May 18, 2023
It’s heen a while since my last post. A lot of things have changed in the last 3 years. No Covid restictions, russia invaded Ukraine, global inflation. As always a lot of changes in the IT industry, Elon Musk acquired Twitter, Microsoft dominated AI market introducing Chat-GPT, massive layoffs in Facebook, Google, Amazon, Linkedin, Dropbox, Stack Overflow and in a thousands of small companies that nobody is going to mention in the news.
The event that triggered this post
Yesterday (17/May/2023) I found out about a group lay off in the software house I started working a few months ago. I was hired for one of the projects of their biggest client who just recently decided to withdraw all of their projects to develop them in-house. I was told that I’m one of the highest paid developers and the cut is needed.
That sucks obviously because a few monhts of work never looks ok in CV and there’s never a good time to lose a job and that made me thinking how the IT industry has changed since 2005 when I started my first full time job. I’ll share with you my personal journey through the last 17 years.
2005 - 2006 My first full time job
My first full time job was a Polish company (KEN) selling PCs and they wanted to build a software for the interactive whiteboards they started to produce. No 1h lunches, just 5 min break every hour and 15min for lunch at 12.00…being asked to work long hours was a regular part of every week in Polish reality.
Interviews looked completely different - you had to remember all the function names with their params because nobody was saying: “you can use online API documentation”. You really had to know your stuff.
2006 - 2014 Ireland
Rocky Road to Dublin…
2006 - that was the time when a lot of people started to emigrate from Poland to other European countries, so did I after 1 year in KEN. My boss asked me to not mention I’m leaving Poland because, so many people had that in their plans…
To get to my first interview, I travelled from the west of Ireland (Clifden, Co. Galway) to the very East (Dublin) and as there was not many buses I had to arrive a day before with 50 euros in my pocket. I had a call from recruiter asking how I look as the client is a consulting company that cares about look of candidates…I needed to upgrade my outfit :) Because I already had a return ticket, I could spend some money to look better (it was possible with 50 euro in 2006!) but no money left for renting a room in B&B, so I spent my first night in Dublin by walking on streets and having coffee in McDonalds. The next day I went to the interview…after 36h without a sleep. The interview had a few steps: a coding challenge, IQ test (seriously) that looked like Mensa test (never seen that anywhere else), a technical interview with a tech lead, a final interview with manager.
On the next day When I arrived back to Clifden, I woke up in an empty bus at a bus station. The driver could not wake me up :D but on my way home to Ballyconneely (9 km walk from Clifden) I got a phone call from Version1 that I got hired :) I was over the moon :)
Ireland in compare to Poland was the market of the employee, so there was no week without phone calls from recuriters asking if I’m open to new opportunities. That helped to learn how to negotiate salaries. In Poland it used to be the very last step of every interview, you could do really well and then a big surprise. I’m glad that has changed.
How to lose billion dollars in one day
After Version1, I also worked 1 year for a US company, ChannelAdvisor but due to 2008 crisis they laid off people in Limerick, so I moved back to Dublin to work for company called PocketKings - best known as the owner of FullTiltPoker.com, the 2nd biggest online poker room in the world. There was about 900 people hired at the time making PocketKings one of the biggest IT employers in Dublin.
I worked on integrating payment processors with the lobby. About $1000 per second was going through my code. Altough the company was doing great financially they wanted to make even more money by offering Poker in US states where gambling was illegal. It’s a well documented case in the Internet, so I’m not sharing any secrets here. They were doing that through a chain of dodgy payment processors, hiding the origin of the transactions and one day… a big DOJ logo replaced the content of FullTiltPoker.com - the domain was seized by the F.B.I. pursuant. The banks in Europe panicked freezing up money on the company accounts. Altough this was in the local tv news, nobody was allowed to discuss it openely, like nothing ever happened. All the P1 tickets related to reasigning the website to an alternative domain didn’t mention the cause. Almost everyone with the US passport left the office immediately. The manager of my department (a guy with 5 kids) was listed on the top most wanted criminals on the F.B.I. website. Recruiters were standing at the front door of the building giving away their business cards…
I moved to another e-gaming company called PaddyPower.
