Tom Cools 0:00
No, I'm not kidding. When I started out, I wanted to learn all the programming languages. I wanted to learn everything there was in it, but it's just too much. So I think a very good approach is, is try a bunch of different things. And if it feels good, just do it. I mean, this job is something that, hopefully, if you like it and everything goes your way, then you will be doing this for the rest of your career. Well, that's the intention. If you start a job, at least at least I hope so. It depends a bit of a person to first of all, you want to do this for a long time. There's no use in doing this, if you really are unhappy, doing this.

Tim Bourguignon 0:55
Hello, and welcome to developer's journey, the podcast bringing you the making of stories of successful software developers to help you on your upcoming journey. I'm your host team building. On this episode 182. I receive Tom calls. Tom is a software engineer, consultant and trainer who loves to share not only knowledge, but also passion for our craft. He's also a mentor at coding coach to IO, and has been caught in frequently speaking at different events, conferences and meetups, I suppose especially at the end, we're Java user group in Belgium, which he co created. So Tom, welcome Dajani.

Tom Cools 1:34
Thank you, James. Good evening. How are you doing?

Tim Bourguignon 1:38
Doing pretty well, pretty well. How would you? Oh, pretty

Tom Cools 1:40
well, it's it's been an OK day today. That a lot of good news. today. I'm accepted to the new conference J fall in the Netherlands. So it's nice to be back on the road again. Okay, so

Tim Bourguignon 1:51
infrequently is going to be less Yeah, I

Tom Cools 1:53
guess I just one is in person. So I was really looking forward to that one. I've talked at a few conferences, but online in the past year. And that really drains me. But we can get into that later. But I'm really happy and excited for for today.

Tim Bourguignon 2:05
I believe so and I agree with all that. But before we come to your story, I want to thank the terrific listeners who support the show every month, you are keeping the dev journey lights up. If you would like to join this fine crew and help me spend more time on finding phenomenal guests, then editing audio tracks, please go to our website, Dev journey dot info and click on the Support me on Patreon button. Even the smallest contributions are giant steps toward a sustainable dev journey. journey. Thank you. And now back to today's guest. As you know, just the show exists to help the listeners and this thing what you started look like and imagine how to shape your own future. So let's go back to your beginnings first. Where would you place the start of your deaf journey?

Tom Cools 2:56
Oh, that's actually really easy. I was kind of still am a Video Game Nerd. And when you're young and you want to be cool with your friends in the playground, you want to like make a group together. So you can play online with a shooters together. So what you did in those days, and I think he's kind of still do is to group up and you make a clan, like a group of gamers that game together. And we were kind of try hearts or whatever kind of questions you want to talk about. And we decided, You know what we want to be professional crew of gamers, we're going to make a website. So it's not completely

Tim Bourguignon 3:33
logical with the becoming professionals and having a website. But anyhow,

