*IT'S TIME TO MEET THE MAN BEHIND ALL THAT CODE*
What's your story, Damian?
"I’m originally from Tarnów, in the southeast of Poland. Several years back I came to London to study, and ultimately completed a BSc in Web Technologies at the University of Greenwich.
But I suppose my journey into Web Development began a lot earlier than that. As a passionate gamer, especially of MMOs in my teens (i.e. Warcraft!), I also found my interest in computer tech growing day by day. Around that time, playing around on the Internet and with coding, I found more and more that my technological interests were overlapping with the gaming that I enjoyed to a ludicrous degree."
... And what came of that?
"The next logical step was to start my own business in game/web hosting. In the very early days, it was known as Boni Hosting; it eventually came to be called Media77 as I teamed up with a friend to make it happen, but I still think the original name has a nice ring to it!
In total, we served around 70 regular customers, with the all-time record number of active users in one month being 20. Our service was setting up game servers for our users; they were mainly players of Counterstrike and Call of Duty – that was our bread and butter. From the start, we focused on making our offering as user-friendly as possible, so that they could configure the basic setup according to their preferences. And to that end, I was also very involved in customer service. Our main form of advertising was through gamer chat, forums and the good old word of mouth – it was very much a grass roots kind of thing within a very specific community.
And It was all going well! Ultimately though, life took my friend and I in different directions. My studies took me to the UK, as I decided to shift focus onto the next steps for me. Admittedly, It wasn’t easy giving up our small business, but I had to realise that I couldn’t do 100 things well all at once!
Overall our business venture taught me a lot: I didn’t have a previous employer or mentor to call on for advice, so I ended up making a lot of it up on the fly. But of course that’s a great way to learn."
So what do you consider your career highlights to date?
"A big one is definitely speaking at WordCamp London just a few weeks ago. Making it onto the stage there, and giving something back to the community, was a real personal highlight. To have a room full of specialists listening to what you have to say – when they reach out and engage with your opinion – nothing beats that. The seal of approval from that day was just amazing.
In the entire time since I graduated from school, what also springs to mind: having worked really well with all my colleagues to date, and having great working relationships – in that sense I feel really privileged. All of this has made me confident in my ability as a team player going forwards."
What projects of yours are you most proud of?
"There’s a whole bunch of different projects, but I’ve got one that springs to mind – and it’s not a project for a client!
I created our internal, points-based game, that our team have been playing around with internally for about a year. It’s run entirely via Slack, and is basically like a points-tracking system with the entire Dauntless crew as its players. Overall, it’s been a complete hit with everyone! Think of it as similar to the Hogwarts competition for house points, except without four teams. Oh, and it isn’t necessarily based only on good behaviour; there could also be ulterior motives behind different people awarding each other with points…
It’s totally for lolz and a bit of fun, to keep everyone entertained, but at the same time, it helps you connect with people. Think of it as similar to a high five, and the mini celebration when you or your team achieve something great. Or, just as importantly, for when you do/share/say something super funny. Being able to better understand everyone’s sense of humour, just that little bit better, was a very handy side effect of this game too :)
Also, I wouldn’t normally refer to training colleagues as a “project”, but last year – during a particularly busy period – we had an IT apprentice and trainee Web Developer join us here in the office. They were here to help us out, and part of my role was to help them pick up the basics of web development skills. They were both super eager to learn: it was so inspiring to see their spark and enthusiasm in their eyes."
Very cool! And what gets you out of bed in the morning?
"I don’t think there’s just one thing that gets me out of bed in the morning… it can be many things, actually. Some days, it’s my passion for my career, and doing my job well. I definitely enjoy building websites, but sometimes it’s my guitar that gets me out of bed.
Other times it’s my friends, and the people I work with. So you see for me, it varies; it’s really any and all of those things that I enjoy."
What's the best thing about being a PHP Developer?
"Not being a .net framework developer! But seriously, PHP has such a fantastic, open-source community, and that makes a real difference. I’m also a big fan of this language in general: it’s fast and pretty straightforward to learn, and at the same time, is such a mature object-oriented approach."
And what’s the most challenging part of the role?
"I’d say, sometimes how challenging it can be, is down to how flexible you are. A month or two into my time at Dauntless, I felt a bit challenged by jumping headfirst back into the front-end side of things, where previously my responsibilities had been very back-end oriented. I was lacking, or just rusty, in some skills: for example, I remembered CSS and HTML perfectly well, but had to brush up when it came to using CSS3 and HTML5.
Thankfully, I was able to catch up with new standards like these; this was made possible by the support of the team as a whole."
What do you like most about working in creative environments?
"Easy. What I like the most: these types of environments are fresh and stimulating. We get to work with creative ideas, technology and design. A lot of the time, it’s like picking up a hot pastry, fresh out of the oven – you’re at the source of all creative things.
This type of work can also be addictive – with brainstorms, throwing ideas around with your team, inventing or reinventing the wheel for whatever problem you’re trying to solve. It’s involving, sometimes to the point of being intoxicating."
What piece of developer (or career) wisdom do you have for our readers to take away?
"I have two points, really. Be confident in yourself, because most of the time the wall is only in your mind, and practice, practice, practice!
By that first point, I mean that with dedication you really can achieve whatever you want, so really, the ‘wall’ – the barrier that’s stopping you from beginning or undertaking something – only exists in your mind. There’s nothing outside of your reach, if you make your own luck effectively, and make the absolute most of the opportunities and tools available to you.
And the second point speaks for itself: practice is how you get good enough at something to make the most of every opportunity."
Where do you go – online or offline – to be inspired?
"The obvious places that spring to mind are TED talks and YouTube.
And the less obvious, but no less powerful, is something as simple going out for healthy stroll. When you go out walking somewhere, without an agenda, and most importantly away from a screen, that’s when you can be most inspired of all, or sudden ideas and revelations come and surprise you, out of nowhere. Countless times, doing this has helped me get my head round problems."
You're directing your very own video game: what's it about?
"I have too many ideas – this is difficult to answer!
Here’s one: it’s a social game, involving truth or dare, and played via your mobile. It’s a bit like an RPG: you walk down the street, and if someone you pass by also has the app on their phone, the game matches both of you up via notification. Both of you are then tasked with carrying out a truth, or a dare. If you choose to accept – it escalates nicely from there. Imagine taking an MMO into real life, and that’s a bit like what this interactive, semi-augmented reality ‘game’ would be all about.
But obviously I probably shouldn’t share too much about it, so I can realise it one day!"
And finally, where did you learn to make your world famous custard cake?
"Ah, Karpatka! This is something I used to make a few times as a kid with my grandma back in Poland. It’s also super easy and straightforward to make – check out the recipe here!"
Thank you, Damian!
Keep up with Mr. Boni's tweets for more. That's it from us until our next Crew Member of the Month...