From Communication Scientist to Software Developeron 18 April 2023 for Graduates
Thomas Tielens is a communication scientist turned software developer. After Covid disrupted his career – which he wasn’t too bothered about to be honest – he decided to go in a different direction. He took a specialised course in .NET and joined Exellys in the summer of 2022. “When I saw all the promises Exellys made on their website, I was critical. But as it turns out, they really do all that stuff!” Read all about how happy Thomas is in his job now. “I really feel I found my place,” he says.
Can you tell us a bit about your academic background?
I graduated from KU Leuven in 2018 where I got my Masters in Communication Sciences. After high school, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I only knew what I definitely didn’t want. Communication Sciences appeared interesting enough, while still being quite general. So perfect for people who don’t have a specific goal in mind. 😊 After my graduation, I started my first job at a research agency. I worked in a double role as Project Manager and Data Analyst. Since my work was all project-based, the Covid pandemic was a disaster. All the projects came to a halt, and I lost my job. But this was actually a blessing. I’d been thinking about making a switch anyway, and getting fired meant I got an unemployment benefit, which gave me the space financially to go back to school. Via VDAB, I started an 8-month software engineering course in .NET development.
Why did you choose .NET Development?
Well, at first I thought about going into data analysis. But when I was completely honest with myself, I knew I only wanted to do that because it felt safe and familiar. Not because it was what I really wanted to do. Software development had always interested me. Not that I’d ever written a line of code before, but I found the mystery around it very attractive. How does that work, how do you make something from nothing? I imagined it would involve puzzles, creative thinking and problem solving, so I though it would be right up my alley. And it turns out, I love it!
How did you get in touch with Exellys?
I had already seen people from Exellys at the VDAB job days and I was curious about what they were really like as a company. I was critical: all those things they promise on their website, do they really do that? So I called my friend who was already working at Exellys and I was on the phone with him for over an hour talking about the ins and outs at the company. He assured me that everything on the website was true. So I applied, and got invited to an interview. It was all very chill. I immediately felt at ease.
As a .NET developer, you must have had multiple offers. Why did you choose Exellys?
I had about 3 or 4 offers after I completed my VDAB training, but Exellys really was head and shoulders above the rest. Particularly the coaching and guidance they provide. Other companies offer coaching and trainings as well, but I’ve not come across a company that does it as thoroughly as Exellys. Here, you get two full years of coaching and workshops, a budget for trainings and conferences of your choice, and so on. Also, the vibe at Exellys was something I really wanted to be a part of and contribute to. When I was in the office for my interviews, I could tell: these are my kind of people. I’d interviewed at other places where it felt more formal, a bit more distant. At Exellys, I got an invitation to one of the office parties before I’d even been offered a contract. I don’t remember which party it was, as there are so many, but I remember thinking: I’m going to feel right at home here.
Can you tell us more about your job?
I work as a Back-end .NET Developer at Nationale Nederlanden. I had actually never heard of them before! NN is a top of the market insurer in the Netherlands, though in Belgium, they’re still very small. I’m working in the Non-Life section, so fire insurance, damages, and so on. I’m part of the API team, so my job (and that of my teammates) is to program all interfaces for the various systems so they can all communicate with each other and with external systems as well.
Would you say you’re in the right place?
At Exellys, definitely, as I’ve said before: these are my kind of people, I fit right in with my peers and the company. But at my client as well. This is something Exellys does wonderfully: match a candidate with a job at a company where they will flourish, even if it’s someplace you wouldn’t pick yourself. When Lenny proposed the job at NN, at first I wasn’t very excited. An insurer? I thought: boring, old-fashioned, no fun. And I even said this in my interview with NN. But they assured me the team was young and dynamic, not stiff at all. I chose to believe them and I’m very happy I did, because I really love it there.
In your opinion, what is the added value of Exellys?
First and foremost, the coaching and guidance you get. When something is bothering you, there’s always someone you can tell. They will listen, and you can count on it that something will be done about it. That’s very valuable. The trainings and workshops are enriching as well. I was sceptical at first. I thought, another workshop about leadership or feedback, sigh… I’d taken workshops like that before, in school and in my previous job, and they always felt like a waste of time. But not at Exellys. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I learned and how much use I got out of the things I learned in these workshops. It’s really different from what I had experienced previously. And secondly, the vibe at Exellys, the people. We’re really a fun bunch and it feels great to be part of this community!
What would you say to someone who’s considering becoming a .NET Developer?
Leave your doubts behind and just do it! But be honest with yourself about why you’re doing it. If you’re really interested, then you shouldn’t give it a second thought and just go for it. But if you’re doing it because you think it’s a smart choice, but you’re not truly interested, then don’t waste your time. At my course, 15 of us started and only 2 finished. If you’re turned off by the idea of banging your head against a wall all day trying to figure out why you can’t get your stupid problem to work, and if you’re not excited about the euphoria when you finally figure it out, then maybe development isn’t for you. So, in short: be honest with yourself about what you really want, and just do it!
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