Robin has a master’s in applied sciences from the VUB (Vrije Universiteit Brussel), graduated his class with the highest distinction, and received two prizes for his master thesis.
Hi Robin. As an introduction, can you tell us about your responsibilities and what you do at xyzt.ai?
Seeing as I’m head of software engineering, everything that involves code is my responsibility. From front-end to backend, deployment, QA, UI design,…you name it, and it’s probably my responsibility.
I share this with Bart, our CTO, but when you commit to a start-up, and you know you will be working in a relatively small team, it isn’t an option to only be interested in a part of the codebase. It’s not a complaint, on the contrary, but more stating a fact which has its advantages and disadvantages. It’s fun to know the whole pipeline and to know all the steps that happen between you writing a line of code and how that line ends up in the product available to customers.
The drawback is that you need to pay attention to so much more than just writing code, and if you need extra steps in your pipeline, you will have to write them yourself. In essence, we are all front-end software engineers, backend software engineers, and release engineers.
Why did you decide to join xyzt.ai?
After working for 12 years at my previous company, I was getting bored with the codebase. Additionally, due to the large codebase and number of products we had, even making a small enhancement was starting to take a long time because you just had to consider so many scenarios. I wanted to have that feeling back of being instantly productive and being able to add features to the product on your own. The time was right for me to look around for other opportunities. Now that I had experienced being part of a large organization, joining a start-up sounded like an excellent option to discover how start-up life differs from multinational life.
The fact that I already knew the founders of xyzt.ai made my decision to join relatively easy. When the company is only a handful of people, you need to make sure that you get along with those people and understand the values that they care about. If you’ve already worked a few years with them before, at least you know that that won’t be a problem.
What do you feel makes xyzt.ai unique, knowing your software developing expertise in the Geospatial industry?
It is hard to compare us to other players in the geospatial industry as (luckily for us) there aren’t so many location analytics SaaS platforms on the market today.
This being said, the xyzt.ai performance and scalability are unique. That was another reason to join this company. Creating an end-user product instead of a developer product in my previous company was also a nice change.
As a Developer, you often have no or minimal contact with industry users, although their input is valuable for those who are building the product. So, from that point of view, I can only say that at xyzt.ai, we work hard to make sure that our product is not only performant and scalable, but we also spend a significant amount of time making sure we create a user-friendly product with a tailored UI for our target markets. Our focus for the UX is that it has to be beautiful, easy, and effortless to use.
What have you enjoyed most so far?
The excitement about learning new technologies and feeling productive. Due to the relatively small code base, it’s still easy to make significant (user-facing) changes to the product.
It’s always nice to end these interviews with more about you, Robin. What are you passionate about outside of work?
Cycling. Apart from the obvious health benefits, it’s also an excellent way to spend time with friends or clean your mind. I lost count of the number of times I got stuck on a problem at work, only to solve it during the first 15 minutes of my commute back home.
Now that winter has arrived and the days are shorter and the weather a lot less cycling-friendly, getting the necessary hours becomes a challenge. Good thing that cycling technology has evolved. Instead of riding outside, you can now install an indoor trainer, couple it with your PC, and ride in virtual worlds. During the winter months (and certainly on weekday evenings), you can find me in the virtual world of Zwift (https://zwift.com/eu) instead of freezing to death outside.