Tom Cools 3:37
yeah, it made a lot of sense in the 90s. It's not even the 90s. I'm not that whatever can be decided, yeah, we need a website. So who's going to build it? And I was like, You know what, I think I can figure it out. And I made the most awful website, I still have it on my hard drive somewhere. It's the most awful looking thing. But it really listed our group name, we were the digital comrades, all the old names of all the old friends that I haven't spoken to in years, they're still on there. And it was really like the first place on the internet that I could call mine, or at least hours of the group. And that was really like a magical moment to have something on the internet because then it was relatively young, let's say. And through that HTML, it was just like, Okay, that was fun. So what else can I do in it? And around the same time in our high school, we learned about PowerPoint, Excel and access, like the Microsoft Access office Access database. And you could like drag and drop and make a sort of UI on top of the database and you can script it with Visual Basic, and the entire classroom hated it. And I quickly became the IT guy of the class, just helping everyone with their assignments because I was like, What do you mean this is this is fun. Why aren't you enjoying this off of the sit behind? This PC like all the other students really didn't like it. I was like, come on, I can do something, I can type a few characters. And suddenly it's doing stuff on my screen that I wanted to do. How is this not awesome. So that just made me really happy to just be involved with code and kind of a shy person in class, not really talkative, kind of maybe a bit of a loner even, that's maybe why it retreated into video games that much. But I really enjoyed anything with with a computer, if video games making videos on YouTube, which professionally deleted from YouTube, I know, it was, that's a great thing. If you have access to your account, still, you can still delete those. But then as I grew older, and I was in my last year of high school, I had this sense of, yeah, I had a few really cool teachers. But I was still thinking, You know what, I think I want to do that in my life. So I was a shy kid who didn't want to talk in front of a class, who then decided at the end of high school, I'm going from a teacher's degree. So then I went for my teacher's degree. So I studied a Bachelor in, it's a bit hard to translate. But basically, I'm allowed to teach children between the ages of 12 and 18. So I don't know how you would call that in Germany, or wherever, and subject somehow to teacher economics, bookkeeping, and it. And the reason I took those is because I was really interested in bookkeeping, because I'm a boring and bland person, apparently. But I also took it because I thought, You know what I like being busy with these HTML things and making a WordPress website, I want to be a teacher in that. But then as it turned out, during my teacher's degree being in it means that you get really good in making Word documents, and Excel files with a lot of functions and so on. So the functions were a bit more interesting. So that was a bit disappointing, because in the three years of actually learning to become a teacher, I think I wrote 12 lines of Java scripts. And that was like the extent of the actual coding of that degree. But I did learn a lot. And I think it was absolutely necessary for me a shy kid to basically decide, you know, what, I'm kind of shy people think I won't be able to do this. You know what, I'll prove them wrong. And I'm just going to do this. So I learned so much of I don't know how it is in other countries, but in Belgium, at least, and at least in this education, more than 50% of your last year is just teaching teaching, you're just you get sent to a school as a sort of intern, I don't know how you call the temp teacher or something. But anyway, I was teaching really young kids, and that's where I'll really have, I still have a really big passion for it. I really like teaching. And it's just so amazing. When you explain something to a group of people, especially young people will still have a giant future in front of them. And you can just see the little sparkle in their eye when they when it clicks. When you see like, oh, yeah, I was able to explain it in such a way that this really difficult subject fits in their head, and they get it. It's like the most amazing feeling ever. So I finally finished that degree. I graduated, I was 21 at that point. And I thought do I want to stand in front of a classroom my entire life from now on? Because that's kind of what you're supposed to do. You graduate as a teacher, you go teach for the rest of your life. And then I had a really two month holiday, like the summer holiday. And I basically decided, you know, I'm too young to stand in front of a classroom my entire life without any real life experience. Because the one thing I was kind of analyzing through my own history of teachers who are which teachers that I like, and which teachers did not like, let me say which teachers do they favor above have other teachers not like this, like it's like more personal now, what I really noticed is that the teachers I liked were the ones who had a lot of experience, the ones that didn't come out of high school and then immediately started teaching, but the ones that really did a job somewhere, like a real, I don't want to downplay teachers who obviously took that path. But I felt for me personally, I didn't want to be a teacher for the rest of my life without first diving into a real experience. So then I had to figure out how what am I going to do? I had a long discussion with some friends and with my mom as well. And we basically decided that I would go and study again for another three years of university. So that was a pretty long student era life. And then I decided to go in a full IT software engineering track.

Tim Bourguignon 9:48
What did you decide on learning for three years? It already was in the computer. That was it.

Tom Cools 9:53
That was it the last three years for it. So the first three years of a teacher's degree graduated And then immediately rolled into it for three more years, I could skip like one or two subjects because they overlapped between the teacher's degree and IT degree. And then you can drop certain subjects because you already earned the credits for it, as is customary in the European system. But yeah, then I just started it. And I felt more and more in love with everything, just the simple. We started with C sharp first. So it was just a simple console. WriteLine just seeing something I typed, and then just, it pops up on the screen. Just simple. If statements were like, Oh, my God, this is awesome. I'm really simple person I like if it doesn't have to be fancy, though, that was just like the I got a computer very late in life, I think I was 14 or 15 when I had my first computer, and then maybe you're later until I have internet access. So I'm a bit of a late bloomer on that aspect. But it was just everything was so it was so nice. I actually sometimes compare it to feeling like a sort of gods in my own domain. Because I can create whatever I want. As long as I get good enough in it. I can create whatever system I can solve so many problems. Not all of them, but I can solve a lot of things. That, yeah, it just gives me an awesome feeling.

Tim Bourguignon 11:25
Because it does, yeah, definitely. Your imagination is the limit worth it. And it says, You have to have a beautiful imagination sometimes to really fit into your heads those virtual abstract models you have in mind, but it's you're really building giant structures in your head. And you indeed feel like maybe not super human, but but you're creating something out of nothing, which is kind of awesome.

Tom Cools 11:52
Yeah, it definitely is creating is such. So undervalued, I think in our just as it is sometimes get get the comments from people like oh, yeah, so the typical comments everyone gets if you're in it to fix printers all day long. Can you fix my laptop? And I'm like, No, I can. Yes, I can. This is a family party. So no, I'm going to pretend I know nothing. And I've never even seen that device that you're talking about. So there's that. But

Tim Bourguignon 12:28
raise your hand if you had a t shirt with written on it? No, I will not fix your computer and your word to federal politics. My hand is touching right now.

