you are working on a real problem. It might take a bit longer but the next time you will do it in half of the time.

So do not underestimate yourself and take on challenging projects. In the end you will not only have a successful project and a happy customer but also a lot of new knowledge, experience and insights.

2. Contact with clients is nothing to be afraid of

Since you mostly develop for clients it will not be a surprise that you will have to work together with them in order to get the best results. Do not be afraid to contact them if things are unclear. It will show the client that you are really involved in the project. Sometimes clients have unclear or non-logical request so always be aware of what you promise. You do not want to disappoint the client afterwards. You are the developer and it is your job to translate the wishes of the client in a thoughtful way into your product.

Also do not make too many assumptions. Watch out for thinking too much for your client. Instead think with your client. Always discuss important things with your client first before you actually implement them. You do not want to start all over again because you misunderstood your client.

3. Having responsibilities is great. But manage them well!

Getting a serious job comes with serious responsibilities and it is up to you to manage them well. The longer you are working at your job the more responsibilities you will get. Deadlines, clients, meetings, support and fixing urgent problems… All are part of the deal when becoming a developer. This can be stressful especially as a starting developer because of several reasons, like: you want to proof yourself, you might not have a lot of experience and you also still have other responsibilities next to your job. In order to not lose your mind and to keep doing your job well, it is important that you know your responsibilities and to know what your limits are.

Keep your tasks and priorities organized, so you are able to estimate the workload. Before someone gives you a new responsibility and or deadline first check if your workload is not already too high for that period of time. Colleagues may not know how busy you are if you do not tell them. So communicate with them. Also communicate if you discover that you need a bit more time than you anticipated at first. Maybe they can help you out in meeting your deadline. Learn from your mistakes in planning and plan better next time.

4. Software is never done and never perfect

There are many roads that lead to the same goal. Some are faster, some are better and some you are forced to take. You never simply add a feature and are done. When implementing a feature you also have to think about what the influence of this new feature might be on the rest of the application. Once you have done this it is import to ask feedback from a colleague, especially if this is your first time working on an already existing project. Your colleagues have more experience and can tell you what you should pay attention to in a particular project. You can also learn a lot from more experienced developers. They have their own tricks and routines to work even faster and more efficient. The important thing to keep in mind is that you can really learn a lot by asking feedback on your work.

5. Use the available knowledge in the office

As a starting developer it is not uncommon to get a task you are unable to complete all on your own because you lack the experience with that project. At some point you will get stuck and do not know how to get further. Most of the time Google is your best friend but keep in mind this friend might let you down from time to time…so what to do then?

There actually are other humans sitting next to you in the office: they are called ‘your colleagues.’ Although they might look very busy with their tasks, just ask them for help. They have a lot of experience and could probably help you out in just a few minutes. So do not be afraid to ask them for help. They probably all have been in the same position as you are right now. Although they might be very busy with their deadlines, you should still ask them for help. Why? Because you also have deadlines and what happens if you do not meet them in time… Your colleagues will probably have to fix your mess. So just ask them! The worst thing that can happen is getting no for an answer because they are really busy. But they will help you out afterwards. The biggest advantage of asking your colleagues is that you get feedback and you will learn a lot by doing so.

LEARN SOMETHING NEW EVERY DAY

As a starting developer at El Niño, you learn something new every day. What I learned in my first month is that not knowing something is not a bad thing, it is an opportunity to learn.

I am now working at El Niño as a developer for over 2 months and I already learned so much. When I got offered a job at El Niño I, of course, took the opportunity! As a second year creative technology student with a passion for software engineering, this was a perfect opportunity to gain and apply my skills in practice. Understanding the theory is one, but being able to apply it is a whole other profession. Of course, you have projects at school that teach you to apply theory but still, they are not really the ‘’real deal’’. They are often too focused on applying specific theory and skills for a large group of people and almost never show how it is really done in practice.

After 2 days of training, I already got my first real assignment. To add extra functionality to an existing web application. This was a real job for a real customer and I was super excited that I could already work on something that really matters. I got my briefing, read the requests of the customer and I opened the project. Then I saw the PHP code, the structure, the use of frameworks, controllers, and models. I realized this is next level code we’re talking about. This was much more advanced than what I learned at school so far. I was impressed at how this application worked and I was like “Let’s do this!”

