I am Nguele

My name is Jean-Dominique Nguele and this is my blog. FLVCTVAT NEC MERGITVR

Tag Archives: hard work


Entrepreneurship high: What I learned

Reading Time: 7 minutes

You may remember that underwhelming post I made a few months ago. I wrote it while high on entrepreneurship. As you may not feel like reading it I’ll sum up. I hinted at a side project that could become something cool, something potentially big. I read a lot of blog posts from people who had that illumination on an issue they could solve. People building a solution that could change lives for the better. I think my first mistake was thinking I could force that. I write decent code and designed a few solutions but it was always driven by someone else vision or convictions. All I had to do was find an idea that could make people’s day to day life easier.

Defining the need

One day after work, while having dinner I had a sparkle while my girlfriend was complaining about her work. At least I thought I did. She works as a nanny during the day and goes to uni to study languages after work. Back to the topic, she complained about how her boss is constantly micromanaging her when she prefers to be more in charge due to her extensive experience. Back then I thought how cool it would be to have a website or an app that would allow her to have reviews of other nannies, babysitters on families they work with. Something that could have prevented working with someone incompatible with her. A Glassdoor of sorts for nannies and other childcare workers.  I didn’t even bother getting in the legal implications of such a product. I just started designing around.

This is how I have spent a good few weeks writing user stories, picking colours that would send the right sensation to potential users. Putting post-it all across the living rooms based on how I would want people to perceive that system. The main idea was to create something that would allow people to have the bases to access someone else’s home through a relationship based on trust and empathy where all the parties would feel safe. This is how Hestya as an idea was born. I picked the name both off the Greek goddess Hestia and from words matching what I wanted users to feel. Home. Empathy. Safety. Trust. You (I really grasped at straws there). Access.

Reading to learn

Once the basics were there I went on to read even more entrepreneurship related blogs, picking tips around. Reading stories on people whose sole purpose in life became to create that great product. From there, I created the kick-off website to try and see if there were interest. Later on, I set up a Facebook page that I never shared with anyone. I wanted the web app to be ready before I share anything. I even ordered business cards I could use to exchange contact with other entrepreneurs at meetups. Technically I did follow the first steps of startup creation. Create a prototype, talk to a few people working in that domain, know your target audience, validate your idea with a kickoff site.

Hestya kickoff site capture

Hestya kickoff site

Then I went on to read even more entrepreneurship related blogs, picking tips around. Reading stories on people who managed to turn an idea into a product and made it successful. From my readings, I could follow one of two paths: quit my job to focus on Hestya or to those kill off my social life by working non-stop. With luck maybe Hestya could take off within a few months if it becomes viral but it still seems unlikely to this day. The most likely thing would be to build it in a marathoning way over a year or so making keeping my job the most reasonable option.

Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.

No social life, no gaming, no blogging, nothing. For about three months I spent all my free time on Hestya. Eventually, by mid-December, I finished building the API and 90% of the web app. All I had to do was write a few more hundred lines of code and I would have my minimum viable product. Yet, something was wrong. I contemplated the mountains of work ahead of me and keeping the same working rhythm but with stuff, I know nothing about like marketing and brand growth. All of which would have been fine if I had not reached a point of mental and physical exhaustion. I needed a break, badly.

My original Christmas holiday plan was to take my laptop to keep working pretty much 24/7 but keeping a few hours here and there for family and friends. The tiredness was such that I decided then to take a real break and assess why I started working on Hestya in the first place. Which is, now that I think about it would be some sort of Glassdoor for childcare workers with some more stuff.

My first step was to figure what it would achieve to build this tool. Turns out there are a few laws in the UK that would make it a skewed product as some honest comments from nannies (applies for any work actually) towards the previous employer could be followed by disciplinary or legal action. As shown with Mrs Plant’s case, comments made online whether it is on Facebook or Hestya could end up in the employer sight who can then take action against them.

At that point, I pictured other scenarios where someone trying to change employer by contacting a family might end up fired upon the current employer finding out thanks to screenshots. Digging further you can even find childcare workers complaining about their on employers food preferences being part of work constraints in a way that could be seen as hate speech at least in the UK. It seemed like an additional risk I did not have a safety net for. What would have been the central focus was already off limits. I like to think that had I taken a few hours to research this before putting in so much effort I would have saved some time.

But then knowing how blind I was I probably would have talked myself into going ahead anyway. I did do some research but in the end, I only picked what would fit into the vision I had and was not looking at it objectively. Every time I would find a flaw I would find another excuse to keep going. As long as it felt fresh and different it was fine. Back at work I felt underwhelmed kinda stuck in a routine.