Tom Cools 12:38
I don't have it, but can I order it from? It just I think it's unclear for a lot of people that are not inside, like programming or creation sides of it, that just don't really grasp what it means. What it really means that if you type some letters into a browser that actually opens a website, where you can order something from Amazon, for example. Like all the things that are behind, it just fascinate me enormously. And I think that is it's just like an abstraction layer that they don't see. Because everything's just like, oh, yeah, that's just how it works. It's normal. Well, if you think about it, it's kind of ridiculous. The string you type in, the little words get transformed into an IP address, which is an address for something somewhere, basically. And then there's this magical network that just finds it somewhere on the planet. It's actually quite incredible. And I think people take it for granted. Maybe a bit too much. Yeah. And

Tim Bourguignon 13:41
you remain very high on the OSI levels. Yeah, there. You could go. Wait. Yeah. That is really cool. When you were telling me what your past as a teacher I was smiling because well, well, chit chatting before the beginning of this is of this this conversation. You were telling me? Well, today it was kind of rough. I told the whole day. So that was a whole day to be Oh, sorry. I misunderstood that. But you were telling me, You talk today. So I'm looking forward to this loop at some point where we're where we come back to teaching in the IT context. But first thing first, we're talking about university and writing your first lines of C sharp and seeing things moving on the screen. What happened next?

Tom Cools 15:09
will happen next. The next years of the degree, we're just kind of learning more and more. And once you really have this basis of, especially in Java and C Sharp object oriented programming, once you grasp what it actually means, then it really starts to flow. It actually took me a while before the whole concept of objects and classes clicked in my head because it wasn't clicking, like sequential programming, just from top to bottom is really easy, like a main method with all the statements in it, it's really easy to read. But objects and classes were just super confusing to me. And then one day, it just clicked. And once I saw that, it just opened like, oh, wow, okay, this is kind of incredible what we can, what I can do now that I understand this concept. And then the next years of university, we're basically diving deeper and deeper into the, I would almost say, the rabbit hole of object oriented programming, and it in general, learning a bunch of stuff about databases. And I think the most one of the most pivotal moments that actually happened was I went on Aurasma for an exchange to a different country. So I normally study in Antwerp. And somewhere along the lines, we had an international project, which lasted two weeks, we had people from Turkey, from Austria, from a bit of everywhere was a really awesome experience, the project was actually called Bridging the Gap because it was half of the participants were it students and the other half were business students. And the idea was to bridge the gap to learn how to communicate between us too, because the business people don't always appreciate or know how to talk to it people and vice versa. So that was just two weeks of people with like different backgrounds, business students versus it students and from different cultures, people from Turkey, Austria, Finland, and I believe Wallonie for the South southern part of Belgium, which is basically another country sometimes or it feels like with a different culture. And I had such a good time that week, those weeks, actually, our school had an agreement with the Finnish school that we did that project with. And it was really easy for me to just say, Okay, I'm going to study my next semester. So the first semester of my last year in Finland. So I departed to the Great North. It was awesome. You speak any Finnish? No, not a lot. Because finish is really incredibly hard. I can say, which means hello, or how are you doing? And all the nasty words, which I'm not going to pronounce for your Finnish listeners, but isn't that difficult to learn? Like a lot of swear words or something in countries? So? Yeah,

Tim Bourguignon 17:49
so everything was in English? Or how does it go?

Tom Cools 17:52
Yeah, the lessons are in English. And I don't like to laugh at other people's language. But I will never forget my Java teacher in Finland, who always pronounce this job boss. And I'm a bit of a Star Wars fan. So just it was so amazing. I think that's where I fell in love with Java, even more. Java. I think this is the language for me. I'm just going to focus on that one.

Tim Bourguignon 18:20
Because that's where it started.

Tom Cools 18:21
Yeah, I think it's sort of a bit earlier than that. Because I think one of my most favorite teachers, the one that taught me the most was my Java teacher. And I think that's something that maybe your listeners will recognize as well. A good teacher can really enhance what you think about a certain language. And vice versa. I saw a few tweets from I follow Mr. Boston, on Twitter. I don't know if you know her.

Tim Bourguignon 18:49
She's gonna be something like three puzzles before you.

