Currently, I am the product owner of RAWR, a startup in Austria. As the PO I talk a lot with our developers. We plan the stories of the next sprint and talk about the issues of the last sprint. Sometimes they showed me parts of the code to present how they solved certain issues. The more often they did, the more I enjoyed it. I even tried to figure out how I would have solved it. Sooner or later I asked myself: Would I’ve been a passionate developer?
How everything began … (1996)
As I child I was fascinated by the technology of the first computer I have ever seen and interacted with. When I was about six years old, my parents bought a new computer. It was a fast one back then. I still cannot believe, we once said this with confidence. At first, my parents were sceptical, when I started to fall in love with the Windows 95 operating system. But they saw how much I enjoyed it. I started to explore everything. What happens when I click with the mouse there, what happens when I open this and that. I became an explorer. Do you also remember the dial-up modem sound like I do? More than 20 years ago, I could not imagine how much impact these sessions would have in my life. Even though I already spent a lot of time in front of the screen, playing FIFA 95 or other games. Good old times.
… what I’ve learned in the main school … (2000–2004)
After elementary school, I had to choose between a grammar school and a technological-focused main school. It was easy for me to decide after I had compared the class schedule of the next few years. In the “Technischen Hauptschule” (German) I would learn something about computer science, learn how to typewrite and pass the ECDL course. In this four years at school, I became aware of my inner geek, which exists inside of me. Compared to some of my classmates I was a “Speedy Gonzales” in the computer science courses. After four years packed with funny stories (we laughed about them in our last class reunion) and many things I learned about myself, I had to choose where I am going to study next.
… and how I developed my skills in high school. (2004–2009)
Together with my best friend Nino J. I decided to enrol in the “HWI” class (German “ Handelsakademie für Wirtschaftsinformatik”) in 2004. They would teach us “Software engineering”, “Computer Networking”, “Internet and Multimedia”, “Business Informatics” and many more fascinating things. Beside “boring” subjects, at least to me back then, like “Accounting” or “Physics”. Can you see the pattern? I enjoyed writing code to see what the few lines put out to me. Even in my leisure time I sometimes did write code.
Thanks to my professors Walter S., Klaus H. and others we learned a lot about C#, PHP, HTML, CSS and object-oriented software development. In our last year at school, we had to concept a software project for the final exam. Abdul A.K., Stephanie H. and I decided to build a warehouse software together with a software company called Apospec. After a few months of coding (we were so proud of having a customer center, app settings, and automated updates) we “released” our final version. We got a 1 (A) for it, even though I think they were not able to install it. Back then we used Access as our database service. Can you imagine?
Looking back now, I should have known what I study after graduating. Computer science or at least business informatics. But guess what?
Management & Economics vs. Computer Science (2009–2010)
I did not want to enrol in the “University of Applied Sciences” in my hometown, like many of my class did. Going to the University in Innsbruck or Vienna seemed to be more exciting to me in 2009. The question was: What should I study? Many of my friends already knew they will study computer science. They were like me, little nerds inside of young adults. So why did I not just join them?
The impact of my Community Service (2009)
Maybe one reason for not studying computer science were the experiences I had during my community service. I was not just looking into the beloved screen six to eight hours a day, like in the past few years. Meeting interesting people, deliver brochures about education and sexuality to schools and attending political events influenced my decision a lot. I thought it would be more fulfilling to me when I do not just stare at the screen, but enjoy the “offline” world at work more often.
During these nine months at the youth center, a colleague called Martin B. talked a lot with me every day. We talked about education, cats, and other topics. One day, he asked me if I knew a good Social Media plugin for the WordPress site of their youth card. I researched, but at the end, I told him there is nothing out there which satisfies your needs. So I suggested developing a plugin according to his vision. The next few days I spent reading a lot about WordPress plugin development. Just one week later I presented him a prototype. He was totally happy and installed it right away. At the same time I asked myself, would others probably use it too?
GB-World.net & Like-Button-Plugin-For-WordPress (2010)
I bought a domain and published my first website: GB-World.net. At first I installed a WordPress website (it is currently offline), followed by a MediaWiki (documentation), a YouTube channel (promotion) and a bug tracker software (with Mantis). During the time I actively developed the plugin, I learned a lot about growth and community management. It was an enjoyment to make the plugin grow (called Like-Button-Plugin-For-WordPress) and to find “growth hacks” to get even more customers. I did not know that I applied some ideas of Growth Hacking (which is my job today eventually) back then. As you can see, I had a passion for software development already. So why not study computer science?
