Oh, the life of a programmer! It’s a smooth ride — until madness happens.
For our programmers, Amsterdam offers the perfect backdrop.
“Amsterdam is a lifestyle I really love. It feels like home immediately,” says Elena, head of agile at VEON.
“I love Amsterdam because there’s so much action. But you can also just take it easy,” notes Rohit, a backend developer at VEON.
Now that you’ve met Elena and Rohit, let’s start the conversation — and learn more about being a programmer at VEON in Amsterdam.
Can you describe your roles at VEON?
When I first got to VEON, I worked as a scrum master for the front end team. Now, I’m head of agile, which means I’m in charge of agile methodology implementation across the whole engagement platform. I’m handling all the activities with the scrum process. We have scrum masters and teams for each function, like self-care, and I’ve been working to ensure the process enables cross-team functionality, allows for efficient feedback, and doesn’t have bottlenecks.
My job can be consuming, but it’s super exciting, especially now that the launch is ready. Amsterdam is great for balancing work and life. If I ever need a break, I can go to areas like Javastraat, which has so many cool shops and hangouts.
I’m a back end developer with the identity management team (IDM). I work on onboarding new users, which includes things like authentication, creating a profile, and obtaining consents. I also work on interactions with users across our operating countries.
The work is very dynamic. There’s never a dull moment. We’re building from scratch. It’s tough but thrilling. Like Elena said, it’s nice to work on such a project in Amsterdam. I live in De Pijp, so I’m literally steps away from a great meal or drink when I need a break.
VEON recently launched its app. How did this feel?
Exhausting but rewarding! We worked very, very hard on this. I somehow still had energy at the launch party after working till late the night before.
It’s great to see the app out there. We can start getting feedback from users and work on cleaning up and improving the product.
It’s also just a relief to see it on the market. I believe it’s very important to start tweaking the app based off how users respond.
Can you describe your career path?
I actually got a bachelors of business administration with an emphasis on accounting in Bulgaria. An IT company in Bulgaria found me for my knowledge about finance, and I learned a lot about technology and software there. After that, I worked as a project manager for a startup that was providing mobile solutions for news publications. I later came to Amsterdam for a job with comScore as a technical project manager. comScore was bought by Adobe, and I found a position with VEON.
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“What’s interesting is that I didn’t start out with a big plan. I arrived to software engineering by chance. It seems fitting that I ended up in Amsterdam. It’s a place that’s all about following what you like and capturing the moment in front of you, which I’ve kind of done with my career.”
“To me, my career path has been about not settling. You can achieve more — and you can have a cool life in a cool city like Amsterdam.”
The funny thing is that I studied aerospace engineering in India. But I took a job as a programmer in India because I realized the world would be better off if I wasn’t building planes!
After that, I decided to try for a PhD in computer science and be a professor. So, I went to Rennes, France to do a year of research before applying. During that time, I was itching to do more programming, so I decided to just follow that desire. I had two programming jobs in Amsterdam, including one for Treatwell.com, before coming to VEON. I learned seven programming languages along the way. I found VEON through a contact at a meetup, so I also kind of arrived here by chance.
“As you can see, I found out that programming is in my blood — and I just decided to follow what suits me. If you improve as you go, you’ll find more opportunities. And you’ll have the ability to choose a job in Amsterdam and have a blast.”
What advice would you give to fellow programmers today?
“First, see if a job fits your own personality and ambitions. Second, understand no theory is solid. Research, create, test, and improve — that’s the scrum method. Keep in mind the line about teaching an old dog new tricks.”
Also, I’ve interviewed a lot of people. I want people who can apply analytical thinking to everything. Understand a problem before you give your opinion.
“Additionally, learn to adapt as things come. This reminds me of life in Amsterdam. Everything’s chill. Then, bike rush hour hits and you have to navigate through the craziness.”
“Don’t just learn new things. Learn how to choose your tools properly. This is important for anyone studying programming, because too many engineers waste time and energy fighting the language and not focusing on the actual problem.”
“In addition to building a toolset that you know how to deploy, become a lifetime learner. If you’re too hesitant to learn, you’ll become a dinosaur. And dinosaurs die!”
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Also, communication skills are paramount for programmers. Programming is a very collaborative thing. It would be cool to learn some programming jokes, too.
What are your hobbies?
I go out cycling and go bouldering, which is a challenge. When I need time to myself, I do yoga and run. Other than that, I love to explore the city of Amsterdam.
I get bored with things sometimes. So, I try to make a new hobby every year. Amsterdam is a great city for doing just that. For example, I’ve taken up photography, and now I’m learning salsa. I’ve also just started going bouldering too.
Be the best programmer you can be
Being a programmer is a lifestyle, one where you don’t have to follow a set path. You can craft an awesome life and do exciting things, like build an app from scratch for hundreds of millions and rock climb on weekends (more on rock climbing in another post).
Hopefully, Elena and Rohit’s stories have shown you that you can live the life you want, no matter what you’re good at. You can even join the bike rush hour in Amsterdam if you please (it’s crazy fun!).
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