Alex is a highly experienced creative entrepreneur and software developer, with 15+ years’ experience driving innovation and product development within industries including tech, banking and publishing. In our interview with a software developer, Alex reveals the challenges, opportunities and best parts of his developer career.
Alex is currently developing an app that reduces the time spent on planning meals and getting the groceries in to do so to less than 10 minutes; being launched soon in the UK. A native Dutchman and published author, Alex also speaks English, German, French and Norwegian; lives in Zurich and loves to ski.
What It's Really Like to Be a Software Developer
Hi Alex, thank you for making the time to talk with us today. Your career in IT looks very impressive; can you tell us what first prompted you to a tech career?
I have for a long time worked with computers. My father was one of the first who got us a home computer – this was before the ‘PC age’. I remember figuring out a bit of Basic and Assembler, but that was it! I only seriously picked up coding when I had worked as a project manager for several web agencies. My frustration that I didn’t understand the “black box” was mounting. In other words, I didn’t know what the tech people were talking about, and it hindered me in working with them effectively. Once I picked up coding myself, all of that changed.
For me, it has been a liberating experience.
What attracted you to software development, and more importantly, what’s keeping you hooked?
Ultimately the ability to be creative and put ideas into something tangible. On top of that, collaborating with other developers more effectively is a huge boon. They say that software is ‘eating the world’, so it’s exciting to be a part of that movement, as long as what I am building is meaningful and adds something positive to this world by making our lives a bit less hectic.
Do you have any stand out pieces of advice that you gained through your studies at University of Amsterdam? What has stood you well in your professional journey?
Seek out the knowledge and connections you need to grow. Don’t wait for other people to hand it to you.
Your personal motto is: “Ideation is cute, execution is everything else.” How has this become your own maxim?
I used to pride myself with the fact that I have a lot of ideas. I’ve come to learn that ideas in themselves are worthless. When was the last time you saw somebody pay anyone for an idea? Ideas may provide the initial “spark” to get you going, but the other 99.09% that determines whether a project turns out to be a success is proper execution; sheer determination as in grit. My ego runs less wild these days! I now keenly understand that what I come up with has to be realistic and comes with serious commitments.
Which of your creative achievements to date are you most proud of, and why?
I have written two books, one was printed and circulated by a publisher in the Netherlands, one was self-published.
Then there is the start-up I am currently working on, which simplifies meal and grocery planning. It’s technically by far the most complicated thing I have ever built. But I love it!
If your creative inspiration runs a bit dry; what usually rejuvenates it for you?
Being in the mountains preferably skiing or hiking. Silent retreats work wonders as well.
Would you rather your team saw you as a software dev guru, leader or innovator?
I would have to say leader. I believe in leadership based on inspiration first. Authority only holds up in so far as you are helping your team members accomplish what they want.
If you were to develop a killer app, what it would be and why?
It would be an app that reduces time spent on planning meals and getting groceries to less than 10 minutes. In fact I am working on that app as we speak. It’s called KickDish and will launch soon in the UK.
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