The application was build using the Codeigniter framework. Nowadays we use Symfony as our main PHP framework but this was an older project that still uses Codeigniter. The structure was logical and it was easier to learn than I thought. I made a plan and I started coding. All the things I needed to learn I would learn on the fly while completing my task.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes

As a straight-A student, I am used to doing my work as good as possible. But of course, when you are doing something for the first time, you will make mistakes. That’s normal and you will learn from them. The great thing at work is that there are so many talented people around to learn from. Every day I am at work I learn something new. Just trying and not being afraid to take on a challenge has learned me so much in a very short period of time. Just being able to ask a colleague for help or to discuss your ideas with them is one of the most important things for a starting professional.

Expectations and reality

As a starting professional don’t expect to already know everything and also don’t be afraid to learn something new or take on the challenge. The thing I learned is that sometimes things might look very complex at first but as long as you want it and work hard, things are not as complex or hard as you thought, but actually really logic. That’s the big difference of learning something at school and learning something at work. At school, you learn theory and apply this theory in making exercises or in doing projects. At work, you start with a problem that needs to be solved and you use the theory and your knowledge to solve this problem as efficient and good as possible. This makes the theory so much more ‘’tangible’’ and easier to understand. It also gives a good feeling to apply your profession for something useful.

Do not only wait for opportunities, make them

If you are a student I would really recommend to get a job in your profession. Especially for a university student with no or very little space for internships in your study program. It might cost you a lot of time but it repays you in so many ways. It gives you the opportunity to learn new things, apply your knowledge, get a feeling of what you would like to do after you graduate, it looks good on your resume and you will enlarge your professional network and your chances of getting a cool job after you graduate.

In conclusion, don’t be afraid to take opportunities, get a job, learn something new every day and become the best in what you do!

Challenge module 5

Also in this module I have to do a personal challenge. For this challenge I decided to take my Java programming skills to a higher level. In CreaTe you only get the very basics of programming. But in my propedeuse year on HBO I did computer science and I learned a lot more about programming, making use cases, databases and customer support. In my challenge I want to build further upon the things I learned back then. As a creative technologist you learn to basic of everything but your not specialized in something. I want to specialize more in programming because I think I will benefit from this in the future.

So my challenge is to make a POS system for a restaurant of a friend. Right now they calculate everything by head, which works very inefficient. So a nice opportunity for me to make a nice solution for this.

This is the idea, at the end it should look something like this:
pos

I will start with making:
• use cases
• mockups
• databases design

Smart Thinking, Smart Learning – the second module


Smart Environments, Smart Living, Smart Thinking, Smart Studying

tumbnai;

The second module is now almost over, I passed al my tests and assignments so time to reflect on the past 10 weeks of hard work, learning, building things and having a lot of fun. This module was a for sure a lot more challenging than the first module. I had to work really hard, and to be honest it felt really good to work hard and get good results. I like to challenge myself and to do everything as good as possible, but this is also really time consuming. Luckily I am really good in time managing so I could combine my study with my personal life really well.

The module started of really well, I ended the previous module with good results, which gave me a lot of perseverance to also get good results this time. At the beginning of the module they told us that it would a bit harder than the first module, and that this was a module where in you could really see if CreaTe is the right study for you. The module contained more math, physics, programming and a sketching course. I knew I would not be a star in every subject, but I did wanted to get the most out of everything and learn a lot of new things.

The goal I set myself in the previous module (described in my previous blog post about personal development) was to learn new things, to educate myself also outside of school, to figure out what kind of creative technologist I want to be, to use my strength as good as possible and to improve my weaker points.

This module you also had to set yourself a challenge. I set myself the challenge to improve my mathematical skills. In the first module I came to the conclusion that my mathematical skills where really not good enough to pass the upcoming math courses. I was never really good in math, at high school I had math on the level of HAVO which is one level lower than the level math we are continuing with in this study. My skills weren’t as good as the used to be. So I knew that I had to do a lot of work to get my math skills to the right level, All of the other things in the study are really going well and I really like this study so I won’t let math stand in the way.