No passion, no fashion especially in entrepreneurship

Indeed, it had a been a few months that my job consisted of stabilizing and documenting our platform. In my mind, pushing the next release or fixing something was as casual as washing dishes. I need to do it because I commit to it but it is hardly the most satisfying or stimulating activity. Just the same thing day in and day out. Coming in, writing some code, going home. Not only I did not have anything to be passionate about work-wise, but I left aside anything that would passionate me.

Yet I repeated that with Hestya. Yes, the first couple of weeks designing a product showed every stimulating. Plus it would look great for me as an achievement. However, once the excitement past, I realised my day actually became worse. My life was just me balancing a job that became less interesting with a side project as passioning. All while getting very little time to myself and even less for my loved ones. At last, I decided to stop.

It was not worth trying to force myself into entrepreneurship with a project that doesn’t passionate me. It is not just true for coding, it is true for anything that requires passion like Pewdiepie said in one of his recent videos. If you are passionate about something, even if it gets hard you will keep going until you make it. If your only interest in what should start as a hobby is not you enjoying it, just stop it.

High expectations I always had

Since I was a kid I was always branded as the guy for whom everything comes easy. The guy with a huge potential who can do anything he wants. Year after year, I keep setting myself higher and higher goals in terms of personal growth and achievements. Take on more responsibilities, work on something that will make an impact. Sometimes I even think to myself: “Dude where is your Facebook? Where is that potential there was so much noise about?”.

Now that I think about it further, I got into that whole side project maybe turning startup thing right after failing to get a promotion as Tech lead. I remember thinking before we got the results that almost all the candidates were more qualified than I. To be fair they all had more experience and I believe more maturity than I do. Yet I kept thinking about that potential I was not able to express fully in my day-to-day work. So I rushed things, went with an idea I did not fully believe in. An idea I was not able to hold onto when I got tired. My mind was just gone.

Had I fully believed in Hestya I would definitely still be on it maybe I would have even released the v1 by now, sharing it around. This was my first attempt at entrepreneurship, which I see as a complete failure but definitely not the last. At least through that venture, I got to deepen my knowledge of React and Node.js so all is not lost.

Enjoy the present, the legacy will follow

What now? Well, I’m just going to keep on learning by working and reading while trying not to get myself another burnout. I have plenty of time ahead of me. I will turn 27 in about a month yet it will be ten years I have been coding. Eight since I started working, I have plenty of experience and when the time comes to build something great I’ll be ready. All I need is to keep picking projects I am passionate about and everything will work out.

I like to think of that experience as a lesson. A lesson I will use to keep moving forward. I’m done setting myself goals based on that “potential” I lived with for years. I’m done setting myself goals based on others experiences instead of focusing on passion. What makes me enjoy writing code. We all have our own paths and rhythms. All we can do is try to get better day after day, ignore the pressure and enjoy the ride. I will have another shot at entrepreneurship but with something that actually passionates me.

As you might expect I will get back to blogging regularly as it is something that does passionate me. Also I would like to thank everyone coming to read my stuff every now and then. My audience grew tenfold over the past year and it is very exciting. Definitely, the best part is that about 99.6% of you readers are not part of my sharing circle on Facebook or Twitter. I’m glad you like my content and will spend more time improving it. Thank you.

thank you

Greek Goddess Gamble: Slowing down the writing

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Hi everyone, it’s been exactly a month since my last post and I have a good excuse for it. As it turns out I was pretty busy between a wedding, a holiday and the beginning of a personal project. Yep, another one! From now I will refer to it as my Greek goddess gamble until I reveal what it is all about.

The phase 1 of that gamble started a few weeks ago, hopefully I’ll make enough progress by December. Time is key here so it is more than likely that I post even less until then which makes it an even bigger gamble. Not posting for a month slowed down the growth of the number of views by 8%. Still I am lucky enough to see the number of readers slightly increasing week after week and hope it will last until December. Hopefully, the break will allow me to fully focus through my weekends and evenings to deliver on that crazy move.

Before you ask, no, I am not gonna retire to a corn field to raise my chicken anytime soon. Anything chicken related I leave to KFC (not sponsored, but can be :wink wink:). Here I am digressing again because I don’t want to risk revealing too much. Back to the main topic, that Greek goddess gamble does involve a fair amount of coding along with research. I originally wanted to kind of serialize and post every week about it or even vlog my progress. But eventually I realised that it will be more meaningful if there is a clear narrative through the posts. It is much easier to tell a story when you know the end.

To conclude, if the phase 1 of that gamble goes well, I will start to post on a weekly basis and/or vlog through phase 2. In case of failure, well I’ll just present over a couple posts what it was about and what went wrong. Stay tuned!

P.S. If you feel craving for my personal posts you can check out my recent poetry or my techier stuff. You may even want to keep an eye on Poq’s blog within the next few weeks, just don’t tell anyone I told you.

