I've been a developer for while now... 18 years, to be exact.
I started in 1997, fresh out of university - without carrying any kind of degree, to be honest. I had learnt a lot there though: I had my first tastes of the internet there, and saw the web in its infancy, growing to a budding communication tool for a wide variety of people. And so I started in October 1997 as a web developer in an Antwerp-based company called iM@Gic. It was a fun place to work at, and we made some great sites there given the technology we had to our disposal (all coded in Perl, baby).
But after a year or 2 I felt that I was stuck in the job, not learning enough, hitting some kind of ceiling. And so I moved companies and joined Evisor in 1999. Evisor was a "new media" company, focusing on e-business solutions, growing like cabbage in the dotcom era. It was an even more fun place to work; I guess it had a bit of a startup mentality even though we mostly did client work. I spent some time in the Microsoft Compentence Center, jumping on the freshly booted dot-net bandwagon, and later switched to the Mobile Competence Center. Doing mobile in 2001 was, eh, not like it was today. We mostly had Palm Pilots to play with, or Nokia 6510's with a super duper WAP browser. Incredibly cool things at the time, but so limited now.
But alas, those good times also came to an end: Evisor was acquired by PwC Consulting (which subsequently was acquired by IBM, just a year later). The subsequent change in company culture bothered me, and the home-work distance surely didn't help either. I looked for a new job nearby, and by the middle of 2002 I had found a new job at Frontline, back in Antwerp where I lived. My work there consisted of web development and application development. Again, it was a fun place to work at (I never regretted career choices in that regard). Unfortunately, a series of events caused the company to go bankrupt not 6 months after I started working there. So by the end of 2002, I was out of a job.
It was then that I decided I'd go "indie". The expierence with Frontline's demise bothered me in that I had absolutely no control over what had happened. I wanted that control for myself, to find my own direction. If it went wrong, it would be my own fault.
That Indie Life
And so I became a freelancing developer, immediately joining a jumpstarted continuation of Frontline called Frontlink (yeah, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯). It was not an easy time. My rates were too low (I discovered too late), and the work was not as challenging as it had been at Frontline. And so after half a year or so, I moved on to other projects. As an indie, I've done several types of work. Small projects, on a pretty casual basis working with or through former collegues. But also larger projects, more formal ones, with important bid phases before actual work. I also worked on "time and material" stints for companies, doing all kinds of work for them and their clients.
I've been doing that indie/freelancing work for almost 13 years now. I think I've done well. There were times where growth was an option, but I never looked forward to managing people (well, not doing the paperwork and stuff). There were times where I hit rock bottom, a few times even pretty hard. Those times were not easy. There were so many cool interesting projects, but also a lot of miscalculations.
I've worked for a number of very cool companies (who treated me like one of their own, and I likewise acted like I was one of their own). The most interesting that come to mind are iPASoftware, 10to1 and last but not least iCapps. iPASoftware offered me a taste of developing your own frameworks (I built a large part of their internal RAD framework, which was pretty extensive), and the first taste of leading a team. 10to1 offered me the chance to join them as an iOS developer, even though I had no experience at all in that field (I would not be where I am now without them, of that I am sure). The people I met there I still consider to be amongst my best friends. And at iCapps I could better myself as a team lead, first leading the Bolero iOS team, later in a more general role in the company (such a fruitful environment to work in, by the way).
I learned a lot at those companies, and I am very grateful to them for their confidence in my abilities.
Today, October 1st, I start my new job as a UIKit Frameworks Engineer. It certainly feels like starting a new chapter. So many things to close off since I'm terminating my freelancing life. Additionally, this job at Apple is like something I have never done before, it is novel on so many levels.
Certain things haven't exactly turned out as planned, so when I'm stepping on the plane to SFO this Saturday my relocation will be temporary. After about a month of bootcamp in the US with the UIKit team, I'm coming back home to continue my work from Belgium. I'd like to stress that this is a temporary situation: I will only work here for about a year after which I will still move to the US to join the team in Cupertino (on a somewhat less stressful visa process). However, I am very grateful to Apple that I still get the possibility to actually do this job: I am well aware of the extra effort this requires.
Monday, October 5th is my real start date in Cupertino (coincidentally on the date Steve Jobs died, which is going to be an, eh, interesting experience I think). I look incredibly forward to it (jetlagged as I will be).
And in closing, a small fun fact: all jobs/projects I have had since 2008 were via an (indirect) Twitter link. Somebody I knew on Twitter had a job for me, or knew somebody who had. Or people who knew me via Twitter passed on my credentials to companies looking for a job. And even this new job started out with a reply to a tweet, albeit via email. So yeah: you can say a lot about Twitter (as a tool), but it surely facilitated a lot of my career.