Meet the Team: Software Developer Felix Schäfer
Felix is one of the two newest members of the Planio team and brings a unique skill-set that I'm sure our community will appreciate. In particular, Felix specializes in the Ruby on Rails programming language coupled with a strong background in the Redmine open source solution (from which Planio is based). Felix grew up in the region of Auvergne, France, and is fluent in German, French, and English. As if that wasn't enough, Felix is also an accomplished classical singer and performs in a State Youth Choir.
Name: Felix Schäfer
Role: Software Developer
Responsibilities: Developing code for the Planio environment and acting as interim Head of Support
Let's have a chat with Felix so that we can learn more...
Brian: Greetings Felix! First I want to say welcome to the team, it's a pleasure to have you on-board. :)
Felix: Thanks, the feeling is mutual, I very much appreciate your blog posts and look forward to the finished documentation!
Brian: So, Felix, what is your Planio story? How did you join the team?
Felix: I started using Redmine some 4-5 years ago while organizing the bi-annual meetup of the German-speaking computer science student group -- I then started tweaking and developing it in my spare time to adapt it to our needs. That led me to the world of web development and programming in general.
While working on Redmine I got to know a colleague named Holger, which led me to join the company he was working for at the end of 2010. During my numerous trips to Berlin (I live in Dortmund and mostly work remotely), I also got to know some more people in the Redmine community -- including Jan (Planio's CEO). During the Summer, Holger and I decided to leave that company, Jan offered us work at Planio, and here we are. :-)
Brian: Interesting, we never know which way life can lead! So how long have you been interested in computers/IT?
Felix: I always had a big interest for everything logical, technical, and technological, but I guess I focused on IT around my mid-to-late teens when we got a computer and Internet at home. That must have been somewhere in the second half of the 90s... looking back we were probably late to the early adopter's party. :-)
Brian: It's funny, I think a lot of us got hooked when the first PCs made their way into households -- my addiction started with an Apple //c circa 1985. ;)
Felix: Hehe, my father had an Apple //e from his university time, but that didn't interest me that much at the time. I think the whole thing really got to me with our second computer and its dial-up modem around 1996 or something.
Brian: The days of 28.8 modems -- great memories! Next question: Are there any particular development technologies you enjoy (e.g., computer languages, tools, etc.)?
Felix: Ruby is the first language I really got warm with and that didn't give me a lot of the WTFs I got from other languages I had to use at the university (e.g., Java) or that I tried for myself (e.g., Python or PHP). That got me really interested in it and, consequently, quite proficient too.
Brian: It sounds like Redmine and Ruby have played a big part in your career. Can you tell us more about your interest in software development? What do you like the most about being a Developer?
Felix: Making people's lives easier, creating new things (seemingly out of nothing), the complex interactions of many small things to make a greater product than the sum of the parts, and hunting down obscure bugs that seem so trivial once you've found them.
Maybe to boil it down to only one thing: the web is really an amazing technology and one that changes humanity as a whole in a way never seen before. For example, the birth of writing or the invention of the book were (and still are) amazing technologies that facilitate knowledge distribution. The web, on the other hand, downsizes physical distances to mere hundredths of a second and enables us to mix and share knowledge far & wide, consequently producing even more information. Being a Software Developer (or, in this particular case, a Web Developer) makes me a part of this interaction and gives me the tools to navigate and improve it.
Brian: A very insightful answer. So Felix, I've heard that, in addition to your development skills, you are a classical singer. How long have you pursued this?
Felix: I was introduced to music when I was ten years old via the clarinet. About 5-6 years ago I was persuaded to try singing when I met some singing-savvy people who thought it a shame to not try singing with the amazing voice I have. One thing led to another and I've performed in an opera at my current university... and I nearly joined a music university! However, I chose to finish my CS studies... though I do still sing in the State Youth Choir of North-Rhine-Westfalia.
