The Story: Julian Jelfs on his journey and approach to programmingPosted over 1 year ago by Client Server

Julian Jelfs has been a programmer for his whole professional career, but his journey into tech wasn't one of design. It was something he just fell into.

"I liked gadgets and computers at school, but I didn't really have any great interest in programming. I didn't have a clear idea that's what I was going to end up doing as a career. I studied politics, philosophy, and economics and when I left university I applied for a bunch of jobs as people do and fell into a programming job," he says.

Julian started his career in tech working for Sainsbury's in their warehouse systems division and says that "a lot of it was pretty unglamorous but very, very critical to their operation. And that was using COBOL of all things, which is mainframe technology."

"I was dimly aware even then that being a COBOL developer was weird. It is not a normal thing. So I wanted to get out of that into more modern technology."

Over the years he moved more toward front-end roles and to increasingly recognisable technology. "I like doing front-end stuff because you can immediately see what you are creating," says Julian.

After 13 years of experience working for a software house, he was introduced to Client Server where he made the move to Travel Republic and was later placed again by us at online education company, Education First.

Julian has had a long-standing relationship with Client Server, firstly being placed by CEO, Nick Boulton, back in 2013 and says that he felt Nick was actually working for him, which was the all-important difference.

"Mostly I feel like I'm being sold a job by a recruiter rather than being offered a service by a recruiter to find me the job that I want. And the first step with Client Server was that they would take a little bit of time to get to know who you are, and what your experience is and then go away and try and find you a job rather than the other way around."

He spent a few years at Education First when he was approached by a couple of previous colleagues for a separate venture to build a decentralised chat app running on the internet computer blockchain. His immediate response was "nope, I don't want to do that." The idea was terrifying and the timing wasn't right, but after a few months and some persistence, Julian ended up joining them.

"This job is more entrepreneurial in that there are just three of us," he says. "On the one hand that's really great because if we have to make a decision, we just do it. But on the other hand, you realize that you're on your own. You can't refer anything to the accounting, legal, or HR team because none of those things exist."

"In this new job there are a lot of technical challenges because we're building on top of a platform that is itself being built and developed. Aside from that, there's a huge amount to learn that has nothing to do with technology. I've never run my own company or product before and it's amazing how much other stuff there is."

"Will it work or not? Who knows?" he says. As it stands, it has a way to go. But to try out their working product visit oc.app.

Their next big milestone is to launch the product as an autonomous organization, essentially handing over control to users completely. 

"Once this thing is out of our control, this is the big unknown, what will happen, it might go swimmingly or it might completely self-destruct, neither of those things would surprise me and that's what keeps it interesting for the time being."

The way Julian sees it, "there's a sort of bell curve of programmer experience where you start off knowing nothing and then you gradually start thinking you know a few things and then you go back to thinking you know nothing again." The lesson he hopes people learn is to "realize that you know nothing from the start and don't fall for that bit in the middle where you think you're an expert on everything."

Having read several books on architecture, programming practices, management techniques and project management techniques and his wealth of experience, he's come full circle and his approach now is to "keep things as ruthlessly simple as I possibly can."