So I decided that my challenge of this module would be improving my math skills, because if I don’t I will not pass the module and probably have to stop with the entire study. I knew improving my math skills wouldn’t be an easy thing to do, it would take a lot of time and practice. Luckily I have a lot of perseverance and discipline so I was resolute to work really hard and to succeed my challenge.

To succeed my challenge I planned that I would need to work on my math skills at least in al weekends and 2 evenings a week besides the weekend and of course pay a lot of attention in the math lessons.  I really took my challenge seriously, I spend a lot of time on my challenge besides all the other work I needed to do and the things in my personal life. Sometimes it almost was a little bit too much, for example I went on a weekend trip with my family but I also studied here and even went home earlier to still have enough time to study. But all this hard work was not for nothing because I could see my result getting better and my grades go up. Also in the math classes I found a classmate who was quite good in math and he helped me a lot. He had a lot of patience’s and explained everything over and over again until I understood it. I am really grateful that someone could help me, in return I could help out with other courses. It is nice to know to you can help each other.

It was not always fun to work so much on math because I simply don’t like it. But I carried on because I really wanted to succeed my challenge. And I am happy to tell you that I did! I had good result and grades and passed the math course. I am sure that if I wouldn’t have put so much work in improving my math skills that I would never had passed the math course and because of that would also  have failed the whole module. But luckily I really improved my math skills, I am really happy with my results and I am sure that this will make it much easier to pass the next math courses. Of course will math always be something I will have to work hard on, but now I am really sure that I can do it. This just gives you way less stress to know that you can achieve almost anything as long as you are willing to work hard.

Besides the math course I also had a physics like course called EDF which was a really interesting course. The first part was about the physics of sound and sound waves. The second part was about electrical systems. Both were really interesting. In the first part I learned a lot of new things which helped me to understand other things in physics like signals and waves. The second part about electrical systems was really useful for another course we had this module.

This course was Programming and Physical computing. In this course we learned more advanced programming and building physical electrical systems. Every week we had an assignment that fitted to the things that we learned that week in the lectures. For example we had to build an infrared game controller and a rotating radar. This course was a lot of fun and was also really useful and educational. I learned so much in this course, things I can use throughout my whole study and in my own projects outside of school.

This module also included a sketching course. Sketching wasn’t always fun but is wasn’t that hard as the other courses. It was difficult in another way because you needed to practice a lot. For some people it was easier than the other, for me I wasn’t that easy in the beginning because I don’t really have talent in drawing. But with a lot of work and practice I managed to get a really nice grade at my end portfolio (soon available on my portfolio website).

The last course was combined with the project. The course Smart Environments was about how to create an invisible networked system that uses multiple sensors to control an Environment in a smart and autonomous way. The lectures and the test were not that hard, no skills needed you just needed to learn things by head. the project on the other hand was really skill based combined with the things you learn in the lectures.

The project was to create a Smart Environment. I work to getter with to other people and together we made a smart festival area which automatically adapts to the people who are in the area. We put a lot of time in the project and we are all happy with the result. It was nice to work on a physical project, the previous project was digital and now you have a real physical product. We had a small team so the team worked together really well. Every one work really hard and together we have created something nice.

I will put all the things I made this module on my portfolio website.

This module was really challenging and that was exactly what is was looking for in this study. Now I am even more sure that create is the perfect study for me. There will always be things I have to work really hard for, things like math, but it also gives you such a good feeling when you succeed at these things. I think I can say this module was a big success. I passed the module and have really nice grades, I really learned a lot and also had a lot of fun.

I also did a good job on my personal goals I set at the end of the previous module, I continued to educate myself outside of school by reading books, listening to podcasts, learning from my role models and by following the news related to all things creative technology. I also started working as a sports/fitness/bootcamp trainer at my gym. I am following some courses and recently got my first certificate to give group lessons and bootcamp training sessions. I think it is important to do something completely different beside for my study. Because I can learn so much things in completely other jobs, things that I later on can reflect on my professional life as a creative technologist. For example the skill to give group lessons at the gym. I learn to lead people to motivate people and learn to be responsible for other people. These are all things that I can use and reflect in my own professional life as for example being a good leader. Because a leader also needs to be responsible for his people and he also needs to be able to motivate them.