Brian: Given your background in the arts, and your obvious passion for technology, it seems to me that there is almost a special symbiotic relationship between the two.
I suspect that music also has the power to create new things out of nothing (e.g., evokes emotions, feelings). You mentioned earlier that you enjoyed software development because of the "complex interactions of many small things to make a greater product than the sum of the parts." This reminds me of the many instruments within an orchestra... or the individual voices within a choir. What are your thoughts on this? Do you feel that there are some similarities between your love of both technology and music?
Felix: There's definitely a lot of similarities between the arts and technology or even science in general. Many of the people I know through a shared love of music--but don't practice music as a profession--are brilliant scientists and technologists... some of whom are doctorates or future doctorates.
I think that my love and fascination for technology and music are really two different facets of a same whole. Both involve working together (it's rare to end up working completely alone in IT) on often complex problems/scores and making an impact on other peoples' lives. Music is on a more emotional level while technology is perhaps on a more practical level -- I've never really seen them as separate, but more like two different incarnations of a similar drive. Like speaking German and French, my passion "speaks" technology and music.
Brian: Very interesting and thoughtful, Felix. Speaking of pairs, what two things can you not live without?
Felix: Air and water. Just kidding. :-)
My external memory and lifeline to my loved ones and my tribe: my mobile phone. If that only counts as one, then I guess a close second is what I carry in my other trouser pocket: my pocket knife. It's typical from the region in France where I grew up and is a daily reminder of the early days I spent there. Although it only has one blade and a corkscrew, it has become sort of a universal tool for me.
Brian: I am curious about the pocket knife -- is it a unique design common to the region of France you mentioned? Also, what part of France did you grow up?
Felix: If you know what to look for it's pretty unique: it's called a Laguiole knife. I grew up in Cournon d'Auvergne near Clermont-Ferrand in the Auvergne region of France. Clermont-Ferrand might be known worldwide as the founding location of Michelin (the major tire manufacturer) which, consequently, was also the reason why my family moved there. In Europe it is known for stunning volcanoes, mountains, and generally big open spaces (the place is quite sparsely populated).
Brian: That's a great looking knife! You can tell that a lot of effort is put into crafting one. Felix, can you tell us about your dream vacation?
Felix: It's more about "with whom" and "what," than "where." I like to either spend time with my family (they still live in France and I don't see them much) or with friends whom I don't see as much as I'd like; I tend to get bored after 2-3 days of doing nothing. So maybe some countryside biking or skiing in the Alps with my girlfriend would be my favorite activities.
I really enjoy our annual trip with the choir (although the buses we typically travel in are crowded) or even mending my car at my parent's place when it needs fixing. I'm not sure how much it would qualify as a vacation, though, as I don't really see my work as "Work" in the sense that I have to do it. In fact, I really enjoy doing it and usually keep connected to the web and keep an eye on work, even when abroad and in my free time.
Brian: It sounds like you enjoy keeping active, which is great. What's your favorite hobby?
Felix: It'd be unfair to the other if I picked only one: IT (the broader field, not just computers and stuff) and music (in the broader sense too, so not only vocal but also orchestral, classical, jazz, rock, electronic, and whatnot music!).
Brian: I had a feeling you'd say that! ;) To wrap up our interview, can you describe yourself in three words?
Felix: My Twitter bio says it all: Geek, singer, confused (I'm pretty good at hiding that last one though! ;-) ).
Brian: Hehe, no worries there, as a geek you're in good company here at Planio and my personal opinion is that everyone is confused! :) Thanks so much for chatting and for sharing your thoughts and opinions with us, Felix.
Felix: Thanks Brian!
In addition to his development work on the Planio platform, Felix is also currently acting as our interim Head of Support while Imke is on maternity leave. So if you need technical assistance from Felix, or one of the other members of our support team, you can always feel free to contact us directly by one of the methods below:
Telephone (U.S.): +1 415 523 7718
Telephone (Europe): +49 (30) 577 0000-0
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