Hi, my name is Jan De Wilde and I'm a web developer / engineer. I'm inspired by the web and all things digital and live in Belgium with my wife and two amazing kids.
Practice Manager Role:
- Guidance, coaching and evaluation of colleagues, kick-starters and trainees;
- Creating and giving training;
- Check in on regular basis and keep colleagues happy;
- Creating individual career paths;
- Defining the future of the business unit by creating an OGSM with measures and actions adjusted on a quarterly basis;
- Continuously evaluate and improve internal processes;
- Work on RFIs and RFPs.
- Single point of contact for clients, colleagues and RM to find suitable solutions and advising the right person for the job;
- Coach on projects;
- Team/tech lead on projects;
- Research and development;
- Knowledge sharing;
- Internal tooling;
Currently I'm focussing on everything related to design systems, and how you can leverage this from a technical point of view to guide and aid in creating framework agnostic applications.
- Which tooling is available
- What are the benefits
- How do you prevent a design system to be a blocking factor
- What does creating a design system imply
- Which stakeholders do you need commitment from
- How do you create adoption within the organisation
- Which steps do you need to take to get started
From time to time I read books and I keep a list of it on a virtual bookshelf.
In 2016 the Ordina JWorks Business Unit opened up the secondary role as a Practice Manager and by the looks of it the role almost perfectly matches my ambitions.
Currently I focus on these specific parts of the role:
- My main task as Practice Manager is taking care of the development and coaching of our employees.
- Create an OGSM for the practice.
- Create (individual) career paths that embrace current and future technologies.
- Yearly performance reviews and follow-up during the year.
- Responsible for screening and hiring new people in the front-end practice together with our resource managers.
- Continuously work on shaping a preferred technology stack. This stack is used to provide training/guidance for colleagues, and when working on offers to deliver the most suitable and solid technological solution.
This list is not finite and there are a lot of things I did not include in the list that are mentioned in the role description.
When I started working at Ordina the Business Unit I'm part of had roughly 65 employees and just a few to no front-end developers at all. Now we are at roughly 130 employees and my practice is 24 people large of which I’m happy to manage, coach and guide. It's my ambition to keep on growing and create a team of front-end developers / engineers that cover the whole spectrum.
- Moving to a management role from within the company is not easy;
- The constant switching between a primary and secondary role is hard, both for me as an individual as for the clients I work for;
- Adapting to growth is challenging;
- Creating and maintaining career paths is hard and needs adoption from the top of the company;
- Keeping senior people motivated is hard;
- Certain things cannot be changed bottom-up, but need to go top-down;
- Changing a company that has been doing the same trick for years is a work of years.
As a Competence Lead I focussed on the following things:
- Guide colleagues by creating an individual learning plan so they can grow their skills;
- Inform about new technologies and empower people to start embracing these technologies;
- Create and give presentations and workshops (together with other colleagues);
- Manage and use a competence matrix to manage and measure knowledge within the unit;
- Work on RFP’s together with other CL’s.
This role was the perfect match since I could share my passion and knowledge with colleagues and grow the team through coaching.
Eager as I am I:
- Also started blogging for my employer;
- Got my face up on YouTube;
- Helped organising fun events and the yearly weekend;
- Had the opportunity to work on marketing and communication projects.
A year in, I switched to another Business Unit (Clockwork) created by the Business Unit Manager that hired me, but I switched back 9 months later because I missed the people and opportunities due to less focus on technical topics and the scale of the unit. Moving to this smaller Business Unit felt like a step back and reminded me of the reasons why I left my previous employer.
Two years passed and a lot has happened:
- We created our own JWorks Tech Blog;
- The awareness of front-end development was alive and there was a big increase in front-end developers;
- I made my employer Ionic Trusted Partner and we delivered 5 projects;
- We rebranded our Business Unit to JWorks to make it stand out and give ourself a separate identity;
- We hosted the 2nd and 3th year of our Business Unit open conference called JOIN, which stands for JWorks Open Innovation and Networking.
It is worth mentioning all of this could not have been done without the wonderful people in my business unit!
- Keep true to yourself;
- Keep investing in yourself;
- Do not give up, but know your own boundaries.
After graduating I immediately started working independently in secondary occupation, with focus on building quality websites and applications that are accessible on a wide set of devices, strongly focused on UX, web standards and SEO.
I did this for two reasons:
- To increase my knowledge in the tech stack I already knew and learn new things;
- To gain soft skills and learn more about working with clients, the process from start to finish, delivery, support, … and so much more.
- To go beyond technical skills and work with (print) design.
This was hard work, had his ups and downs but I loved every single minute of it!
I created my own Content Management System that was completely modular and had a template engine to dynamically render content blocks on the front-end. My biggest achievement is licensing the CMS to a company. It has been used in numerous projects small or big, of which some of them are still running today.
Due to the birth of my first daughter and growing career at my second employer I decided to stop working independently in 2017.
- Time management is important;
- Prioritising tasks is crucial to your peace of mind;
- Dare to say no;
- Plan in advance.
In my last year of graduate school I was required to do an internship. After being rejected at the company I wanted to work for I was so disappointed I showed my complete rewrite of the Ikea homepage — in that time — made without tables.
It was one of the projects I had done as an assignment and didn’t think it was such a big deal, so I didn’t bother sending it to them. Apparently, this was my ticket in!
I managed to successfully finish my internship and got a job offer I immediately accepted.
After three years I craved more responsibility and that got me a title as "internal technical consultant". In this role it was my responsibility to share (my) knowledge with colleagues, which I love to do. And to be present at the start of projects, find out the needs of clients, have a say in technological decisions, take ownership of projects, do estimations, …
Many months passed but this new role couldn't solve my hunger for more. At this point it came to my realisation that I wanted something that didn’t exist yet and the company saw no (business) value in it.
So I resigned. With no lookout for a new job and not knowing what to do.
It is worth mentioning that I loved working at that company, had wonderful colleagues and learned a lot!
- Learn to sell yourself;
- Learn what business value you can bring to the table;
- Be cautious when discussing future evolutions;
- Track down boundaries of a company.