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From an Electronic Set to Software Development

Tell us a bit about yourself and what brought you to Thoughtworks?

I’m a tech-head that grew up with a father who loved computers and electronics and growing up, he shared that passion with me. I still fondly remember my dad buying me an electronics set for one of my birthdays and teaching me the basics of electronic circuits.

One day he brought home an IBM AT Clone running MS-DOS 6.0. I was curious about this new marvel and started playing around on it and soon enough I started coding in QBasic. As I grew up, I continued exploring and learning new things about these magical computers, eventually discovering C, Pascal and (much later) VB5. When the time came for me to leave home, I chose to pursue my passions and left to study Computer Engineering at the North-West University in Potchefstroom, South Africa.

Dewald the Developer

I started my career as a Software Developer at a local consultancy and spent five years on various projects upskilling myself and teaching my fellow consultants. Much of my work revolved around improving life for my fellow developers by looking after our tooling and development approaches.

One day whilst at a client, I met some Thoughtworkers and their attitude and skills impressed me. I decided that I’d apply as I saw an opportunity to work with like-minded individuals who had much to teach and it seemed like a great place to continue my path as a software developer.

As a developer at Thoughtworks, what is your average day like?

I’ve played the Technical Lead role for the past six month, doing my best to help clients turn their business vision into a real product for their customers. It has been one of the toughest and most rewarding roles I’ve played in my life as a developer. I learned that sometimes you need to be the servant leader, supporting and enabling so that the rest of the team can step up, take responsibility and give you their best.

On a regular day, I typically code, coach and guide other team members to deliver features for our business stakeholders. I spend some time with both technical and non-technical owners to ensure that we have a shared understanding of where the project is headed,that we are indeed delivering the value we are known for and that we are building the right thing in the right way. There’s also an aspect of Agile coaching which involves helping the client understand our processes and assisting them along their own Agile journey.

What are some of the “cool” technologies you have worked with since joining Thoughtworks?

If you let me get started I’ll probably get carried away but a short list includes:

  • DevOps tools: Puppet, Chef, Ansible, Vagrant
  • Languages: Java, Groovy, Ruby, C#, JavaScript, Python
  • Databases: Oracle, MS Sql, MongoDB
  • Frameworks: Angular JS, .NET, Spring
  • Testing tools: Cucumber, Specflow, Protractor, Jasmine, JUnit, Mockito, RSpec, NUnit

How does TDD make your coding different?

It’s given me an understanding of some poor design decisions I’ve made in the past and forced me to solve the problem in the present instead of planning for several possible (and unlikely) futures. I’ve often been the kind of person who would pre-optimize and over design due to past experience, but TDD drives me to come up with good decoupled and highly cohesive code that solves problems now and lends itself well to future extensibility.

Dewald taking a break from code.

The big thing that changed for me is asking the code to behave in a certain way and then ensuring that it does that. It doesn’t need to be fancy, it needs to be simple and straightforward. It becomes conversational if you’ll follow my analogy:

Me: “Hey system?”
System: “Yes?”
Me: “Can you please give me the sum of this month’s invoices for Joe?” (Test)
System: “No I can’t.” (Fail)
Me: *Do some basic coding* (Code)
Me: “How about now?” (Test)
System: “Here you go.” (Pass)

And that functionality remains tested for the lifetime of that feature.

What makes Thoughtworks stand out from other consulting companies?

To put it into as few words as possible, it’s the Thoughtworkers themselves and the culture that they cultivate that makes Thoughtworks stand out above the rest. Sure, the practices at Thoughtworks, like TDD, Agile, pairing, were a big factor in my joining Thoughtworks in the first place as I wanted to work in such a manner but I realized that what makes us different is the kind of people who want to be here.

Thoughtworkers are a special breed of strange and wonderful all rolled into one. We believe in the value a product can deliver to our clients and their customers; we believe and trust in one-another. Thoughtworks is a place that wants you to be the best you can be and encourages you to grow so that you can become just that.

What advice would you give other developers thinking of joining Thoughtworks South Africa?

Have an eager mind and a willingness to learn and to teach. Come without prejudices and preconceptions and just show us who you are and very likely we’ll be happy to give you a home among other like minded individuals. Mostly, bring your passion along, we really like that.

Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.

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