Ever see someone working in the world of code and wonder how they got there? Maybe you were curious about what courses they’ve taken, resources they’ve used, or jobs they had along the way. In our new Code Careers blog series, we’ll speak to different people in the code-verse about their journey, and give you an inside look as you travel your own path. First up, meet Bram Jetten — a full-stack developer working in the Netherlands, who started out building websites for friends and family, and founded his own company called denkGroot (Dutch for “think big”). While he’s responsible for developing products from the ground up — everything from front-end and design to back-end and DevOps — his passion and expertise lies in Ruby (he even built a Ruby CMS!). And like some developers, he started out teaching himself with Code School. We recently spoke with Bram about his learning journey, his career path, and what tips, courses, and resources he would recommend to anyone looking to become a developer.
Q: Why did you decide to learn programming?
A: Programming always felt like magic — by just typing some characters into a computer, you can create the most amazing things that people want to use. It was this urge that triggered me to learn a lot about a whole range of topics. I didn’t focus exclusively on programming, but also on product design and development. I think it’s really powerful to be able to execute an idea in a matter of days.
Q: Why Ruby?
A: It’s the variety of front-end, design, back-end, and DevOps that keeps me interested in building stuff, but I really do love Ruby though. I feel that this language is designed by people who really enjoy their work, and I want to share that passion.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about the Ruby CMS, Spina, and why you built it?
A: As a student, I built a lot of websites that were all powered by an open-source CMS of some sort. When I started with Ruby, I used Refinery CMS for quite a few projects. But after a couple of years, I wanted to try and to build a prototype of the ideal CMS for me — and that’s how Spina was born. It was a lot of fun to build it from the ground up, and I learned a lot in the process. After using it in a production environment for some clients, I thought about releasing it as an open-source project. I saw it as my way of giving back to the amazing Ruby community, and I also figured it would be a great learning experience. It has been great so far!
Q: How was Code School able to play a part?
A: Code School has given me a solid understanding of Ruby and Rails development. I think the format suits my learning style really well — tough concepts are taught and presented by talented people who know how to explain difficult subjects. I was used to learning from books, trying to build stuff in a terrible IDE, and it wasn’t fun at all. The way Code School teaches programming makes it really enjoyable and rewarding to finish a course. Right now, everyone at denkGroot is happily following various Code School courses.
Q: What Code School courses would you recommend for someone looking to do something similar?
A: I really liked the Ruby Bits courses, which teach you general programming principles that really helped my understanding of Ruby in general. The rails patterns tutorial is really great as well. We encourage every developer at denkGroot to take a look at the Git Path, since version control and teamwork is incredibly important. It’s amazing how fast people get up to speed using Git after 1 or 2 Code School courses.
Q: What advice would you give someone looking to get into coding?
A: My advice would be to just get started. Build stuff. Build lots of stuff. Stuff you like to use yourself. It doesn’t even have to be useful to anyone else. As long as you have fun developing, learning how to build the right things will come naturally.
Q: What resources do you use to keep up with trends and industry news?
A: Twitter is great for following trends. I like to browse the popular page at Dribbblefor design inspiration, and follow a ton of RSS feeds of blogs like thoughtbot, tuts+, A List Apart, and RubyFlow.
Q: How do you continue to get better?