Tom Cools 18:53
Know, you don't know. But she has the as Lady book podcast. Yes, indeed. And she did a Java episode recently. And they were all really negative about Java, which kind of broke my heart. But am I explained that basically, yeah, I had a really bad annoying teacher that didn't. That just wasn't correct and actually quite unethical. And I was like, you know, it sucks that you feel that way about a programming language that they kind of love for. They totally understand why you hate it. It's just about experienced by someone. That, yeah, it's just a shame that those things happen. But fortunately, they happen.

Tim Bourguignon 19:31
Yes, indeed. Just a quick question, how was the past of this teacher who pronounced Java? Did he have a long experience in industry doing stuff like you explained at the beginning, and that's why he was a good teacher.

Tom Cools 19:48
No, I maybe didn't explain it clearly enough. So the teacher that said Java was in Finland, but the teacher I actually liked the most was one of the teachers back in that Okay, gotcha. And he had a big He actually was a part time teacher, part time consultant. And you could really sense from everything, the examples he gave just really practical. Even his exam, he asked things that he never showed before. But we were like, logical next steps that you should be able to solve. And we had the internet. So it was basically a test, almost, can you solve this issue I'm putting in front of you, given the knowledge that I've taught you. And given the fact that you have the internet to find the rest of the blanks that you need to fill in this puzzle.

Tim Bourguignon 20:31
Like it is in our everyday life. Yeah, exactly.

Tom Cools 20:33
A lot of the students complained at that point, and I was like, This is gonna be your job, people are gonna have to learn how to Google.

Tim Bourguignon 20:43
That is very true. That's very true. And indeed, amen. For for stories and linking that to everyday pain points, and not theoretical problems that no one will ever face anymore. No, exactly. Okay, so I thought, when did you leave university? And how did you enter your career probably in Java. Question, Mark.

Tom Cools 21:05
Good question. Actually, no. So after, after Finland. So after doing my Erasmus spirit, the last semester in high school was always an entire semester of internship. Yes, it's unpaid. In Belgium, we don't get paid for our internships. But I had a really good coach, I ended up in a really nice company, I actually called in C Sharp, and I made a sort of cost analysis tool for the cloud, this is nine years ago. So basically, to calculate what the costs would be for a certain abstract system like, abstract, I need a computing resource, or you need a data resource. And I can mix and match. If I use blob storage in Azure and use a virtual machine or do I use App Services, or it wouldn't be mix and match at the bid. And I wrote that And actually, that company offered me a job. And that is what I'm still today. So there's not that not that much different. I did my internship in C Sharp, and when I graduated, they offered me a job and they asked me, Tom, what would you like to do? We typically have C sharp or Java, you can choose and I basically said, you can choose for me, I don't really care. And they said, Okay, we need Java people. Okay, so Java is okay. It's very pragmatic. It's like, okay, look, I love your company, I want to come work for you. I'm young. I'm just out of college out of university, it doesn't matter for me, Mike, I still have plenty of time in my career to go either way and do great things in either programming language, it eventually kind of defaulted to Java, which sounds really bad.

Tim Bourguignon 22:42
Okay, so but when you say Java, what, what kind of flavor of Java are you doing? Is it x je Jakarta? Is it going spring? Is it going a Spring Boot web profile? Something small? Is it embedded? Java? Java is basically everything nowadays?

Tom Cools 22:58
Yeah, right once run anywhere else, it kind of depended on although there were some evolutions actually. Because when I first started out Spring Boot wasn't really a thing, though you had spring, but not the boot part where it can easily be be started. So actually, the very first experience I had and the Java devs will listen to you will struggle in fear, I think, was programming with the checks RS with a WebSphere server. So these are these mustard on servers that do a lot of things for you. And you push your code to basically build a WAR file. And the WAR file only has like definitions, like hey, I need a database, give me a database, and then the application server injects it basically it's all the most of the configuration was in the application servers. Basically, the pure definition of dividing Dev and Ops a big wall in between literal pushing WAR files, why AR pushing water over a wall to ops. That was maybe not the best naming convention.

Tim Bourguignon 24:05
I have a huge green of my on my face. Because when this podcast started in 2014, I wasn't a project, which was coding in Java and Jes X was JSF and deploying on the WebSphere on the host with IBM mainframe behind it and everything. So it was war. What's the very definition? No doubt.

