Jan — 33 — Co-Founder & MD — Tech Builder
Hello everyone! We would like you to meet one of our awesome co-founders: Jan Papenbrock.
Keep on reading to get some insights into how Jan got into programming in the first place, how waking up on time without an alarm clock is indeed possible and how working remote does not necessarily lack opportunities to connect on a personal level.
Hi Jan! We are so excited so start our “Meet The Team” series today with you as our very first team member to introduce to the world!
So let’s dive right in — why don’t you give the people a quick overview about who you are? We’d love to get to know you better.
Hey, it’s nice to meet you, too! I’m Jan and I guess you could say I’m “Bob the Builder” at edyoucated. I just love building stuff — software solutions, for the most part, as well as tangible things in a DIY fashion, so my flat is filled with self-made wooden stuff. I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty — literally and figuratively — and also like to structure and solve complex problems.
Jan’s self-made wooden wardrobe.
I’m lucky to pursue the passion for solving problems in my professional career as well, having assembled a large toolkit along the way. With this, I’m happy to create value for our learners at edyoucated.
Personally, I’m more of an introvert, enjoying some quiet time to re-charge my batteries. Moreover, I like to explore new skills and things — yet in most I don’t push through to achieve mastery, but rather satisfy my curiosity. So you might find me on a beginner’s surfboard, or baking bread, or potting some plants, on a walk through the forest, or somewhere else doing something completely different, not known at the time of this writing.
What exactly is your role at edyoucated? What does a typical day in the life of Jan Papenbrock look like?
My responsibility at edyoucated is to keep the software side of things ready for change. As a start-up, we’re heavily exploring potentially beneficial areas of our product at a high pace. This imposes an intense need for changeability in all departments, and on our software in particular. With this central challenge in mind, I’m keeping a close eye on finding the right balance between taking short-cuts to deliver new product ideas quickly and cost-effectively on the one hand, while on the other hand keeping developments sustainable and open for future changes.
In my daily work, my top priority is to enable my colleagues in development to continue doing a great job, e.g. by giving ideas and advice on tasks at hand. Only second in terms of priority is to build stuff myself, which still takes a significant amount of my time. Given the aforementioned challenges, I’m mixing higher-level considerations about our software development into my routine, like architecting our future software landscape and identifying and eliminating potential roadblocks on the way.
For the typical day, there’s one thing most of my days have in common: I wake up without an alarm clock. Then hit the office at around 9 AM. I usually try to solve the most pressing issues of my co-workers and get working on the most difficult tasks until lunch time. Lunch break is followed by our company-wide daily standup meeting. On some days, more scheduled meetings follow to keep development on track. On others, we just sync on items currently in development and then hack away.
How are you able to wake up on time without using any kind of alarm clock?
OK, I’ll share this little secret with you… there is no magic recipe here. I avoid having meetings before 11 a.m., and therefore have a safety net that I’ll always make it to the office before the first meeting (if I happened to sleep so long that I’ll miss even that deadline, I’m probably sick or something else is horribly wrong). And if I do have important calls before lunch, I’ll set an alarm to the latest possible time, just in case. ⏰
Moreover, this is enabled by a fairly regular sleep routine — so I try to go to bed at around the same time every day (even on weekends), and then naturally wake up at around the same time every day, too. Sleep deprivation drains my energy substantially, so this regular rhythm is a safety guard against that as well and kills two birds with one stone!
Why do you love programming and when did you start to learn it? Did you always wanted to pursue a career as a developer?
Let’s jump into our time capsule and head for 2002. ⏳ I was 15 back then and started hosting my first static personal website on free site providers — offering contents no one would ever care to read ;-) I then was introduced by a friend to some beginner’s book (can’t remember which one, sadly) on how to create websites with dynamic contents — I was hooked! Using PHP and MySQL I built a web community for our school year and then went on to build various projects while still being in school. I continued to program as a working student during my studies in information systems as well as in projects of my own and finally wrote an implementation-heavy master thesis in 2012.
It was pretty clear that I would go for a developer career, and so I did and never looked back. What I’ve grown to love about programming is the ability to turn an idea into a usable solution, which makes people’s life easier and better. Unlike building physical products, software development requires very little resources to create a solution, which makes the ramp-up time really short.
I’m highly motivated by the challenge to solve problems by developing software. Curiosity drives me to find good, fitting solutions, and to explore new techniques and frameworks for making this job even more fun.
You are working partly in our office in Münster and partly remote since you are living in Cologne. What would be your three tips for a team that works remotely across different locations?
I’ve been working mainly remote for eight years now with most of my colleagues working in a shared office at a different location, so I hope I can give some valuable tips here to fellow remote workers!
In no particular order:
- Setup! Make remote meetings as enjoyable and simple as a talk in the office is. Buy a good microphone — especially for group settings, care for a good wifi connection, get an appropriate meeting software. Difficulties in understanding the other side are absolutely frustrating and remote killers.
- Meeting Structure! In my experience, meetings with an open topic are difficult to do remotely. So it helps to — beforehand — provide an agenda, and have someone responsible to prepare each topic instead of working things out on the fly.
- Chit-chat! Social interaction between team members often falls short when working remotely. Especially when following the previous tip, interaction tends to be restricted to focused, efficient, work-related calls. So, in addition, I recommend short coffee calls with random colleagues to allow for deeper connections.
Moreover, I can only recommend reading *REMOTE: Office Not Required* by the founders of Basecamp, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson.
Working mostly remote, I even more strive to see everyone in real life from time to time and enjoy the “real” face-to-face time with our astounding team. I’m humbled to work with such great people, and I appreciate every minute we get to spend and connect.
That’s awesome, thank you Jan! Last but not least: If you had some free time and could choose to learn something new — what would you learn?
Wow, that’s a great and tough question — there are so many fun things to choose from! Spontaneously, I’d go with learning how to play the piano. 🎹
You cannot wait to get some more details about our team? Click [here] to read our Meet The Team with Co-Founder Marius!