This is the first of a series of interviews titled, Our Stories. We will be interviewing startup founders, instructors, students and alumni of ALPHA Camp to gain a more in-depth understanding of the tech community in Singapore. Through these interviews, we hope to understand their inspirations, stories and motivations behind what they do.
For our first interview, we are pleased to feature Winston, founder of Jolly Good Code and a personal friend of ours at ALPHA Camp.
ALPHA Camp: Hi Winston! Can you introduce yourself?
Winston: Hi, I’m Winston, founder of Jolly Good Code, a boutique software consultancy that specialises in Agile consulting, rapid development of Minimal Viable Product with Ruby and Ruby/Rails training.
I have been working with Ruby on Rails for about 8 years now and founded Jolly Good Code about 2.5 years back. Before that, I was a database administrator at IBM, a developer turned product manager at Wego and a senior engineer at Pivotal Labs.
ALPHA Camp: Can you share with us what’s an average day for you like?
Winston: Every day is different as it really depends on the projects. If it’s an Agile consulting project, I’ll probably be in the client’s office the whole day. If it’s a MVP development project, we will usually start the day with a client call and proceed with coding after that. In the afternoons, I might have to handle the non-coding side of business, such as meeting potential clients and settling any administrative matters.
Recently, my time is occupied with the planning of the RedDotRubyConf.
ALPHA Camp: Speaking of the RedDotRubyConf, you’ve organised quite a number of Ruby meetups and conferences in recent years. What inspired you to organise these events?
Winston: Well, Ruby meetups have been going on for years. Few years back, the organisers of Ruby meetup left Singapore and I decided to step up and continue organising the meetups. I really just see myself as the caretaker of the events.
ALPHA Camp: What are some of the ruby events you organises?
Winston: The annual RedDotRubyConf is one. It’s a major event where we invite speakers from around the world to share their knowledge on Ruby and related technologies. More importantly, it helps bring Ruby developers in the region together for 2 days of learning and sharing.
Another is Rails Girls, a monthly meetup that I have organised for about 1.5 years.
The first international Rails Girls meetup was organised by Jason Ong, when he invited the founder of Rails Girls, Linda Liukas to Singapore to help run the event. However, it only happened once. When I was travelling around the region to attend other Ruby conferences, I noticed that Rails Girls attracted a huge audience there and were ran really successfully. As I really wanted to evangelise Ruby in Singapore and also to encourage more ladies to join the coding industry, I decided to run it as often as I could and it became a monthly event for the last 1.5 years. I’ve stopped running it this year, as I see more programs starting to encourage ladies to join the tech industry. They are doing a great job, and I feel that my job is done.
ALPHA Camp: Seeing the growth of the industry through the years must be really comforting. Can you share with us the start of your coding story?
I graduated from National University of Singapore with a Bachelor in Computer Science and joined IBM as a database administrator as my first job. My time in IBM made me realise two things – I want to code and I want to do it in a startup. At that time, the startup industry in Singapore wasn’t this developed. I went to interview at a couple of digital agencies for PHP roles, but was rejected. I didn’t give up. I continued coding on my own to build up my portfolio, went to startup events and eventually one of them caught my eye – Wego (known as Berserk back then). I applied to Wego and after a few rounds of interviews, I was hired and that kick started my Ruby journey.
ALPHA Camp: Do you feel that knowing coding has advanced your career?
Winston: Definitely. I am who I am, what I am and where I am because I code and continue to code. After about three years in Wego, Pivotal Labs reached out to me with a job opportunity in their Singapore office. During that time, coding was perceived to be a job with “no bright future”. Product/Project Manager was the preferred career choice for most IT graduates. I had to choose between pursuing my interest in coding or continuing my career as a Product/Project Manager. I chose coding and joined Pivotal Labs, where I learned so much during my time with them.
Till today, I still enjoy coding very much.
ALPHA Camp: What suggestions do you have for others who would like to take up coding?
Training courses are of course another great option as they provide a more intensive learning experience. With face-to-face interaction and instructor consultation, it will greatly shorten your learning process. However, this does not mean that you can’t learn without an instructor. Everyone has different learning styles, so you have to figure out what works for you. Most importantly, persevere and don’t give up.
Learning to code need not be for a career, it can simply be for building fun stuff on your own.
ALPHA Camp: Was there anyone who personally inspired you in your career?
Winston: Yes, there were a couple. During my time at Pivotal Labs, I was working with two bosses, Carl and JB. Both of them taught me a lot, including the importance of crafting a story and also an important skill needed in an agency – client management. My co-worker, Nate really inspired me as well, he was my first partner in pair programming and taught me how I should behave and do pair programming the right way.
They have definitely helped to shape my career and even though I’ve set up my own company, I still apply those skills when I work with my own clients.
If you are interested in learning Ruby on Rails, Web Development or Coding, here’s a course with ALPHA Camp that you can pursue:
Full-Time | Web Development: A 12-week full-time bootcamp to give our students the skills and opportunity to realise their careers. This course will prepare you as a junior Web Developer or to launch your own startup.