Goodbye Enrise, Hello world

Warning: This blogpost has been posted over two years ago. That is a long time in development-world! The story here may not be relevant, complete or secure. Code might not be complete or obsoleted, and even my current vision might have (completely) changed on the subject. So please do read further, but use it with caution.
Posted on 07 Nov 2011
Tagged with:

You close one door, you open another. And though it makes me sad to part with a company, the people and all the stuff they do, I never have regretted a single career-move I’ve made in the past. The Enrise door is about to be closed and I’m ready on opening another door. Excited and sad times truly run in parallel.

There is one definition, and one definition alone that makes me want to do my job. It’s not about the money, it’s not about the prestigious projects we work on, it’s not about doing almost 2 hour traffic-jam drive every day :

It's the fact that my job must be my hobby.

If it does not feel like a hobby anymore, it is time to find other things to do and other people to meet in order to make it your hobby again. And just like any hobby, there are things we like about it, things we don’t like about it and things we really hate. But in the end, a hobby should be fulfilling. It should be something you should enjoy on a daily basis and it’s something you would love doing. Even if this is during the evening or in the weekend. I like doing my work even during holidays. I’ve done it and it will not be the last time. It should be relaxing, it should be fun and our hobby should be something we can do year after year after year. But all of this is something I’m not feeling anymore in my current position at Enrise. The joy of working has vanished and even though we tried, it’s not getting back. And it saddens me, and I truly think it saddens Enrise as well.

Enrise has provided me a shelter where some excellent people are working on some great - and sometimes not so great - projects. But the problem lies in the fact that my vision on software development might - as some have called it - is not so much impossible, but just too far ahead for the current state the company is in probably. And not without reason. I’ll explain..

This is because like so many other full-service web-design agencies, Enrise suffers from something that a lot of other small and large companies suffer from too: a lack of profound understanding of software development. Note that this is not a company at fault here. During the past few years, the internet has changed so quickly that adaption is very hard to do. Think about it: not too long ago, we were all designing websites where our core business was HTML, maybe add a guestbook or an online contact form here and there in PHP, and that was it. There was lots of work for designers, frontend teams, slicers etc. And everything was fine.

But not too long ago things changed: people don’t want websites anymore. They want online applications. They want to control their CRM, ERP and CMS directly from the web, they want to see their inventory in their e-commerce platform in real-time. They want to interact with lots of 3rd party API’s. They want to incorporate social media so they can correlate context and give users what they want without them to seek for it. They want EVERYTHING.

And this is good thing! PHP as a development language is enterprise-ready since the dawn of version 5, and more and more mission-critical applications are done in PHP. A few years back it was impossible to think enterprise applications in any another language than java and C# (or the .net platform to be exact). But having to convert an army of PHP developers from creating websites to full-fledged applications is - the say the least - a daunting task. Big software houses with 25+ years experience in the software development field know how things work. They invented it. They fine tuned it. They know how complex applications evolve and how to deal with indecisive customers and clients. And today, all web-companies have to absorb all that information in a period of 2 to 4 years. Their programmers need to do things differently, their managers need to manage things differently, their sales need to sell things differently. It’s a massive shift of a whole company that needs to take place and most companies aren’t ready for such a massive change on such a short notice. But in order to survive you must comply. Good companies adapt, the great companies adapt fast. Or as Darwin says: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

So my opinion is that Enrise is a company that adapts, but not fast enough, or even too slow in my experience and even sometimes in the wrong direction as well. Sometimes it’s good to let people make those mistakes. But this is a very fine line you are balancing on: would you risk a (or your) child to get severely burned by a tea kettle with boiling water just to prove a point that you should be careful around the kitchen? I sincerely hope not :) But this is what I feel more and more in my daily work: me - and others too, I’m not alone in this of course - are maybe what you can consider as being ahead on the journey of change so we know what things lies ahead. We can warn, we can tell which direction we should go, but in the end, it’s hard when advice is ignored and things actually do fall apart. It’s easy to say “I told you so”. And it’s something I on occasion can and will say, but I will never feel happy saying it. So when our advice gets ignored or not taken seriously, it something that frustrates everybody in the end.