I am working really hard on both my professional and personal development, and I think I am doing quite a good job. I will continue to achieve my goals, but I want to add one extra thing to my goals and that is to look up any possible jobs for in the future when I am done with Creative Technology. Recently I have been thinking a lot about my future and I actually have no idea what kind of job I want to do after I graduate. I know I still have plenty of time but I think it is never too early to take a look and find something to work towards, to set goals and to challenge yourself.

I really look forward to the next module, I like this study a lot and I really want to get the most out of it.

 

I CREATE

A blog post about my study choice, personal and professional development

tumbnail development

Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.

~ Jim Ryun

This first module seemed to have gone really fast and I already feel at home here at UT. When I chose this study I thought I had a good impression of how things were going to be here. I have chosen for this study because the study I was following at that time wasn’t the right study for me. In my previous study HBO computer science I very quickly had to choose one thing I wanted to specialize in and there was no room for creativity. Also the study was not challenging enough for me. So I made the choice to quit after I got my propedeuse and go study CreaTe, because of the higher level education, room for creativity and the multidisciplinary program.

I’m glad I chose for Create, this study fits so much better to me. To be honest at the beginning of the module I doubted a bit if this study was right for me and if it was what I had expected. I have studied computer science last year so for me were the courses programming, computer science and web technology not as challenging as I hoped. I was afraid I would again get the feeling that this study was too easy for me and just as boring as my previous study. But luckily this is not the case anymore. The difference with my previous study has become very clear. I’m much more free here in my way of studying, I like to learn things on my own and at my own speed, I also love to challenge myself.

Because of my previous study I already had quite some knowledge of computer science and programming so now I had time to really challenge myself. I had more time to study the complicated things and I could also help my fellow students, something you can also learn a lot from. Another big difference is that this program and the UT are just so inspiring. We are here together with so many talented people with all new and creative ideas. Also the guest lectures and regular lectures can be really inspiring. I even had to buy myself a new note block because I got so many ideas that I needed a place to write everything down. Also my whole idea of the university was different than it is in reality. I thought the university was really focused on self-study and you would be responsible yourself to understand everything, it is of course something like this but just different than I had imagined. The teachers are all so motivated to learn you something. The way of teaching here is much more personal than in my previous study. There you were one of the many. Here you are also one of the many, but the program is much more personal. The teachers really want to learn you something and if you show them you are really doing your best they are willing to do a lot to help you. This just gives me a good feeling and makes me feel that I’m here at the right place.

The module is called “We create identity’’ a module where in you will look for you identity, and I have to admit that I really went searching for my identity. I also started to think about my future and what I have to do to make my future dreams come true. If this has come because of all the inspiring lectures we had or just because I am seeing myself develop really fast, it doesn’t matter I think both really helped me a lot.

Lately I really started to think about my future. Before this study I studied computer science, what wasn’t really the study I was looking for. But I am still really glad that I have done it. While I was following that study I developed myself so incredibly much. In a year I have grown so much both personally and professionally. I always want to get the most out of everything, what led to that I accomplish to get my propedeuse cum laude. Everyone in my surroundings and even myself saw that I have developed myself a lot the past year. I found my own way of studying which has granted me success every time. I also learned to time manage, because I keep myself really busy with school, sports and work, I had to spend my time very efficient. I have become really good in it. I also did a lot of project work in groups, this showed me that I am a good leader in groups, I am good in managing and motivating people to do work. Also the course called ‘’personal development’’ really helped me in developing personally and professionally. There I had to reflect on myself. Before I started at HBO I was really bad in writing. I had a hard time to even get 4 lines on paper, but suddenly I got the feeling and inspiration to write, now I have the feeling I could easily write a whole book if I had to. Slowly I really started to enjoy writing, and found out that I maybe have talent for it. So writing is definitely something that I want to develop myself in. I am used to write in Dutch but this new study gives me the perfect opportunity to develop myself in writing in English. A international language, so may it ever happen that I get an opportunity to write something for the public than I will be able to reach a bigger audience.