C# dynamic interface implementation at runtime

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Some context first

How did I come to write a class allowing dynamic interface implementation in the first place? Ever had to work on a huge company project over the weekend? Because it is the weekend you pick up fixes what should be easy configuration changes. Then you think it will take you only a couple of hours then you will be off to the gym. I thought that yesterday and boy I mislead myself, much mislead indeed. Basically I had to update a couple of big projects to remove fields that are null from the json response. All of that listening to stuff like the Ding Dong Song, Purple Lamborghini and Slipknot’s Psychosocial. On the first project I had to add a little line to have that working, so the second one should be the same right? I actually thought I would grab another task before leaving that improvised hackathon.

The thought journey

It was all fun and games until, surprise surprise, the second project used a custom formatter. That was to do some processing on the response objects and update some values to match our apps implementation. Fair enough. But the magical line of configuration to ignore null fields when rendering json did not work there. The obvious solution was to get rid of that custom formatter. The obvious thing to do was get rid of that formatter and figure a way to have that object value setting logic without touching the project classes. I say obvious because there were hundreds of classes there and I did not feel like changing all of them even to simply add an interface and its implementation. I had to set properties that may exist for hundred of objects. This is how I started googling, going through StackOverflow to try and figure how to achieve that.

The much lower scale Newton moment

During that thinking process I realized I could try to do something with dynamic objects instead of adding a value during the json formatting process. Interestingly enough, a few minutes later the StackOverflow ex-machina did its thing and I found that post “How to extend class with an extra property“. The answer from unsung hero Mario Stopfer brought me light on something I did not know was possible. You guessed it: Dynamic interface implementation at runtime. Not really in the form I needed but it opened a door of possibilities to me and a new perspective on the property setting issue. And I started coding, building, testing, debugging like crazy. After a few hours, I achieved what did not know was a possibility a few hours before. Dynamic interface implementation was there working and solving my issue.

Dynamic interface implementation: Epilogue

I had a nice afternoon of coding at the office, lots of laughs and problem solving that provides me with an article I really enjoyed writing and a new class for my in progress .NET utility project that should appear when mature enough on Github. However since you have been reading all of this you will have the code in a preview gist along with sample code. The only issue is that it does not work with the new .NET Core (yet?) so I will update it at a later stage when I find the time and solution. That or add another version. Without any further ado, here is what I called the TypeMixer.

Going full necromancian on old projects

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Old projects, they often end in what I call development hell. This odd place where some projects with a good potential become stale after a release or die because too late for a market. Very often personal projects end up there even when they are open source. Open source really seem like a tool to help spreading and sharing knowledge worldwide depending on the kind of project. Before open source democratized with the likes of Github  a huge number of personal projects probably took years to be released when not abandoned.

Today I decided to do the only kind of necromancy one should do: Bringing back an old project to life. A project for which I already wrote the code for the model and business logic. I had to make create a user interface and build a user experience as sleek as possible. However, I stopped it due to my vision of a market I thought crowded along with the lack of time. Now I see clearly that was not as true as I thought.

Here we are. Two months I did not post here, eleven months without working on a personal development project I am back at it. I spent my past weekends alternating between gym, party and sleep. Luckily, I work in a position where my brain I can keep my brain stimulated. Indeed, when not investigating an issue on one of our live apps nor working on our platform features I am defining development tools and processes to be used at company scale within the next months. Eventually, a lot of cool things will come out of that. I will definitely post a few related tutorials depending on schedule.

About the blog, I will try to post more regularly than I have maybe a tutorial. In terms of work I would like to share with you the video that we recorded last week. It is basically the new company careers video that I like not just because I am in it. You can definitely check it out below:

If you arrived that far in the post, first I would like to thank you for reading and watching the video. Second, do not abandon your old projects if you are not a 100% sure they are dead. Check your old source code even if it is to mock your old coding style. In the end you could actually have something worth the hassle.

Retail week hackathon 2016 aftermath

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Retail week hackathon 2016 result

Last week at the same time I was at home playing League of Legends to break away from the frustration of losing at the Retail Week hackathon 2016. I was frustrated because I was, well I still am, convinced that our idea was good enough to win. Actually, I wanted to write a post immediately after to express the mixed feelings I felt that day. On one hand, I loved the experience and the excitement of suiting up as my schools days nerd self. On the other hand I hated losing in a way that did not feel fair. I discussed about the outcome of the hackathon around and people felt like we should have won.

I still cannot believe that a system to book an hour in-store discussing with an employee about an item you see online. An employee you whose job is to sell you the said item, especially in 2016. Nowadays we are only clicks away from users reviews from all around the world. You can even have video reviews at least on youtube. I guess it makes more sense to the judges otherwise the Retail Week hackathon 2016 winner trophy would be on Poq’s trophies shelf.

