Written by Tom

18 Mar 2023

#1 where it all started

When I was 17 years old I was in electronics school. We were assigned to program a Programmable Integrated Circuit. It had some memory and LED’s. The goal was to have a certain sequence in the LED’s output.

Now we were a group of boys that were not easily kept in strain. The teachers were all close to retirement and had to deal with some modern vision on education like project oriented working. They did not agree to it, but were forced, and so the course became a bit messy. The project meetings were definitely not executed as was intended by the course designers so a lot of time was wasted. The lessons that actually taught me the most were the old school chalkboard type of lessons.

Back to the assignment. During the lessons I could not keep up with the material. There was something about an accumulator and shifting of bits. It did not land with me. How could a pass this upcoming test if I didn’t understand it? Luckily I got some help.

The classes were rather small in my time. So there were only about eight guys per class. That made it easy to get acquainted with the classes the year above us. They happened to be some more talented guys that did understand the PIC and its programs. Friendly as they were they provided us the answers to their assignments over the email.

Test day came and I got an assignment that looked an awful lot like one I received the answer from. A few little tweaks were within my capabilities and voilá. After killing some time I raised my hand to have the teacher come and grade my work.

I still hear him saying as proud as one can be: “You see Tom, I knew you could do it!”.

It warms my heart to date. Yes I was a fraud and did not deserve it. It feels so good though. To have someone really meaning it when they say they believe in you.

switching careers

It may not come as a surprise that I switched away from electronics. After trying the army and work as telecom engineer I decided to study International Business Management. That was great. I have not had a day at which I wouldn’t want to go to college.

A very good choice obviously, but I never used it for a job. I tried. The market conditions at time of graduation were unfortunately not too great (2013). Many times I had too little experience for the business software consultant jobs that I often was applying for.

Disappointed about the job perspective that apparently came with my graduation I decided to go back to the field I knew and spend some time as an electrical engineer in a growing company. It had a somewhat entrepreneurial spirit so it appealed to me.

At the job I became responsible for to set up the one-man department for designing and building electrical controllers for pumps. Getting handy with the ePlan software appeared to be mandatory to be productive. The most fun I had in making helper tools to be able to minimize to time spend on repetitive tasks. Organizing it in such a way that would help me transferring my knowledge later on to a potential employee that would take over the task.

Despite repeatedly asking for extra manpower to relieve some stress the second employee only arrived the second I quit unfortunately.

The waste of administration time

During the last few months of my employment I started noticing the bizarre amount of time spent on administrative tasks related to maintenance. Engineers would do maintenance to several installations per day resulting in a report that should be sent to the customer. This report would be processed by hand. Checking every line. Since there were more engineers in the field than in the office it is not strange that the work piled up. The time between maintenance and reporting would easily be 1 month if not greater. Not to mention what happened if a report was incomplete. I had to call the engineer and ask him if he knew something about an installation he worked on 60 installations ago.

The customers often were not happy.

So I started thinking about a solution. An app on a tablet with some website thing where I could receive the data and let me be helped by some computer when processing the reports. I was somewhat familiar with PHP because of earlier attempts and in the evenings I started building a website with a login system. Out of curiosity I also started working on the website from my dad’s business. And so I was working every evening on my skills.

I quit

In the last period of the job aforementioned I was on holiday. I was so tired of the stress and disorganization that I thought by myself: what am I doing? I’m working my ass off. And there is no sign of any improvements. I made suggestions but could not try them. The week later I announced that I would quit.

I’m starting my own business. In marketing.

Next time I will be talking about my first steps in programming.