I honestly think though that Enrise will get there eventually. They will have their ups, their downs but they will learn and adapt. But we always have to be careful: the next big thing that people want is lurking, and once in a while it pops up here and there. The entrepreneurs and the visionairs of tomorrow are already busy finding new things, better things, more efficient things to keep us developers busy. I’ve written a blog post about the good-old LAMP stack has changed overnight into a LAMPGMVNMCSTRAH-stack. We need the expertise to utilize and develop against this in order to keep up with the market leaders and clients. And this something I like: I want to learn new stuff, I want to incorporate things, learn by failing, teaching others not to make those mistakes themselves. It is was defines me and what keeps me happy. I sincerely hope that Enrise will adapt quickly enough to stay a viable partner in today’s and tomorrow playing field. Something time will tell..

Which door to pick

So which door should I pick next? Last year has really been a roller-coaster ride for me. I’ve done over dozen presentations about a whole range of subjects on conferences, with even 2 international conferences I had to cancel due to sickness and planning issues. I did a handful of workshops on Linux, Unittesting, REST and many others. I’ve published feature articles in one of the leading magazine of our branch: PHP|architect, not once, but three times in one year. I’ve learned so much only to realize that the more I learn, the less I know. I heard people who I look up to for years telling me they learned stuff from me. People who I look up to treat me as equal and even ask for advice from time to time. I’m currently busy with a few projects I cannot talk about yet which are so massively cool that I sometimes I have to pinch my arm to check I’m not dreaming. I honestly could not have believed you if you told me a year ago, that I would be at this point.

So what door to pick isn’t getting easier for me. Since the early days - that would be around 12 years ago - I heared everybody around me to go and do some freelancing. Do what you like, complete freedom, a lot of money. What more could you possible want? And I can understand that. Many of the people I know are actually freelancing and they seem happy, enjoy themselves and whatnot. I’m still on the fence about freelancing. I did run (and still do on the side) a company where I do some consultancy here and there etc. But in the end, I’d rather work with others to achieve the things I want to achieve. But for now, my door is the freelance one, until we find a better one :)

So what would be my dreamjob?

  • The Arnhem - Amersfoort - Zwolle triangle would be perfect (a bit of interpolation would tell you the city where I live: it’s on one of the edges).
  • Be like Egeniq. I just love the way Ivo Jansch and the others they have setup their company and treat their employees. I wish more companies would be like them. They understand developers and as a result, do some awesome mobile stuff!
  • Be small. I don’t like working in a large company. Never did, never will. It’s just not me.
  • Be willing. Have the will to change, have the will to do things you would never think of. Have the will to try and fail. Have the will to try and succeed even more. Have the will to understand that we all want to achieve the same goal.
  • Support the community. If you don’t do this already or don’t know how to begin. No problem! I will show you the benefits of giving to the community and what you will gain for you as a company, for your developers, and for us as a branch. Join us, we won’t bite :)

Recruiters: you can TRY to contact me. I don’t mind getting email. Do mind though: I don’t have good experience with you (not ANY). If you are a recruiter that actually cares about finding the best jobs for people, and you have read into what I want, what I can do, what I need, THEN and only THEN you can contact me. But again: be specific what you offer. Giving a “something something PHP-job for such and such company somewhere around Amsterdam’ish” is a little bit too vague. Asking for a PHP-Rockstar is a great way not to get a response.

So to conclude this post, I would like to say thanks to all employees at Enrise, especially Barry van Oven for his front-end skills and jogging-coaching. @Freeaqingme for knowing things that makes me feel dumb again and arguing about stuff that others might deem irrelevant. And of course everybody else for listening to advice, for letting me learn a thing or two and hopefully for learning a thing or two from me as well. I’m sure we will meet in the near future again!

Next stop: 01-01-2012!