There are two experiences in my life that i can clearly define as cornerstones, two moments that defined my personality as it is now. The first was during my studies at university in Italy, the second was during my last two years at work in south France. I know they may sound stupid to you, but .. hey, it’s my blog, right? ;)
First: Advanced Linear Algebra
I have never been good at maths. Though, i had no problem with physics (disclosure: my father is a high school physics teacher and, perhaps, those small experiments he was used to make at home when we were kids might have helped, at least to increase our interest to the field). But i was not good at maths, so my rates in calculus during my studies in computer engineering were not the best ones. Actually, the first semester of my studies was pretty bad. I was coming from scientific high school which, in Italy, is a complete theoric curriculum; lots of physics and, yes, maths, but also a lot of philosophy, latin, History…the studies i made at high school were more a mix of classical and scientific studies. So, when i started at university i had literally no idea of electronics, programming, control systems, telecommunications, etc. I decided to go for Computer Engineering because i was interested, somehow, in computers. I discovered only later what i really was into (and now i am so happy if my choice). As i said, the first semester was almost a disaster, then the second started and Advanced Linear Algebra was there waiting for me. As expected it was hard, but in that moment i had the first cornerstone of my personal character; instead of looking at the other brilliant students with envy and self-pity, i thought “Hey, if they can make it, it means it’s not impossible and can make it too”. That spark of sudden positivity, totally unexisting in me before - i have to say. Sigh - gave me such a good energy that i manage to pass the course with a relatively good grade. After that i not only passed with good grades all the other courses of the second semester, but i also managed to pass the pending courses from the first one. At the end of the first year i had no pending courses. In the following years i also got the highest grade in the course that i still consider was the most difficult one ever for me: electrotechnics.
That way of thinking “if they can make it, i can make it too” is my mantra now. I applied it ever since. Be positive and work hard, I apply it in everything in my life.
Second: Developer Advocate
I spent 8 years working in south France for a big company in the travel industry. 6 years of which as software engineer. It has been by far the most important professional experience for me. Though, i will always remember the last two years as the most important ones. I joined a very small team of Developer Advocates where our main role was to do advocacy of the internal toolings (mostly based on open source softwares) and to spread a culture of software development good practices. But the real thing was this: we didn’t really know how to do it. And that was, in my opinion, the masterpiece of our genius team leader and the thing that immensely helped me to grow as a professional; he defined the high level mission of the team, but he gave us total freedom to choose the ways to reach the target. His total confidence on us, at the beginning, put me out of my comfort zone since i had to decide myself about what to do and to bring back some results. Since that moment i was a standard software developer who was following the requirements and i wrote the code that was needed to make that specifications work as expected. I was acting as it was expected in that defined role at the company. Instead, in the last two years i learned the real meaning of proactivity. Thanks to my team leader’s mentorship, and to my brilliant colleagues, we created a wonderful team where the team leader had basically nothing to do because we were taking care of ourselves, our projects and creating new ones without him asking. We invented our role at the company. We built very good internal initiatives that had good results in the internal company culture. I learned how innovation is created, fostered and how to take the initiative. I learned how to have the courage to take decisions, and to take fully responsibility.
The last two years in south France have been the most important years for me, professionally speaking. If i am able to do what i do now, with no fear, it’s thanks to my ex team leader (who btw is him) and those colleagues (one in particular, him).