Ireland is a perfect place for start-ups
Ireland is small but has direct flights to the USA, really low tax for corporations (12.5%) and everyone speaks English - that’s a recipe for bringing US companies to the country. Big established companies were still dominating the industry but around 2012 I noticed that more and more start-ups are looking for programmers. I believe Ireland has been leading in number of US start-ups that opened their offices there. Also a growth in popularity of other programming languages was noticeable. I worked for PaddyPower back then and one of the companies acquired by PP was a small US start-up oferring social betting. Young fellas with no betting licence wrote a social betting platform in Ruby. They got their desks in one of the floor of PaddyPower HQ. I was impressed that they managed to maintain their own rules, starting from tools they used to the project management process - they were totally independent. It was an eye opening experience for me. That kind of freedom wasn’t possible in any big company I knew.
2014 - 2016 (Started working remotely)
When I decided to come back to Poland I was offered a remote role by PaddyPower. My manager asked HR to change the hiring policy to allow this. I was the only PaddyPower employee allowed to work remotely and the last one that was let go when PaddyPower Betfair decided to close the Irish WebDev department. PaddyPower was the best place I’ve ever worked because of the people - I still stay in touch with my team.
Nov 2016 - Mar 2017 (My own startup in Elixir)
When they closed the WebDev department I knew I was ready for start-ups. How about starting my own? I got some ideas but never got time before, so I gave it a try and I could do it in Elixir! First time I tried Erlang was 2010 but there was no jobs for Erlang developers. Phoenix framework sounded like a perfect combination of Erlang VM and WebDev world.
The idea was to buy items through a collective entry fee to a game of skills. Let’s say an item costs $100. The more players we get the cheaper entry fee is and once we collect the required price, the game begins. We make money on additional fee added to the original price, so sellers don’t lose anything. Once all required entry fees get collected, the seller and my platform get the money immediately. To avoid controversy related to the term ‘game of skills", it would not be any sort of card games, it could be the battleship or simply a game tracking time taken to solve a puzzle. Loads of interesting technical challenges (multiplayers, API integration with 3rd-party shops, etc.)…I haven’t checked one thing: the law aspect of the idea. Turned out that altough it’s not a gambling, it’s still regulated by sweepstakes and draw law which require a fix date of announcing winners which kills the idea of spontaneous games.
Anyway the lesson learnt, it was a nice experience.
Apr 2017 - Sept 2018 (Golang and fighting founders of some start-up)
I also used that time to learn other programming languages like Golang. There was not too many jobs for Elixir developers, I decided to give Golang a try and I succesfully managed to get two jobs in Go. The first one was for a Swiss start-up with a remote team in Poland. The idea was to build a software that learns energy usage habits of Solar Panel (and batteries) owners. It would try to predict when to store energy in a battery, so it can be used other time when it’s more needed. I was promoted to a Head of Development, but I still coded in Golang, did DevOps and also participated in talks with potential investors. We were awarded in a accelerators program for start-ups in energy sector, everything was going well till the moment where potential investors wanted to step in. Two founders of the start-up started to argue about their shares, who invested more money, put more work, etc….the start-up died. They have never came to an agreement.
2018 - now (Elixir)
My next job was in a fintech start-up at Barbados, BITT. The job was to rewrite legacy Go code to Elixir - a perfect opportunity for me to start doing full time Elixir job. BITT is the first company that introduced a digital currency officially backed up by the local central bank. The idea was to make a huge leap for local payments methods and allow people to make P2P payments through blockchain. I met great people there, learnt a little bit of Bajan slang :) The situation of the start-up was again…unstable. A few CTOs went through the company in a short time. COVID-19 started making the whole situation even more unpredictable.
BITT was the beginning of my full time jobs in Elixir and although it’s still not the most popular language on the market, I love it too much to give up on it. Please have a look at my Experience section to read more about other companies I worked for in Elixir.
I’ve sent a few CVs, a lot of friends started to recommend me to potential employers.
When I lived in Ireland I learnt that the size of a company doesn’t give any job security. PocketKings made billions of dollars offering all kind of benefits to employees and they were shut down after losing the gambling licence. PaddyPower closed their Irish webdev department after merging with Betfair. ChannelAdviser was on the list of Fortune 500 but they laid off people when 2008 crisis touched the world.
I prefer working for start-ups rather than corporations but sadly most of the start-ups these days are founded with one goal: grow up quickly by hiring people from VC money, then fire people to pretend financial growth and then get acquired. I totally get it, everyone wants to get rich quickly but I love coding and I would like to stay longer in one place to enjoy building something special. Do you know such place?