Interview Christophe Neefs
11 mei 2023
Front-end developers. What do they do and what skills do they possess? You can read it in this interview with our front-end expert Christophe.
Interview Christophe Neefs: Front-end developer
Hi Christophe, first of all thank you for wanting to do this interview. The reason we are interviewing you is because we want to talk all about front-end development this month, and you were put forward as thé front-end expert.
Tell us, where did that passion for front-end development come from?
When I was in the 3rd grade, I loved to game. And actually, that sparked my interest in programming. I read on servers that a lot of people were using plug-ins for Minecraft, for example. I wanted to try writing my own plug-in. I then immersed myself in Java and actually made something really nice. And so that interest for development started to grow. Unfortunately, it was put on a slower track afterwards because my school work came first.
So what made you wholeheartedly choose to study application development?
I knew I wanted to go on studying development. As soon as I was allowed to continue my studies, I chose application development. At that time I did not really know what I wanted to study. But during my studies I noticed that I ended up liking front-end development more. Not that I hate back-end, but front-end is more visual. Then you really see what you have made and seeing that result gives me a lot of satisfaction.
You came to Tailr for an internship during your studies, why did you choose Tailr for your internship?
We were given a list of internships at school, but many of them were too far away. I then started looking at the companies that were closer to home and then the projects they offered. Tailr popped out way above them!
So what did you get to do as your internship assignment?
I got to work with another intern on the Mundero website. Of course, under the guidance of some seniors at Tailr. The website was built in Laravel, and I was already familiar with that framework through my training. But it was a real project for a real customer. In addition, Mundero's website had to be built from scratch. So that was a great project to work on.
After your internship you were immediately hired at Tailr, was that what you were hoping for?
I wasn't really hoping for it, because I didn't expect it at all. I obviously wanted to stay. I can still remember the moment when I got the phone call with the news that they wanted me on their team! That was on May 4th at 2:30 pm. So you can say I was very happy with the offer!
You've been working, internship included, 2 years at Tailr. In which area have you seen yourself grow the most?
Of course I have grown in my front-end development skills in general, but especially in React I have grown a lot. Also in implementing designs, taking usability into account. I have also grown strongly in terms of team communication. As an intern a lot of things are still predefined, but as developer you get more to say and can help steer the project. But these are things for which communication within the team is crucial.
What else would you like to be able to delve into?
Now that I have grown strongly in React, I want to delve even further into it. In React, there are many more advanced ways to write code and I'm slowly starting to get into that. The past few years, I have learned a lot about the basics. At school, we were taught a fairly old version, so in the beginning I had to re-learn everything from scratch. Especially the way of writing the code. Now that I have mastered that, I especially want to continue mastering the more complicated technology.
What projects are you currently working on?
Currently I have two major projects that take up most of my time:
Zangersheide is a big custom development project. For Faradoo we are updating the website. In this project I supervise an intern myself. In the beginning that was very busy, but in the meantime that intern is working very independently. I was especially surprised that I got the chance to mentor interns myself already! It made me realize how far I have come.
What do you think is the most fun project you've already worked on?
I actually like all of them. But if I really have to choose one: the Pizza Hut project. Because that was my first big challenge. Because for Pizza Hut we had to convert the website to a new technology, but the website could not be interrupted during the entire project. That project lasted 2 years, and during this project I did get some big responsibilities such as building the catalog and implementing the design. In the beginning, I found that a very challenging project. It was a huge mountain of work that came my way, but at the end you get so much positive feedback. The website is now many times faster than before and was delivered with almost no errors. That's incredibly satisfying!
So how do you deal with moments like that?
I don't give up easily. I like to think structurally and solve puzzles, and front-end development is actually a big puzzle. And I'm really a fan of solving puzzles. Then when an issue comes to me during a project that I don't know the answer to right away, I start looking for myself. "How do I solve this?" If I really don't find the answer, I consult with the architect or technical lead. But I always tackle such things step by step, ticket by ticket. And in the end a solution is always found.
What moment are you most grateful for within Tailr?
The release of Mundero. After the go-live, we had a follow-up meeting with them a few months later and there we only received positive feedback. After the go-live, they had already doubled their sales compared to their results before covid. At the time, there were still plenty of travel restrictions. So it was really thanks to the new website. They got that feedback from customers themselves. Their previous website did not look very reliable, so customers still booked with the competition. Whereas now, thanks to the new website, they exude confidence and expertise. Knowing that you contributed to this gives me enormous satisfaction and I am grateful that I was able to work on it.
What do you love about working at Tailr?
The fact that we specialize in custom development. I find that the most fun to do. The projects are so diverse: From travel agencies (Mundero), to pizza (PizzaHut) and now horses (Zangersheide). These are always projects with a different setting and each website is different. I also get the opportunity to work with many different frameworks, technologies and programming languages. For example, I have already worked with Laravel, but I have also been able to delve into React. And I am currently working on Sulu, Sulu CMS and Symfony UX. I don't see myself doing anything else just yet. I like the variety, the more complex issues and puzzles and the variation in projects.
When you started, you were asked to give your favorite quote. You chose the following quote by Jean-Jacques Rousseau: "The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless." Why that quote?
This quote resonated with me because I am often told that I have a great imagination, and I do like that imagination. Because when you get lost in your thoughts, you are in your own world. And that is a world without limits. The real world has its limits, but what you can think of in your own mind? That's your real limit!
Why (or when) do you enjoy going to work?
Because of the collaboration with my team. The team really makes me enjoy coming to work. Everyone supports each other and there is a great team atmosphere. A lot of jokes are made during stand-ups, which means the atmosphere is always good.
What are your biggest motivations?
My motivation is to help people. For example, people want to update their website, or just want to have a website to achieve their business goal. And I have the skills and the knowledge to do that. It gives me energy that I can work with those people on their story. On the other hand, curiosity. As I said, I love puzzles and solving complex issues and those are things that are really fully reflected in front-end development so also that gives me motivation to develop great things.
What's still on your bucket list?
I don't really have a bucket list. I'm actually quite satisfied with what I have right now.
And then last but not least: What's your tip to others who are also thinking about a career in frontend development?
It's not just writing HTML and CSS. You also have to do some thinking: "How does the back-end expect that data?" for example. You have to try to figure things out and solve them yourself. Above all, you have to have a good portion of patience, because front-end development can be frustrating because a lot of things have to be right. It must not only work functionally, it must also be user-friendly and look good; on both web and mobile. So a good front-end developer must be willing to figure things out and try things out. And, of course, you have to be able to think logically well. As a front-end developer, it is not enough to just 'parrot' the description in a ticket, you have to regularly question things, think for yourself and find solutions. But that's what makes front-end development so beautiful.
The takeaway for me is that there is a very enthusiastic front-end developer here before me, and that we at Tailr should be very happy to have someone on our team like you! Thank you Christophe!
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