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Story of two developers

What lured a math teacher Christophe from France to our cloud team and what makes him tick. And how did Robert from South Africa end up to the back end of Lahti and our merry band of back-end developers?

“Research or teaching?” thought Christophe Riolo and ended up as a developer at Qvik

With fresh graduation papers in hand, Christophe found himself at a crossroads – should he pursue a career in academic research or teaching? Working in an IT consultancy firm wasn’t something Christophe had planned.

At first, teaching drew the longer straw. Christophe became a math teacher to high and middle school students in Paris, France. But as we all know, life and love happen, and soon Christophe found himself in Helsinki teaching maths and physics.

After nearly five years of teaching, Christophe started looking at new directions for his career. Though Christophe had studied computer science at university, his path to software development was a plot twist.

“I ended up looking for positions in computer science. With my mathematical training, I tend to think in terms of structures and data more than aesthetics – frontend and the visual stuff is not my forte and, to be honest, all of that still frightens me.”

Cloud computing, on the other hand, was booming and its importance was hard to miss. Around that time, Christophe got an email promoting a Google Cloud Onboard event and decided to attend. The event was organised by Qvik and, after talking to some Qvikies, the company started to look like home.

“Qvik sounded family-friendly, which was what I was most worried about when starting in the industry. But Qvik was also non-compromising when it came to quality. I had the impression that a lot of applications were coded with nothing but time-to-market in mind, but Qvik’s main concern was quality. And finally, I immediately felt that the company had a relaxed atmosphere, while everyone was still doing a good job, and that sounded like a match.”

In 2017, Christophe Riolo decided to take the leap and joined Qvik’s back-end & cloud team.

Feet in OCaml, head in the clouds

Since joining Qvik, Christophe has been working on various projects at our customer Posti. Christophe first learned programming with OCaml, but his main working language has been Python. His passion for strongly-typed and functional languages has been recently rekindled, though.

“Functional languages allow a cleaner and more readable way of writing. It’s closer to human understanding and has benefits whether you are creating new things or changing existing ones.”

Christophe has been exposed to cloud architecture at Qvik, as we build most of our solutions for the cloud. But that doesn’t mean you couldn’t have time to nurture an interest in traditional architectures. If Christophe could pick his toolbox of choice now, it would consist of OCaml, Haskell, Golang, Rust and GCP.

But when you’re choosing a programming language for a real project, choosing your favorite languages might not be the best idea. Christophe wrote a piece about this in our blog: How to choose a programming language for your project? Avoid these biases.

Live, learn and communicate

For Christophe, the best part of working at Qvik has been the steep learning curve.“Programming is like doing puzzles. I want to learn new things all the time and work on various projects – that’s the best way to develop and get perspective as a professional.”Learning sometimes happens by jumping into a project with a completely different toolset than you are used to working with. That’s how Christophe learned Clojure, for example.

When talking about the challenges consultants can face in their work, Christophe mentions communication.

“The difficulty of communicating technical stuff is underestimated. It’s important to think about how you will do it. As a consultant, you sometimes have to step up and open your mouth if the client is asking for something that shouldn’t be done. In these situations, it’s crucial that you are able to explain the situation to non-technical personnel as well.”

Striking the balance – there’s more to life than work

Qvik is the first IT company culture that Christophe has experienced.

“There is a lot of warmth at Qvik, a lot of openness. It feels like home. Having flexibility in working hours and colleagues who understand that there is more to life than work helps in balancing personal and professional life.”

The collaboration between our business leads has been one positive surprise.

“In consultancy firms, it’s a common joke that sales people are selling impossible stuff with impossible deadlines. I haven’t seen that at Qvik. Our sales people know their domain and really understand the limitations of projects, and that is something I wouldn’t have expected.”

Christophe spends a lot of his free time with his family. When he is in the mood for some chilling, you can find him hacking away at Final Fantasy 14 or watching an episode of My Little Pony. Didn’t see that coming, did you.

Christophe’s tip to potential future Qvikies goes: “Learn to love your types and never trust object-oriented programming.”

Adventure and fixing Commodore 64’s led Robert to orchestrating containers in the cloud at Qvik

It all started with electrical engineering studies, fixing Commodore 64s and repairing Olivetti word processors. Robert soon realized that swapping components wasn’t enough and found himself doing an evening course on C programming.

Originally from South Africa, our senior software architect Robert Nusser first came to Europe almost thirty years ago to look for adventure.

“I saved up and first went overseas to France to work on my aunt’s farm. I woke up at 6 in the morning to milk cows, pick cherries, shovel shit and all that. I’m quite a technical person, so that was frustrating and I needed something to think about”.

His travels led him to Germany, where Robert got his first job as a C programmer. “Days just flew by. I’d look at the time at six in the evening and realize that I forgot to eat lunch. I realized I enjoyed it so much that I would probably have done it for free.”

All roads lead to Lahti – Wait …what?

Robert took an interesting detour before ending up in Finland. He studied computer science and worked at a German university, helping other computer science students. That’s where he started playing around with Unix and created his first web server in ‘96.

The studies’ theoretical focus and the fact that they were in German was a challenging combination, so after a while Robert decided to return back home to South Africa. It was the golden era of Internet cafes and Robert got to instruct customers on how to use the world wide web. After some time, he landed a tech support job at ISP and ended up convincing the CEO of his development skills.

“I also wrote some shell scripts for their servers. One day the CEO asked to speak to me and started asking what this thing was that was running on their server. So I explained, he looked surprised and then asked if I’d like a job in their development team.”

But the love of adventure hadn’t faded, and love for a certain someone brought Robert to Lahti, Finland.

New challenges at Qvik

Robert’s former (and current 😉 ) colleague, Sami Vellonen, suggested that he should join Qvik. Robert had worked as a consultant before so he knew the drill and decided to join.

“I thought it would be interesting to be exposed to different customers and I knew that at Qvik, people have a say in what kind of projects they want to work on. I also liked Qvik’s size – it wasn’t too big and it was possible to know everyone by name.”Robert’s experience of Qvik’s company culture is laid-back. “There is a very relaxed atmosphere and people seem approachable and friendly.”

At Qvik, Robert has been working at our client MaasGlobal as a cloud based payment solutions architect, with AWS and Node.js as his main tools.

“When I joined the MaaS project, I had done only little of JavaScript before, so it was a great opportunity for me to learn more of it.”

The best way to learn new things is to start finding real-life use cases for your new skills. But allocating the time to actually learn new things while being productive, all the while under pressure to be a specialist even when you are doing something completely new – it’s not that simple. In fact, Robert considers that to be one of the top challenges of working as a consultant.

“My ideal job would probably be with Python and a focus on the back-end, but I would also love to try developing something involving hardware, and learn more about AI and how it can be used in different scenarios. I like creating small automation projects with microcontrollers, and recently I’ve also been looking into image and object recognition.”

Free-time activities no longer include outrunning the police

Outside of computers, Robert’s big passion has been motorbikes, and this hasn’t always been the safest of rides.

“When I was young and reckless I outran the police who were chasing me for speeding. I had to give myself in the next day though, after my father got a call from the police. I also had waist-long very curly hair at the time. I still have a motorbike, but kind of stick to the speed limit these days.”