“My dad is a techie, so it’s natural that his passion for IT was handed down to his eldest son, me,” Zulfa Juniadi quipped. “My father, an extraordinary educator, did his PhD in Computer-Aided Education and was always bringing back goodies from the local car boot sale. One day in 1994, he brought home a Commodore 64 among other second-hand loot from the local Leeds Car Boot Sale. Playing the game ‘1942’ of the tape machine kindled my interest for technology.”
And that passion is still alive and well, even after spending 9 long years in the software development industry working on numerous projects.
Having been raised in an IT-savvy family, he had the opportunity to tinker around with computers from early on and even though he broke a few of them along the way, he eventually taught himself the necessary skills to fix them.
He further developed his passion by actively participating in extra-curricular activities with the IT Department throughout his schooling. During which, he picked up the necessary skills to create Adobe Flash montages (Macromedia Flash, back then), laying down CAT-5 network cables, and he eventually began creating HTML websites.
He was around 16 years old when he first started writing code in HTML, and he built his earlier sites on Yahoo! Geocities. “Looking back I kind of see how I was maybe one of my dad’s research subjects. I started coding quite late by today’s standards,” he added.
He later went on to try out different programming languages like PHP, Java and Visual Basic (VB). Currently, he’s dedicating most of his attention to PHP but he’s open to any upcoming developments.
“I prefer PHP as it has such a vast community around it. Getting help and pointers is usually just a private message away. I’ve been using the Laravel Framework for the past three or four years, and it has really made my coding life easy and fun. There’s just so many projects I’ve built with Laravel – to many to mention,” he added.
Wearing Multiple Hats
Despite getting a “late start” in terms of coding, he had years of experience compared to his peers, and when he eventually dropped out of university, he was quickly offered jobs in the local IT industry.
He started off working as a computer technician, he then moved into selling Streamyx and eventually to Leased Lines. He later dipped his feet in the Engineering field by teaching himself PLC programming used for plant automation. However, he continued building web-based projects with PHP, and he later got into professional web development in 2008.
Since then, he’s been coding for a living and currently, he works as the Product Director at Sands Consulting. Simultaneously, he also founded Dropit.my, a startup that caters to the courier service industry, 8 months ago.
Given that he constantly has to switch between managing a team of developers and experimenting with code, he does go through a significant amount of mental stress. Managing products often requires the uncanny ability to plan, lead and to interact well with software developers, while coding on the other hand requires one to focus their energy on the code flow and to really make use of their analytical skills.
In order to meet the demands of both paradigms, he usually tries to code early in the morning or late at night, and he attends to all the managerial demands during the afternoon. Although he added, “It is quite tough to switch roles.”
Motivating The Tech Team
In order to keep things as simple as possible, Zulfa prefers leading by example than any other means. “Being a product director, I’ve to listen and process many feedback from top management, sales, marketing and clients, and then rationalise the ideas to our development team so being an overall nice guy really helps a lot in interpersonal relationships,” he mentioned.
As a manager, he also believes that rewarding their tech team in various ways other than just finances like providing them with more flexible hours, weekly recreational activities, etc., goes a long way in maintaining the team’s morale.
Their tech team also blows of steam occasionally in their in-house jamming studio. After all according to him, playful coders often give the best results.
While flexible work hours, financial raises, entertainment and recreation are definitely key, he also suggested, “The best motivation you can give to a programmer is the acknowledgement and compliments from the end user – you can’t top the satisfaction and morale boost you get from your customers saying how the stuff you build really made their lives easier.” Startup founders and managers will definitely find this tip useful when interacting with their tech team.
Spurring The Passion
Skills such as programming require huge amounts of active effort and really long hours of exposure, to develop and master. Software developers commonly agree that the more one practices writing code, the better they become at it. And while novice developers spend time riding the wave of the experience curve, it also helps a great deal if they can get their hands on a mentor.
“Right now, I just love coding,” he confessed.
As an expression of his love, he always tries to apply his skills in other industries to see how he could impact them. He also very active in the PHP community and he occasionally holds classes based on his Git projects. In return, other developers “star” the repository and that raises his ranking.
Currently, Zulfa is ranked as the No.3 PHP developer in Kuala Lumpur.
However he expressed, “People tend to see me as a super programmer and sometimes feel intimidated. I’m just a normal person with a passion for coding. While my busy schedule does force me to sometimes work odd hours, I also have a family and do make time for them.”
|Inside Zulfa’s Toolkit|
|Sublime Text Editor||“All round best text editor out there”|
|Google Chrome||“Their devtools is second to none”|
|MYSQL Workbench||“Very powerful visualisation tool to plan your database structure”|
|Gmail, Google Drive and office suite||“No competitor even comes close to the flexibility and integration options that they offer”|
|Mac OS X||“The ultimate web developer’s OS”|
Code Artisans is a biweekly series that aims to highlight notable coders, hackers and software developers in Malaysia. If you have anyone in mind that’s worthy to be featured, drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.