One month into Levarne

Wouter Castelein

I’ve been working as a software developer for Levarne since March 2020. Since this was my first ‘adult’ job I wasn’t sure what to expect. To what extent did my study prepare me to be a software developer? And what is it like to work with a coordinated group of colleagues? In this post I share my progress in discovering the answers to these questions.

Learning the ropes

My first day at Levarne I was confronted with so many new impressions, it made my head hurt. Before I could even start doing anything I had to create half a dozen accounts for a variety of platforms, install a few programs, and figure out how to even run the kind of project I would work on. And all of that on Linux, an operating system I wasn’t used to. Somewhere in between I was introduced to the Vuejs framework by a colleague and I got my first practice assignment: make some kind of email scheduler, that sends some text at a specified time to the echo function in the back-end, using an API call. This echo function would simply return the text I sent to it. At this time my brain had quite reached maximum capacity. So until it was lunch time, I couldn’t do much more than reading through some of the Vuejs documentation. One of the things I’ve come to enjoy at Levarne is that the entire office eats at the same time. This offers a welcome break to all the programming.

In the afternoon I discovered that my first assignment wasn’t actually that hard and I finished it. The next thing I had to do was to enable users to change their username. This change had to be saved on the server as well as locally.

The next few days were kind of the same pattern. Each time I finished an assignment, I got a new one that required me to learn something new about either Vue or the way Levarne operates, and bit by bit I started to feel more like I knew what I was doing.

Soccer and Sausage

During my first two weeks at Levarne I got to know my colleagues and discovered some of Levarnes interesting customs. I was glad to find out many of the Levarnians were young people like me. Most were either still studying or recently graduated. This helped me feel like I would fit in.

In the afternoon on my second day the weather was reasonably well and apparently that meant it was time for soccer. We played on the parking lot outside. I found that running around and exercising like that is a great way to clear your mind after more than half a day of programming, and it helped me get through the last hours.

In my second week I was introduced to the harsh penalty of all major fuckups. Whether it’s deploying faulty code, arriving at the office past 9:30, or some other problems that enough hungry colleagues know about. The wrongdoer owes everyone a sausage roll. The first sausage roll I ate is the one we got from a colleague who overslept. It was very tasty and I decided I wasn’t averse to this tradition.

And thus my first two weeks went by, playing soccer, eating sausage rolls, listening to Dutch folk songs and working here and there in between. More and more I started to feel at home in the office. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to go there for quite a while.

Corona meetings

After my second week the office was closed. Due to Corona everyone who was able was asked to work at home, and so we did. All contact with my colleagues was reduced to two short hangout sessions a day and a bit of chatting or occasionally calling on Slack. This definitely slowed down the familiarization process, especially with the colleagues that I don’t work with. This was a setback, but I discovered some positive sides to working at home as well. For one I’m daily spared a little over an hour of traveltime, and I do find it easier to concentrate on my work without the distraction of conversations that don’t involve me.

It was during this first week of working at home I got my first assignment that wasn’t merely to practice. I had to make the front-end of three pages for a licensing company. One of them was simply a table that showed some general information and how many of each different licenses were distributed. The second page held a search form which allowed you to search for licensed people in a database, and the results were displayed in a table on the third page. It wasn’t a very large project, but when I was done I was still proud and glad to already be able to do something that felt useful, after only two weeks of practicing and learning.

The Event App

After this small project I started working on a much larger project, and I’m still working on it at the time of writing this: The Event App. Summarized, it is a template for applications that allow users to create events, share them and participate in them. Currently I’ve created over fifteen pages. One of the biggest challenges is to keep the app organised and adaptable. Since it’s only a template, the design should be able to change quickly and easily according to the wishes of future clients. This means that all buttons, input fields and other components that are used more than once should preferably be defined only one time. This way you can change all of them, by changing only that single definition. This however starts to become more difficult when for example, there are two buttons that are similar but not exactly the same. Do I still create a single component, but adjustable with some settings? Or should I make the two buttons separately? Questions like these constantly keep me busy.

Another difficulty is that the design is not quite in its final state. Sometimes pages that I’ve already made have to change, or while I’m creating them I discover things that are either missing or redundant. Most of the time this doesn’t result in that much extra work, but sometimes I need to completely restructure my page, or remove a lot of things I made, which can be frustrating.

Most of the time however, I really enjoy working on the app, and I’m proud to see it’s improving step by step, page by page, into something whole.

In conclusion

While a lot is still new to me, I’m surprised how quickly I was able to make myself useful working on those three pages and currently the Event App. And while the work can be difficult sometimes, and the days are longer than i’m used to, it also brings me satisfaction and pride, which makes my free evenings and weekends feel all the more deserved. All things considered, I’m happy to be working for Levarne!

One month into Levarne was originally published in Levarne Cloud Software Services on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.