I had the pleasure to interview Raffaele who is working in our office in Munich. He told me about how he started CodeJourneys, an inclusive learning community and how important it is to him to give each other real support.
Who are you and what’s your story, Raffaele?
I come from Rome, Italy and I had a company, a web agency there. Not as cool as SinnerSchrader, just a small agency. I worked there for 7-8 years doing all kinds of stuff, websites, e-commerce, blogs etc. Then I moved to Germany because I was looking for a new experience. I went to Munich and worked for German companies and joined Meetups and Conferences. I always heard about SinnerSchrader so I met some colleagues in Munich and it was love at first sight. I had a meeting with two developers and really liked their ways of working and philosophy, just how they handle the company. After two hours I had a great impression. That time I was working for another company but I thought it was time for a change. I changed employers mainly because of the company values of SinnerSchrader. I think it’s empowering a lot of young people and Juniors and that’s great. Happiness is important; the Munich office is doing a weekly happiness check. People are encouraged to be part of this lifestyle of empowerment and supporting each other. I’ve seen many companies and I think it is very important to share the same values. For me the projects are not as important. It was important when I started my career but now people and cultural values are way more important.
Speaking of supporting each other and the community; You created CodeJourneys earlier this year. Can you tell us more about this project?
Before I started at SinnerSchrader, I had a super long vacation planned...and then came the coronavirus. So I had to spend it at home. But I thought that I could use that time and do sports at home, maybe become a runner. The things people would do during social distancing (laughs). Then I decided to create CodeJourneys instead. I was contributing to open source and offering free mentoring service to people because it’s nice to give something back to the community. For almost two years I had weekly meetings with mentees and there was a lot to do, so at some point I couldn’t do it on my own anymore while working full time. That’s why in the beginning of social distancing I created a slack team and we had group sessions with 6-10-20 people. Then We said maybe we need a website, so we created a website and that’s how everything started. We are just a bunch of friendly people - learners, from newbies to experienced developers - who are supporting each other along the way. The mission is to inspire everyone to succeed in technology careers. We have weekly “live” (Zoom, Youtube, Twitch…): coding sessions where we solve JSKatas and do exercises together. It’s cool, people joined and started supporting each other. Now we are almost 300 people. We’re trying to find our way. Other mentors joined and they are also offering ”learning projects” and are open for questions. So let’s see how it can evolve. I think it’s a good platform but I need more input and fresh ideas and feedback from the outside to know where we can go. A lot of communities are doing the same thing right now but what we want to do is offering real support. It’s really time consuming but it’s what people really need: someone who sees your code and spends a few hours with you. That is hard to find. Also people get to know each other and start working and learning together so that’s very cool. It was very spontaneous and I didn’t plan it but now it turned out like that because I guess people are just looking for these kinds of things, you know?
What do you think happened that this community grew that much? Everybody says that back then it was much harder to start a career in tech and there was no support at all. So was this whole community thought there all of a sudden or how did it come to be?
I think that it was always there but less people could do or afford it. Back then the technology was more expensive so only some people could afford it. Everyone who worked in that field thought that IT was something just for “special and smart” people, a small, elite circle. Luckily things are changing thanks to brilliant, brave and motivated people that have found their way despite the many difficulties and the hostile environment. So now more people can finally do more of what they want, join and change this world from the inside and make the community so amazing. Diversity in general is just so important. It adds so much value to the tech area. When I have job interviews, I always ask about the company’s take on this and I actually declined offers because I wasn’t happy about their answers and I think not being open stands for a toxic environment.
Apart from growing the community, what are your plans or wishes for the future?
I have to say, I’m 37 and the IT world is old and I have to decide where to go with my career. I would like to use my skills for development of course but I also would like to work more and more with new people and beginners. People that just start their career. I still want to be building and writing software and so on but also try to have a better relationship with Juniors and empower people at work and create an environment where people can learn. I think that this keeps me motivated. Writing code is fine, I know that I can do it, I’ve done it for almost twenty years and it’s nice but I feel happy if I can help other people and they use their skills and build something I couldn’t.