The things I learned at my previous study were interesting, but I wanted more, more challenge and more creativity. But instead of that I actually had to limit myself and make a choice about what I wanted to specialize in. This gave me the feeling that I didn’t had enough space to develop myself to my interest, talents and full potential. Because in didn’t wanted to get locked up in my study I decided to look for another study.

Al those experiences have shown me that I have potential to do something with my life, that I have a future and that I can almost do everything by working hard, having a lot of discipline and never giving up easily. I think that my propaedeutic year HBO was the perfect preparation for the study I’m following now. Now I am ready to take the next step towards my future. I am fully prepared and ready to give everything to start my study Creative Technology.

I have a great passion for tech and science, but at the moment I am not entirely sure what I want to do with it. The thing I do know is that I often have good ideas and that I want to solve problems with smart technical solutions. I like to work out an idea, build prototypes and test them with future customers/users. I also like to motivate people, lead people and maybe even teach them. So I think I’m at the right place here at the UT. In my previous study I had the fear of having to specialize me. I am not ready yet to make a decision to develop myself in a certain direction. I was afraid that I had to make a choice so quick while I wasn’t even sure what I liked and were my passions lie. That I would limed myself what could have made big consequences for my future. Luckily do I now still have some time to orientate myself and make a good decision.

I’m aware of what my strengths are and I want to use them the best way possible. I also want to improve my weaker points. Lately I’m working really hard on my personal development outside of school. I am always really up to date about news in the tech/science area and everything around it. But now I really try to get deeper into the stuff I read about, to do more research to enlarge my knowledge. I also looked up some role models, to learn from their work, failure and success. I listen to some podcasts by people that work in the field were I’m probably going to work in. So I get a good impression about how it really is to do stuff with the things I’m learning about. I recently started to show an interest in literature. I read books about inspiring people in the tech and science world, scientific and technical books on theories and explanations and sometimes also a science fiction book those can also be a source of inspiration. All this to increase my knowledge so that I can apply it in my professional life.

I am still not sure what my I want to become in the future but I’m preparing myself the best way as possible. The thing I do know is that I have a lot of ambition, discipline, perseverance and dreams, so I’m sure that I will find out what I want to be. Now I have the chance and the time to make something of my life and I will try to get the most out of it.

“I create identity” something I think I can say about myself. I’m still not sure what my identity is as a creative technologist, but I think I’m at the right place to find out. I look forward to the rest of this study, to explore, to try, to succeed, to fail, to create my identity.

End exhibition

The end exhibition went really well, everyone seemed to really like our movie. Sometimes people did really have to think because the viewer of our movie has to solve a riddle. It was nice to see that a lot of people seriously were trying to solve it. Let the user use a airmouse to interact with our movie. A lot of people liked this idea.

The work of the others was also really nice, I have seen some good stuff. I think we can say that the exhibition was a big success.

Design update 2.0

If you have a great idea, it will tell you how to execute it.

JACK H. SUMMERFORD

 

This week I did a lot of work, I realized my design. This took me quite some time but I am also very happy with the result.

At first I had to make a choice in how I was going to make my design in to a real website. First I wanted to make my own template from scratch but that would have took me too much time. So I chose another option, I took an already existing template and I changed the code. So I went for a really basic theme and modified it so it would fit my design wishes.

The problem I had was that I was really used to making websites without a cms like WordPress, but I found a way to combine my old way of making a website with using WordPress. For example I wanted an interactive introduction part on the home page. You cannot really make this in WordPress because you need some scrips and some extra style sheets. So what it did is make this part of my page into a separate html file and load it via a iframe on my WordPress site. This solution works perfect I even made the html page responsive so it always has the right fit in the page.

I also had a problem with the navigation bar on top of my site. The theme didn’t support a free responsive navigation bar, so I made it responsive myself. It was really easy I only had to add some lines of code in the style sheet and the job was done.

I also changed the way my website shows the portfolio page. My portfolio page is really simple I just use the category page with all my portfolio items. But I didn’t want the title “Category Archives: Portfolio” to be on top of my page instead if this I want the title “Portfolio”. I fixed this problem by changing the PHP code that is used to generate the standard title.