Tom Cools 24:28
But then it kind of evolved into spring became a more popular at least Spring Boot. And then we basically started using that more and more. So that's I'm still doing Spring Boot now and I'm quite happy with it. But there's a lot of things that have changed in my career in the meantime, but maybe let's backtrack first why I chose the company I work at now because they are not only I work for info support, by the way in McCullough they are a smaller company that's part of a bigger group, the info support group which has a big office in the Netherlands and so on. And one of the things they also do next to consultancy is they give trainings. And this is where it ties back into my my teaching degree. I was like, Oh, wait, so I can teach and through it at the same time. So this is like a weird, I'm doing the two things that I love doing at the same time. So occasionally, I get to give training to different subjects. And at some point, this was the most awesome, like fork in my career to say they organized a minor studies. So that's like 38 ECDs credits from the European Union. But it was fully thought by me and a colleague. And that's was an entire semester of only Java.

Tim Bourguignon 25:50
Was it at university, inside your company,

Tom Cools 25:54
it was technically for university, but it was hosted by my company. So my company, my company organized it, but we got a credit as they say, we got the credits through an official university.

Tim Bourguignon 26:06
Nice. And that was kind of students came there, I had a

Tom Cools 26:10
nice group of I believe, this is so shameful. I don't know the exact number anymore. I think 11 students, were just students from various parts of the Netherlands because this was actually in the Netherlands, I had to drive two hours everyday to get there and two hours to drive back out. Yeah. But if you do something you really love, then that's something worth considering. And the amazing thing was, you get to know the students really well, they enter like a bit like some students are a bit sloppy, not really caring about their career much, basically, give me the credits, and I can go home. But in the end, we got some really nice conversations going with some nice things going on. And actually, quite literally five of them are now my colleagues. And it really warms my heart to see these young kids basically grow up to like very professional media, I think nearly senior developers by now. So that's just yeah, it just warms my heart to see those. Those guys do the best day. They have.

Tim Bourguignon 27:19
Did you take some of them under your wing as part of your company? No,

Tom Cools 27:24
because they started and Dutch part of the company, the Netherlands, and I wasn't going to drive to the Netherlands every day.

Tim Bourguignon 27:33
You just said when you care.

Tom Cools 27:35
I do care. But at that point I was living with my girlfriend now wife and let's say that's not that appreciated to come home that late every day. Those wipes and all the bad word about her. She's amazing. She's she's actually the other co founder of the emperor of Java user group, by the way. Oh, easy. She is She also graduated in the same school. I did but a couple years later. Okay. So

Tim Bourguignon 28:03
And did you have a love relationship with Java as well, like you did with with the same teacher? Or was it a different I hope she

Tom Cools 28:11
didn't have a love relationship with the same teacher? Okay. No, she actually graduated and then started doing C sharp. So we had a lovely dinner conversation between Java and dotnet development. But eventually she switched over to to basically Java as well. That's where we're at now. Okay,

Tim Bourguignon 28:39
so tell us about the the birth of this this user group, when did user groups at all enter your story? And how does evolve in creating one?

Tom Cools 28:47
Well, it's actually part of the training part of my job. So besides training, I really got interested in presenting stuff like sharing what I know, but not just within my company and with trainees but like a broader audience. And I had a lot of content anyway. So I was like, I'm going to speak at meetups, just something I just wanted to do. Just let's go for it. And conferences. Yeah, when you want to start talking at conferences, Meetup is usually the best place to go try out some new content. And that's where that kind of came in. How did the strange part is and if I'm recalling correctly, the very first place I spoke at was actually not a meetup, but it was a conference in Croatia.

Tim Bourguignon 29:29
Because that seems to be Yeah.

Tom Cools 29:31
So I basically told my manager, hey, he's got him by the way. Yeah. I told them at him. You know, I love presenting and teaching. You know, I think these conferences I think I would like to try that. And I said, yeah, just go for it. So I applied to some conference sending some CFPs I send it in everywhere. So I had no I wasn't had no fame to say. People didn't know me, so I just basically shotgun And nice spread just everywhere. My CFP and eventually I got a mail from Croatia. Really tiny conference on an island in robbing a beautiful place. And I said to my manager, I got accepted to the conference. small downside, it's in Croatia. Can I go? And he said, oh, oh, yeah, sure. So that was my first conference experience. I flew to the island that two days there, it was pretty amazing. gave a really good session that was really well received. I really don't like the whole Oh, I had the best session or whatever. But I had the best session of the event. Through voting. They said, Oh, yeah, this was this really good. You were the best session of the conference. I was like, Okay, that's cool. And afterwards, my manager. Well, first time my manager saw me after that conference, he was like, congratulations. I didn't think you could do it. But it was such a good job and doing it anyway. I think that's kind of typical. For my mom, for my manager for even my wife, they, all three of them, and plenty more people just want to have an idea. They just let me go. And they just think like, if it doesn't work out, what's the worst that could happen? And if it works out, it's pretty awesome. So I had the comment. I didn't know you could do it. But congrats. On that one a lot.