I had to decide… (2010)
A few months later, after a lot of back and forth, I finally made a decision. I will go to the University of Innsbruck and study “Management and Economics” with my future roommate Christopher G. A few of my friends asked, “Why not computer science?”. I barely answered the question, as I was not able to list concrete reasons why not. Which does not mean, I was not happy with the decision I made. “What if I had chosen computer science instead?”, I asked myself at the same time though.
Studying “Management & Economics” (2010–2013)
Math was never one of my favourite subjects in school. Maybe it was because of the teachers, maybe because I was lazy or maybe something else was to blame for it. Anyhow it was not one of my strength, until University.
One of my first courses was “Statistics”. The professor was great and we had fun listening to what he said. He presented us many illustrative examples during his 90 minutes lecture every week. I gained interest into data, numbers, and math. At the same time, I started to get interested in marketing after we had to choose a topic we moderate for one week in the English class. “Social Media, Online Marketing, Ads, …” all those buzzwords were new to me until then. I read a lot about the impact of Social Media in the US and how it changed the landscape of marketing. It was fascinating and the more I read, the more I became curious to gain more insights and experience in this field.
Over the next few years, I increased my knowledge and experiences in marketing and analytics. After writing a Social Media concept for my former employer in 2011 it was clear to me: one day I will be an Online Marketing Manager. Whilst moving step-by-step towards my bachelor’s degree I released many updates of my WordPress plugin. But I had to make a decision. Between being a passionate hobby developer and being the ambitious student I just became. The student won and so the plugin has never been updated ever since 2011/2012. Too bad I think now when I see it got over 150.000 downloads.
… and after graduation (2013–2017)?
After three years at the University, I graduated and moved back to my hometown to find a job. I started to work as an Online Marketing Manager and Web Analyst in a big agency soon. I learned a lot from the people and clients until I started my new job as a Growth Hacker at the Speedstartstudio (now called Speedinvest Studio).
Right from the beginning, I enjoyed working as a Growth Hacker together with talented people from different companies and countries. I was part of and helped many interesting companies like Reachbird (formerly known as StyleAddicted), Wegfinder (formerly known as nextstop), Investory.io, Rawr and Squabble. My job was mainly to build a solid analytics, marketing strategy, and product together with the founders. It was awesome!
In May 2016 I had much fun at the umma ahüsla 2016 hackathon. Together with my awesome team, I built a talking plant: the Plantbot 3000. During the event, I started to have fun developing more frequently.
A few months later things at work changed. We stopped working together with the developer agency, got a new CEO (Jürgen F.) and hired Johannes S in August 2016. The plan was to build a developer team in-house. Which meant I should start coding more too. That is why I became a halftime PO and halftime Developer. At the very beginning, I struggled a lot. Many parts of the code were confusing and not well documented. Johannes and I refactored lots and lots of the code. Until now the number of hours I spent in Atom (my favourite IDE) increased steadily and I enjoy it. I really do. At this point, I want to thank Lukas E. for always teaching me new things with every feature I developed and pull request he reviewed.
… and now (2017)?
Soon I wanted to do more, not only code for work. Philip H. and I developed an Alexa Skill, hosted on a Raspberry Pi for instance. It measures our current internet speed, documents it and makes the results available with the Alexa skill. You can find the code on GitHub. A few weeks ago I also bought an Arduino One and many sensors (eg. a humidity sensor). I want to learn more about them and use them for some smart home projects. There is so much more to explore ahead of me.
… and what about the future (2017 - x)?
After taking the“object-oriented programming” course at the Distance University of Hagen last semester I am thinking about computer science a lot again. It is interesting working as a Growth Hacker, but there is more I want to be capable of. Now would be the perfect time to figure it out. When I think about the idea, I feel this additional heartbeat. I want to dig deeper into software engineering to finally answer the question I asked myself years ago: Would I have been a passionate developer?
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Share your experiences with me in the comments below or on Twitter. What would you do or what did you do? I am happy to get some feedback from you guys.