<h1 id="page-title"><?php
if ( strpos(vantage_get_archive_title(),'Portfolio') !== false) {
     echo "Portfolio";
    } else {
     echo vantage_get_archive_title() ;
    }                                            
?></h1>

My template did also not have the ability to put a date/time stamp at the bottom of my posts. I fixed this by adding a line of PHP in the content sheet. Now every post gets automatically a date/time stamp.

 

I am really happy with my website, of course I still have some work to do like giving the pages content and making some small changes but most of the work is now done.

I create identity? – Progress on my first module CreaTe

“Creativity is just connecting things.”
― Steve Jobs

Creativity… something I know I have, something I want to know how to use it. In the past weeks I learned a lot, not only about educational stuff but also about myself. About want I am and what I want to become.

I know now that Creative technology the study is that I have been searching for. Now I know that I am in the right place I can discover what kind of Creative Technologist I want to be. For now I think I want to be the person who can see problems in society and can come up with smart solutions for those problems. I also like to design things and make prototypes. At the moment the whole business side doesn’t really appeal to me. But maybe this will change later in the course when I have more experience.

The courses I have in this first module are not that hard for me. I have the advantage that I studied computer science last year. I already have some experience with programming so this works in my favor in the web technology, programming and computer science courses.

Besides that some course may be a little bit more easy for me I still work hard. I try to challenge myself to look at more advanced solutions and try to understand everything as good as possible. Because only if you really understand the core of the basics you are able to more advanced things in the best way possible.

I already had to do some assignments, for example this blog post is one of them :p. I like the assignments that I do for web technology the most, because the assignment is to make your own personal blog/portfolio, something I wanted to do for a long time but actually never did.

I also like the programming course, because it has a visual side. The previous programming courses I followed on HBO where only focused on code, you were only looking a code all day. In this course you learn coding by coding visual programs, this way of learning to code I way more fun and I also think you learn quicker this way.

creatures

One of my programming assignments. – Moving and bouncing creatures.

 

The course ‘’ Introduction to Computer Science and Engineering” can sometimes be a bit boring ;), but is also really informative. You learn to understand how computers work and how you can use that knowledge to program in the most efficient way. I think this course I really useful because it is important to know what you are working with.

Visual communication is more of a creative Course. You are really free in the way you do your assignment. At first I didn’t really understood the purpose of the course(to me it was just looking at pictures or fonts for 4 hours). But if you think about it some more you will see the purpose, it is about bringing a message in a visual way not only by just reading text but also in other ways and it is about paying attention to details.

visual 3

One of my visual communication assignments.- The impact of words and images.

I am really happy I chose for this study, I think it is the perfect study for me. I hope that with this study I will learn to do something with my creativity. I have a lot of cool ideas that I would like to do something with and of course as soon as I have, I will post them here on my website in my portfolio :p.

Design update

Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.

-Steve Jobs

 

After taking a look at some WordPress themes and last Mondays morning lecturer from Dennis, I changed my design a bit. I wanted to make my home page a little bit more personal. I want it to have a short introduction about myself and my website. The rest of the design is close to my previous design.

The only problem/concern I had with my design is: “How do I make my design into a WordPress theme that I can use on my website?”. I have made websites in the past but I never used WordPress. I always coded every page by hand. So I have to do some research in how to use WordPress. Because at this moment I only see WordPress as something that is limiting my creativity and design skills. But I’m sure that I can find a way to make it work, there are a lot of professional websites who use WordPress, so I should be able to do it also :p.

So what I will be working on this week is doing research on “How to use WordPress in a professional way that doesn’t limit me in my design ideas”. I’m sure that when I have found a way to make it work that it then won’t take me long to create my design because I already have decent knowledge of web programming.

After I finish my design I will start with filling my portfolio. I Have a lot of projects from my previous study and I also have a lot of cool projects I am working on at home that I would love to write about and share.

I am also working on some more personal blog posts, I will post them soon.

Next week I will have a blog post wherein I will give an in-depth look in my design and why I made my design choices.

design