Tim Bourguignon 31:28
Did you try a lot of things like that. When people say, Nah, not a good idea. And you try it anyway,

Tom Cools 31:34
my entire teaching degree. Remember, I was a pretty shy kid. So I was really afraid to even I don't know if you ever had to say out poems out loud, like read a poem in front of a class. I was unable to do that. I couldn't do that without shaking with a paper in my hand. Okay, well, yeah. So that thing, going into a teaching degree is a really odd choice. So I graduated, and at the graduation, my mom told all the teachers of the University where I got my teacher's degree. It's quite incredible. He did this. I can't believe he did it. She almost I swear to God, she was so close to saying, Are you sure these are his grades?

Tim Bourguignon 32:26
Well, you proved everyone wrong. That's good. Now that's good for you.

Tom Cools 32:29
I think that's a really important thing that I want to tell your listeners as well, even if even if you think it's, it might be a step too far. Just try it in like a safe environment, like the Croatia conference was actually more I want to try to talk at conferences, but I'm horribly afraid there will be someone that knows me, and I'm going to fail. So going, like a few 1000 kilometers, in a different direction to do with their good work.

Tim Bourguignon 32:58
But but but I'm sure there were some international speakers there that you've met since?

Tom Cools 33:03
Yeah. Well, so yeah. That's the good thing. If you do really well, then people will notice you. If you do not such a good session, then it's fine. It's especially at meetups, I hear a lot of my younger colleagues that I try to like coach and mentor a little bit, say, Hey, I'm really interested in speaking meetups, but I'm afraid to fail. And I'm like, Just Just do it. I asked me, I can help you like train your session a bit, see where there's some discrepancies or how you can improve it. We actually are the other company every two weeks, we do sessions for each other. So every two weeks on Wednesday, we get together with a nice dinner during COVID They actually deliver to their places. So that's really good. Yeah, it's pretty amazing. And that's really a nice testing ground for whatever conference or meetup idea you have, you just do it internally. And honestly, I'm way more afraid of the internal sessions than with the external sessions, because that's colleagues and they're really nitpicky and correct and I love him for it. But if I survive my session at the internal meetup, then I'm pretty sure that externally, it'll be pretty fine. And that's something I try to teach the younger consultants at our company as well just try it. And if you don't like it, you don't have to. But if you want to just go for it,

Tim Bourguignon 34:32
just try to if you haven't seen it, there's there's a fantastic documentary form from Jerry Seinfeld about he's called comedian and it's about his second or third show. So after he made his first I think first and second shows which were blast where he went all the way through America with it, and then started a new show and went back in New York to all the small clubs during the 7pm slot with 12 P Pulling in the room and trying out stuff and failing bombing like hell and doing things that are absolutely not funny. But trying it out anyway. And slowly but surely building a new a new show after I don't know how many dozens of bombing in, in small clubs. And this is what happens to professionals as well. You have to try you have to build, you have to find your your vibe.

Tom Cools 35:25
Anyway, I think it's even easier for software developers will give a talk at a conference or a meetup because the audience actually wants you to succeed, people in the audience will help you if you make in an error. I don't it's a bit more difficult in a comedy setting, like how are you going to help a comedian with their jokes? It's just going through me badly, you can try. But I think that's called heckling. And that's not doesn't have such a good vibe. But I've made mistakes during conference talks. And that my first reaction is just ask the audience, does anyone else see what I'm doing wrong? Basically just laugh at myself a little bit like, Okay, I'm clearly overheating. I'm going to take a sip. Can anyone just have a look and see if you see what's going wrong, as sometimes it's like oh, semicolon, of course, it's a semicolon. Thank you, Java. Are those guys? Could it be? Yeah, but but they really want you to succeed. And I think a lot of people forget about that. Or they think that the audience is against them or out to get them. But that's absolutely not true. Everyone wants to just learn and grow. And you don't learn and grow when someone's not doing so well in a session and you start laughing at them, or you start making their life even harder.

