I shipped my first code already on my first day. An interview with Chris Langhout

Chris Langhout (24) studied Computer Science in Delft and started his career at bol.com in September 2019. He is part of the IT Young Professional Program – a 2-year tech journey. We asked him all about his experience so far.

Hey Chris, how have your first weeks been at bol.com? Did it meet your expectations?

Yes, it surely did! I think I’m quite lucky being part of the team that I’m in. We work on a high level together and everyone is very open and relaxed. There’s not too much workload. However, there’s enough ambition and enough challenges that keep us going. And I’m learning a lot!

I also like the hugeness of the things we’re doing at bol.com. You just feel the impact. It’s huge! Together with 2,000 colleagues, we’re working on something big – everyone is contributing to it. Funny to see how it all comes together.

Could you tell more about the team that you’re part of?

My team is called ‘Service by Partners’. As you may know, bol.com is becoming an online shopping platform – instead of just a webshop. Already 25,000 partners are selling their products through the bol.com platform. These partners manage everything via an online dashboard. The service panel is a part of this dashboard. This outlines everything that comes down to the communication between the customers and partners. My team is fully responsible for that specific piece of software – the service panel. For example, we’ve just built an integration that centralises all the e-mails that are being sent. This is more friendly for our customers: when a case is being forwarded to the bol.com service desk, all info about that case is collected in the service panel. So, the customer won’t have to repeat the whole issue. We’ve also developed a feature that sends out an alert when a customer is waiting too long for an answer.

Ok, sounds interesting! I can imagine there are a lot of new features you would like to build. How do you choose what to work on first?

Haha, yes, we have quite a large backlog with features we would like to build, or improvements to make. We work with the scrum methodology, which means that we have a Product Owner who prioritises the backlog items. These items – you can call them stories – are set up in a way that they are independent. I like that because we can work on a story, test it and release it. We release multiple times a day. We’re getting things done in a huge tempo!

Wow! Ok. When was your work being released for the first time?

Actually, I started coding right away on my first day. This code was being tested immediately and within one day my first lines of code were being released already. Pretty awesome.

That’s how it works at bol.com. You work autonomously on the projects that you own as a team. As a software engineer, you get a lot of responsibility. Sure, you can always ask for advice or help, but it’s your responsibility to ask for it. In return, you get a lot of freedom and ownership. I like that!

Sounds like you’re already a professional software engineer! How does the IT Young Professional program help you to grow?

Well, my Java programming skills are already quite good. I still learn a lot though. It’s pretty interesting to learn how the business works and how an e-commerce company daily runs. And just because I am an IT Young Professional, it’s more than normal that I ask a lot of questions.

Because of the Young Professional program, you’ll immediately have a network within the company. Which is nice, because when I walk around the office, I see and meet colleagues that I already know. That gives a feeling of confidence. And of course I’ve met the other IT Young Professionals – we’ve been on a weekend trip together.

As a Young Professional you can attend to several trainings. For example I’ve been to a ‘resilliance’ training today, where we discussed how to handle failures or hitches.

What’s a day like at bol.com?

I start my day checking my email inbox and reflecting on what I’ve done the day before and thinking about what I’ll be doing today. Together with the whole team, we do a daily stand-up, to discuss the work that has been done the day before and agree on what we will do today. Because some team members like to work from home (or elsewhere) now and then, they cannot be at the stand-up in person. However, they are always present via a video call. Afterwards, we start to work on the stories that we’ve chosen. I like the fact that we’re really working together as a team. We always discuss new stories together and find out together what the best solution is. By this, we come up with better solutions or new ideas. And we share the responsibility and the ownership of our work. The rest of my day is filled up with programming and/or attending trainings or meetings.

Next to this, I like to go to the Friday drinks or attend meetups. There are being organised a lot of activities at bol.com – you can choose for yourself what activity you would like to visit.

You’re very positive about your job at bol.com. Anything you don’t like?

Oh, well, it’s a small matter, but still: There’s a lot of info about the way of working at bol.com, for example, the tools that we are using and how to use or get access to those tools. This info is spread out over several places. Would be better if this will be more centralised – so it’s easier to find your way in the first weeks.

Who do you think will fit in the IT Young Professional program?

Hm, good question. Of course, you have to be graduated on a relevant study. I think you need to be a proactive person as well. And eager to learn. The Young Professional is perfect for graduates who would like to broaden their knowledge and experience in software engineering. If you would like to be a specialist, this is not a program you should choose.

What tips do you have for other IT students who are orienting for the start of their careers?

I would recommend starting to orient early for your first job. I started the application process a couple of months before I actually graduated. To get a better insight into the IT Young Professional program, I joined the Tech Talent Day It’s being organised again later this year. The Tech Talent Night helped me to find out if bol.com was the best place to start my career. It turned out it did ?