Hi, Postiga! You’re a Senior Backend Developer at Infraspeak and a member a few communities. Tell us more about yourself.
Above all else, I’m curious and that has definitely been important in the field I work in. I love solving problems and puzzles and I enjoy playing chess as many of you witnessed at some of our retreats (!). Overall, I’m pretty laid back and fun.
When I was younger, what I really enjoyed was taking apart computers and I’ve always had close contact with them since I was 6. A friend of mine from school used to have one at home so we’d spend some time together playing with it. Back then, ‘computer’ was a new word for me but we really didn’t have much else to do so there I was, discovering new things.
To me, that was fascinating. Pressing those hard buttons and cold cases. Ugly and white. The moment that computer turned on something clicked in me. It was just a few tiny lights but they would blink and capture my attention. That’s often enough for a child. Besides that, interacting with a ‘box’, the only definition I had for a computer at the time, was extremely fun.
I started experimenting with Windows 95 and I wouldn’t do much more than opening and closing folders, creating empty documents and deleting files. I loved it and just felt like it was something I wanted to work with. I quickly realised one of my aunts had a computer and that’s when I started really getting into it. That computer had an even older OS that forced me to use the DOS command prompt. Since I enjoyed playing games, I started learning how to navigate the folders they were installed in.
Fast forward about 14 years and I find myself working with programming and you could stay that was an achievement I unlocked. I told myself “I know how to work with these machines the way they ask me to but, if I learn how to code, I can gain control and make it do what I want.”
I dropped my original plans and now I work at Infraspeak!
You started coding when you were 15 out of interest and curiosity. How did that happen? When did you know that was exactly what you want to do?
There’s one thing about me I find interesting – if there’s anything that captivates my interest, I’ll find out all its ins and outs. As soon as I got into high school, I chose the most “hands on” approach and the only course that matched my goals was a technical Information Technology course. It was perfect for me because it allowed me to skip all the things I didn’t want to study like literature or history, for example.
The course’s goal was essentially to prepare students for university and to give them some experience within their preferred fields. We started learning how to code right away. Pascal. A horrible language compared to what we work with now. Extremely low level and stiff. Working with it isn’t impossible but it scratches odyssey levels! Funnily, that was enough for me to start.
I didn’t really stick to what the teachers told me. I read the book they gave us from end to end and learned new things. Since then, every time I want to learn something, I read all available information on it, I ask questions and I start exploring. When I came to my senses, during my last year of school, I was already working with some of the code I work today. Web development, PHP, remote databases and MySQL. At school, we were still learning C. Nothing exciting.
In some communities, things like decentralized information were starting to get some attention. I really enjoyed that. The possibility of writing code to install it in this ‘magical place’ I had no idea how to reach. As long as the machine read it, it ran. Nobody was talking about the cloud back then. Many of the pains I had were over so I turned to web development, which I still do today.
You’re very active in the platforms you’re in. From Twitter to Twitch and even some projects you actively participate in. Where does the will to expand everything you do towards its community come from?
It was always my intention to be surrounded by and invested in the communities I’m in. When I started coding, almost nobody knew Stack Overflow, one of the main programmer knowledge sharing platforms.
One of my pains was where to find information. You learn the subjects the books give you but as you use that knowledge, you don’t just stick to the script. You start going round, trying new things and going deeper into the things you’ve learnt. When the books don’t give you the answer you’re looking for, the question becomes: “where can I go?”
I didn’t know a lot beyond the things I had access to and my friends weren’t really interested in computers. I lived in a seabound community and finding people with the same interests there wasn’t easy so I ended up being a little bit isolated when compared to some of the programmers I knew who had other peers to ask for help or share knowledge.
That’s why I always tried to find communities that could help me. Finding them was a completely different story, though. And not very easy. Google only came later and there wasn’t much index information online yet. I relied on the occasional blog post or the occasional RSS feed, looking for whatever breadcrumbs I could find. Besides, I had no internet connection at home, which didn’t help.