Tim Bourguignon 36:45
Don't do that. What's in your future? Where do you see yourself headed? Well,

Tom Cools 36:53
my future is a bit too full. I think I've always said that I want to go back into full time teaching. But I don't think that's the case anymore. Because of the company I work at. Now I just have the option. If I want to teach, I can teach, I just have to say I want to give a training. And I'm teaching, I still get invites from some universities who asked me to give sessions like I have 1/5 of October, again, which I'm really looking forward to because it's my alter university that I get to walk into well look at all the teachers and think, ah, yeah, I'm in the teachers room. Now I'm drinking coffee with all the teachers, I used to listen to him. So there will always be a part of that, because that's something that I really love. But in recently years, I've really noticed I want to get better myself. And it and that means a lot of things. I don't know enough about Domain Driven Development. Like I want to learn more about those kinds of things as well like sort of moving to more architecture role, like doing more abstract high level stuff and communication with customers. And that's one part of it. But the other part is I really like coaching young people and helping them out and seeing together, Hey, how can I make you better? Less. So it's partially focused on me and getting better, but also another part of me that really wants to dedicate some time to how do I help other people in my company, reach the next level? And how do I get them there. So one of the one of the things that I'm already doing it, and at the moment is when a new person comes into the company, they get a couple of weeks of training. And I'm actually one of the persons that helps them set up the Java track. So when a new Java developers enter, a new Java developer enters, I kind of help by talking to them, see where their confidence is what they already know. And then we make an entire plan of which courses they're going to follow. And I tried to follow up a bit. So that's just a really like, that's what I got from the semester I taught at the university. I really like seeing people grow and get better. It just, as I said before, it just warms my heart to see this year, these young people that come in, these young people said some negative. I don't mean it negative at all. But these young kids basically when they just come out of university, see them grow and see them take on more difficult tasks than I could at their age. It's it just fills me makes me warm and fuzzy inside.

Tim Bourguignon 39:25
I agree you fully understand. Yeah, I've had a chance to to coach or or help someone coming from an apprenticeship, not university, but really after high school, just bootstrapping on programming concepts, and they're starting right away.

Tom Cools 39:41
No, actually not. I do code. As you said in the bio. I'm also a coach on coding coach. So for those that don't know it, coding coach was actually founded by Mr. Bostian. In case you didn't know and that's basically a platform where people who have time to coach someone or to help someone share their time. That's what I'm doing as a coach. And then there's the other side is basically a marketplace for coaching time and talent. Now I'm a Java coach on there and I have coached to people like that are more like, Hey, I'm out of high school, I don't really know what to do. Can you have a talk with me about my career, and maybe Java is something that I want to consider. I'm actually one of the pupils. Not sure pupils. Let's call them mentees. One of the mentees that I helped actually got his job last summer. So that was something really rewarding because he worked so hard to learn Java, and I gave him a lot of good resources like ng Jones's Java course, just I just give him that was more like a coaching role, not really mentorship, but it was more, he has a goal and he just needs to push somewhere, like a little push, like you go that direction out, you're learning a lot of stuff that's not relevant for what you want to achieve. So let me divert your attention back to where I think you should be going.

Tim Bourguignon 41:03
Did you notice some differences between coaching someone like that, and coaching people with with five years of university behind them? How differently do you approach this problem as a coach or as a mentor,

Tom Cools 41:14
you need to align on the basics. Like former university, I kind of know what they know. Especially because we have good relations with the universities in our area of Belgium, let's say, and have good relations with the teachers, mainly because one school I graduated and the others I can kind of get in touch with. So I know what the students are supposed to know and how I can guide them further. For someone that comes out of high school, and just like you said, comes from to boot camp or to self study, getting the basics and knowing getting to know them really well. And knowing where they are in their path so far, is think the first part, and then we'll look at how do you actually learn? Because there are so many different learning styles? Do you learn better by reading books? Do you watch videos that help you more? Are you more theoretical person? Who if you read it once you get it? Or do you really need a ton more practical practice? So I try to get those things out way more than when someone comes from university.

Tim Bourguignon 42:25
Okay, and what one curveball very intentionally picked up from my experience, how do you tread in teaching things that you felt were important in your past? But actually aren't necessarily important nowadays? An example. I love all the points are management and memory management, and how would you really allocate memory in C bus, I found it very forming for my programmers mind. Nowadays, you can totally skip it. But if I were to teach somebody from the get go, at some point, I would be tempted to speak about pointers. And I would really have you to bite my tongue and say, No, it's not necessary now. Just skip it. But I would have to be intentional about that. And how do you approach this problem?

Tom Cools 43:14
It kind of depends, like first semester, I thought Java actually went into all the old stuff. I say all between quotes, it's podcasts or visual things don't really work. And I'm putting it in between quotes old stuff. Because what I see happening in our industry a lot is people use spring. And they forget that spring isn't magic. But it's basically an abstraction layer that makes it easier to work with older, more traditional lower level frameworks. Like you have something like spring data. Now to connect to a database and quickly make queries you basically type a method in an interface. You don't implement the interface anywhere, but spring makes a method out of it and creates queries and such. But behind the scenes, it's all hibernate. JDBC all the classic stuff. And I found it really important to actually teach him those things. I can't really get to an example where I was like, Yeah, but that's too old. We don't need that anymore. Yeah, servlets I learned Java servlets. And now I was like, You know what, we have so many other things to get, like REST requests, well, web requests in and do some Java magic with it. We're gonna skip the servlets

Tim Bourguignon 44:30
but But you told the word servlet so that they understand the jokes, right?