When we first got the idea of the self-checkout we thought that the hardest challenge was having a working prototype. We were so wrong. We had a working prototype 4 hours before the hackathon ended. From there, we spent the rest of the time testing and fixing bugs to ensure the presentation’s success. The presentation did not go perfectly but the idea and the product were there. To be fair, I think that pretty much all the teams had a much presentation for lesser ideas which could be what cost us the gold. When the judges are involved in retail during a fashion event I guess this is key.

The self-checkout idea

We built a self checkout app that allows customers in a store to find items they want to purchase with indoor location using estimotes and geolocation to handle both indoor and outdoor app behaviour. The most interesting part is that you can scan your items so they add to your basket and when you leave the store you get charged automatically. We even built a mini-backend displaying the last paid basket.

We built a solid proof of concept even though there is some security flows that are fixable on the operational side. For the security tags, just add a device connected to the store system against which you scan your order generated QR code  to allow you unlocking the number of items you need to remove the tags from. Even further we can use security tags that would emit the value from the item barcode to enforce that someone is not unlocking something they did not buy. It is a 24 hour hackathon and still we thought about some corner cases.

We did focus on bringing people back to store. I think that we did show creativity and innovation using the latest technology. Maybe we did not manage to pass the idea to the judges but I know that this is the future of retail. Walk in a store pick what you need and go. No more queuing hassle. Basically shoplifting without the criminal aspect.

Learning and progressing

I may go next year if we put up a team again and learn from our mistake. Technical advancement is not the focus, presentation is. Coding the whole night to get a working prototype is not the focus, sugar coat is. Still it will remain a special moment to me because I did have fun. The self-checkout will be in your hands in a few years, I will do my best for it. I went, I saw, I learned, that is probably what I do best, learning. I learned things my whole life, both at school and out of it. Even now that I worked for a few years I still try to learn as many things as possible. Learning is key to evolution, it is the key to become a better version of one self.

A great way of learning is to take part in open source development, looking at other people’s code, taking on challenges. Since a few days now I am helping other developers on community based websites such as StackOverflow and Github. I had an account on both for some time but did not do much with them. The good part is that on one hand I can learn and sharpen my skills by taking on issues and at the same time I help others. Well, there is not much downside. On Tuesday I submitted my first (non-professional) pull request and it got approved and merged pretty much instantly. It was not much but it still feels nice, you can check it here.  And yesterday I got my first upvotes on a few posts on StackOverflow showing that giving time is enough sometimes.

That’s where I will end today’s post before I start spreading on random stuff, thank you for reading.

Menorca, dawn of my Lodgegoing

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Hi everyone,

So much happened since my last post, me going in Menorca for holidays just after signing for a new company, France losing to Portugal the Euro’s final. I was watching the game with my girlfriend from a bar called Su Païssa. We were chilling and drinking, having a good time then Eder’s goal happened. I was a bit pissed by how I felt Les Bleus gave the title to Portugal but happy for Cristiano Ronaldo. This guy probably never even dreamt he would ever get a major gold with his national team, and I have the utmost respect for the hard work and dedication he puts in the game.

Hard work and dedication are values that I believe should always be rewarded or at least recognised. It does not matter that it is football or work, if values that allow moving forward are promoted a business can go forth and grow in a virtuous circle. The more recognition for one’s quality work, the more quality work will follow. It is not the only thing that matters though but it plays a big part. Those are thing that I deem essential whenever I sit behind a keyboard or stand in front of a whiteboard.

Dedication is what wakes you up every single morning and go get more and more information about the world around you so you can adapt to it and think about a way to make it better. Hard work is the application of that dedication in your work wether it is personal or commercial. Often after a lot of time offering that dedication and hard work to a party the time may come to move on to a different challenge. A challenge that may be more rewarding at multiple levels.

After a few weeks of search I was trying to find an environment that would allow me to express my skillset to the fullest. An environment where I would be able to take on challenges nobody else tackles. An environment where hardwork and dedication would be rewarded. An environment where I would be back on tracks with my planned learning curve. An environment where I would have a highly talented team to help me progress as an engineer, as a developer and as a person. I can happily announce that I found such an environment as I signed a contract with Poq last Thursday.

Now I am enjoying a well deserved holiday in Menorca with my girlfriend before going back to London for a last week at Lodgeo. Menorca, sweet little island near Majorca in Spain. Menorca where I have the best of views whenever I wake up and do not think about anything else, just clearing my head. Menorca where I am writing this article. You were free to stop reading after the Poq announcement. Bonus for the patient readers, a selfie with my girlfriend having drinks.

Menorca

Menorca