From the moment I found myself on social media, it all changed. I had access to this unending list of indexed people that I could search based on their interests. It became a lot easier to find other programmers, specifically people who worked with the same languages I was working with at the time. Let’s just say my life changed when I discovered IRC.
Little by little I started meeting people that later helped me create more communities. And, of course, I always tried to stay active so those that come after us have a much easier time creating these bonds. Once they reach that point, it’s entirely up to them…
Speaking of communities, you’re a Laravel Portugal ambassador and created its podcast. How has that project been going?
The podcast wasn’t just my idea. It was a group of 5 or 6 of us, who already worked towards making the Portuguese Laravel community better, and it all started in a Slack channel!
Today we’re on Discord but we started on Slack because there were only a few of us and we all knew each other. Since we had a lot of interesting discussions through text we thought we could simply get together on a video call and discuss it a little bit more publicly. Someone added a little bit more to it and said “if we’re going to be on a video call, why not go live with it?” At the time we had “Hangouts on Air” where we could easily get everyone together, press a little button and go live.
Right on our first episode, funny story, we were chatting and chilling, talking to friends and other people we knew expecting close to no viewers when all of a sudden, Taylor Otwell, Laravel’s founder, joined the stream after receiving a cold email with an invitation. We were all shocked and even thought, for a second, that someone was trolling us. It was really him though! We had the chance to ask some questions, exchange opinions and had a nice conversation. Naturally, once he joined, he brought a bunch of other viewers with him which made us gain a lot of traction.
Since then and right after the first episode, Laravel Portugal became a community reference. At first we were mostly focused on Laravel but today we work toward being a little bit more broad. A Portuguese community for people who love programming, regardless of language.
I was also told about a certain passion for driving and cars. How does that work?
I love driving…and I love cars…
I’m starting to develop a passion for motorcycles too. Thanks a lot, Carlos Martins.
I’ve always been passionate about Motorsports. Who doesn’t get their license and immediately think they’ll drive until they die. Obviously, 2 years later the only thing you want is for someone else to take you places. In the community I live in, some of my friends would turn 19, 20, 21, buy a car and, regardless of brand, model or engine, would start attending events. Seeing some of those exotic looking cars was very captivating and ‘cars’, in general, is a passion that allows me to escape programming a little.
I also participated in online communities, naturally. Depending on the car I was driving at the time, there were a number of communities for specific brands. I used to browse them because every time I attended an event, I would meet people who drove different cars of different brands so I would jump from forum to forum to keep up with all the gossip and maintain those connections.
Like everything else, it’s something I’m curious about – I even studied internal combustion engines (!). I’m familiar with the way cars work. I do not know all the ins and outs like I do when it comes to programming (yet!) but I get by!
Finally, your job role is particularly compatible with remote working. On top of that, you enjoy getting creative with your office space. How was quarantine for you and how do you see remote working in general?
I have a pretty custom office, like I always say.
This quarantine was a chance to take this hobby to the extreme. My secretary looks a bit like a rainbow sometimes. RGBs everywhere!
Regarding remote working, I enjoy it when I need to concentrate because its one of my mechanisms to avoid distractions. It’s easy to turn off notifications, go into “airplane mode” and stop being available. At the same time, I enjoy being surrounded by people. The formula I use right now is 3 days at home, 2 days at the office. In those 2 days I usually work on things I don’t need a lot of focus for. Management, meetings and not much else.
I missed other people during quarantine and that was a challenge. As much as we managed to speak through Discord all day, it’s still very different than being face to face. I also missed playing table tennis. It’s not very easy to hit tennis balls against the monitor. Programming helps with remote working. Some things require synchronization like bug fixing, for instance. When you’re far away, it’s harder to be completely ready for those situations. You need to summon everyone first and coordinate the team. You can’t just say “Hey guys, we have this issue that came from Customer Success that needs fixing immediately.” There are a few more delays. Other than that, it’s very smooth.
José Postiga is a Senior Backend Developer at Infraspeak and this week’s Inside Infraspeak guest. Thank you, Postiga!