Tom Cools 44:34
No, I didn't know. Some things need to die. Okay, you're right. Some things need to die. Some things need to be put into the the records of history or something.

Tim Bourguignon 44:47
Yeah. I have no idea what the correct set the correct formulation of that is but I understand what you mean. Get away with the survey. Okay, very cool. So what would be coming back to the very beginning of your story. What With your your advice for someone who is starting a journey, not necessarily in the it and just searching for their way. And maybe it's it, maybe it's something else, what would be the one advice that you would like to give them at that point?

Tom Cools 45:15
Experiment? Try a bunch of different things and see what actually gets you excited. That's not even advice. For starters, that's advice, even for people that are senior developers. No, I'm not kidding. When I started out, I wanted to learn all the programming languages, I wanted to learn everything there was in it, but it's just too much. So I think a very good approach is try a bunch of different things. And if it feels good, just do it. I mean, this job is something that, hopefully, if you like it, and every everything goes your way, then you will be doing this for the rest of your career. While that's the intention, a few start a job, at least at least I hope so. It depends a bit on from person to person. But do you want to do this for a long time, there's no use in doing this. If you really are unhappy, doing this, or anything at all, if you're not happy in it, even if you studied for it, then don't do it. I think life is too short to spend a ton of time and things that you don't like.

Tim Bourguignon 46:32
Amen to that.

Tom Cools 46:33
Don't forget you. I think time is your most valuable resource on this planet. So don't spend it on stuff you don't like think that's the most concrete advice I can give to both starters. And people were seniors.

Tim Bourguignon 46:49
I would just like to add it is unlike it, which isn't like it, it is so wide that nowadays, it's everything in the opposite. So if you don't like the it you've seen so far, you can experiment to pick up on what you said and and see if another branch off the IT world might be more like what you want. And maybe it's not it. But

Tom Cools 47:14
there's just so much to discover. And let's be honest, we're a bit biased.

Tim Bourguignon 47:22
Yes, we are so not objective at all. Tom, thank you very much. It's been a blast listening to you, sir. Same to you. Thank you, Tim. So where would be the best place to find you online and continue this discussion with you?

Tom Cools 47:37
Probably Twitter. I will. Do you have some show notes or some? Absolutely,

Tom Cools 47:41
I will. We will drop them in the show notes. It's very cool. Last Name, as they say. So who was it right equals it? Exactly.

Tim Bourguignon 47:52
So you want to say something?

Tom Cools 47:53
Yeah, I want to finish maybe when conference thing I had a you know when you go to a conference that you have these badges with your name on? Actually the first conference I went to in Croatia, it was in a hotel. So there were other people that were not related to anything it and it was this older, elderly couple in the elevator with me and they see my badge and they say, Oh, Tom cools. That's a cool name. And I say, well, in Dutch it's actually pronounced coals, like more like coal. And he said, Yeah, well, don't tell him that, laddie. They'll never know. Just don't tell him no one was like, that's a one quote from one person that just made my entire first conference experience way more. Yes.

Tim Bourguignon 48:42
And I agree. Okay, anything else you want to plug in before we call it?

Tom Cools 48:47
I have nothing planned for next year yet, so I can't really plug anything. I also have a website some calls or calls depending how cool you think this podcast was. dot B E, where you can find some of my blogs and the next occurrence is where I will be speaking.

Tim Bourguignon 49:01
Awesome. Tom, thank you very much.

Tom Cools 49:04
Thank you as well Have a nice night.

Tim Bourguignon 49:09
And this has been another episode of dentistry and we see each other next week, boy. Thanks a lot for tuning in. I hope you have enjoyed this week's episode. If you like the show, please share rate and review. It helps more listeners discover those stories. You can find the links to all the platforms to show appears on on our website, Dev journey dot info slash subscribe. Creating the show every week takes a lot of time, energy, and of course money. Would you please help me continue bringing out those inspiring stories every week by pledging a small monthly donation, you'll find our patreon link at Dev journey dot info slash donate. And finally don't hesitate to reach out into Tell me how this week's story is shaping your future you can find me on Twitter at @timothep ti m o t h e p orca email info at Dev journey dot info talk to you soon