introducing ramon wieleman from code nomads.
Ramon Wieleman founded Code Nomads in 2017, a close-knit group of skilled, dedicated and international software developers who love to solve projects for innovative clients. Their specialties are Java, Kotlin and full-stack software development.
Code Nomads has three core principles: people first, quality always and lifelong learning. People first because Ramon believes they are the driving force behind the company. Quality always because in today’s world it’s not just about building the right thing, but about building the thing right. And lifelong learning because for Code Nomads’ developers, their work isn’t just a job but a genuine passion — learning is their fuel.
We talked to Ramon about why he started Code Nomads, the value of meetups and hackathons on the beach, the importance of community and a few things he’s learned from being a founder.
What is Code Nomads?
Code Nomads is a premium software consulting company, specializing in flexible, high-quality ICT services in the fields of Java software development and software architecture.
It was founded in 2017 and we’re incredibly proud of our eighteen, highly skilled senior developers from all over the globe — that’s why we call ourselves world-class software developers.
Code Nomads provides its customers with senior Java, Kotlin and full-stack developers who are in turn supported by an experienced team. And because we’re deeply involved in the Java community, we can also contact talented software developers within our wider network to solve even the most difficult challenges.
We work with the latest open-source technologies and have a track record of successful projects. With our commitment, focus, up to date knowledge and approach, we like to solve complex challenges and make our customers happy.
Why did you start Code Nomads?
I’ve been involved in the Dutch Java scene since 2012. I’ve organized various developer-focused conferences like J-Fall, J-Spring, Teqnation and IoT Tech Day, and I was the Community Manager of the Dutch Java User Group, NLJUG. During those years I met many developers and people from all kinds of software development organizations, and that time gave rise to numerous observations about the market:
1. There is a scarcity of senior developers in the Netherlands.
2. The Dutch government has made it attractive for skilled migrants to come to the Netherlands; 'easy' visa applications and the 30% tax ruling.
3. Amsterdam was — and continues to be — appealing for people from around the world to live and work. The city became more international by the day; increasing numbers of expats and English became the new language of business.
4. Developers didn’t always feel valued in their jobs. Instead, they were often considered resources.
5. Companies expected developers to stay up to date with the latest technologies but didn’t create the environment, budget or company-time to facilitate that learning.
6. Organizations were wasting money, time and resources on massive projects that exceeded budgets and time limits by a landslide. True software craftsmanship that’s tailored to the needs of the client was missing.
These reasons motivated me to start Code Nomads in December 2017; a company for passionate, skilled software developers to add real value to innovative client projects.
Why is learning so fundamental to your company culture?
Learning and sharing is intrinsic to Code Nomads because we believe people are the driving force behind everything. Our developers are fundamental to the solutions we're known for and for the growth of Code Nomads. We only employ those who really understand software engineering (beyond its utility) and have the means and drive to develop the software our customers need. But to do so, they have to be continually learning, especially because software development moves so fast.
On a more personal level, however, learning is a necessity for our developers because Code Nomads isn’t just a job for them but a passion too. Everyone who works at the company loves what they do. Because of this, we give every developer an educational budget — both time and money — to visit all the trainings, conferences and workshops they need to keep developing themselves.
We also have monthly team meetings where an employee hosts a technical session about a personal project or something new they’ve learned. We see these things as essential for personal development, and we want our team to feel empowered to grow as individuals.
Because of the pandemic, we switched things up and hosted monthly remote lunch sessions on Zoom, where we delivered delicious food to everyone’s homes and invited well-known speakers from around the world to share their knowledge with us.
Could you talk a little about the meetups you run and how that ties in with your ethos of learning?
Meetups are crucial places to share the knowledge we have and listen to the knowledge we don’t. At Code Nomads, we host meetups, attend local meetups and participate in several User groups.
I’m a voluntary board member of the Amsterdam Java User Group, primarily because I like to meet new people. Meetups are fantastic for connecting with like-minded developers, sharing technical knowledge, undertaking challenging and innovative assignments, gaining new insights and talking with others about your business.
But more than just place with benefits, meetups are positive, inspiring places, somewhere where passion, learning and business mix. What’s more, buying 100 pizzas and boxes of craft beer is a better investment than paying an expensive recruiter or starting a LinkedIn marketing campaign.
You even ran a hackathon at the beach last June…
We host hackathons four times a year in which everybody can work on a self-directed project. We all meet at the office or an external location and everyone has to plan the project they want to work on in advance (we’ve found that solid preparation maximizes output during hackathons). It’s also nice that employees who may usually work on separate projects for different clients can team up together.
We have only two rules for our hackathons: you need to work with technologies you’ve never worked with before and you need to demo it at the end of the day.
The hackathons are also a social event. We meet with each other, have a laugh and share lunch, beers and dinner. The summer hackathon at Zandvoort is at an event space in a beach restaurant, and we combine coding, beach ball and swimming together.
Last summer, the hackathon took on new importance because of lockdown. We hadn’t seen each other in person since February so it was a huge relief, and it was great to catch up, fool around with drones and have a Brazilian BBQ (yes, we have a Brazilian BBQ master on the team).
Why do you think community-based Java User groups are so prominent?
The Java User Groups and communities worldwide are incredibly active and prominent, especially compared to other programming languages. I believe there are several reasons for this:
1. Java is sometimes described as “the glue” of the entire tech stack — there are an infinite number of libraries, frameworks and tools that work with Java. To keep up with these constant changes, however, good Java developers need to educate themselves all the time. Java communities are essential for this education.
2. Java as a programming language is open-source, and so naturally, the Java community loves open-source thinking. Sharing and contributing is in our DNA.
3. Hosting a meetup or speaking at meetups demonstrates your ability and passion (a positive career move). By doing so, you can also illustrate your contribution to a niche within the industry, and companies are always looking for people who put in the effort to do so.
4. The Java community is approachable. At big conferences, you can easily get in touch with the keynote speakers and global thought leaders on the conference floor or at an afterparty. It’s common for people to approach the lead architects of Google, Spotify and Amazon, something that simply isn’t done in other industries (try doing that with a professional athlete or the CEO of a bank).
What have you learned in your time running Code Nomads?
Founding a company with people on the payroll was the biggest learning curve I’ve ever had. In an instant, I was responsible for everything and everyone. And I not only feel responsible for my employees, but also for their families.
Also, since many of our developers are working here on a visa (we have twelve different nationalities from around the world), the connection and dependency between employer and employee is tighter than if they were Dutch. Whilst that adds to the responsibility I feel, I’ve learned so much about cultural differences (we also have five different religious backgrounds within Code Nomads) and communication styles because of that diversity. This has been invaluable to me as a leader and as a person.
From the beginning of Code Nomads, I’ve focused on the people who work here and creating a company culture that feels like a group of friends. People are the most important thing in our company, more so than the projects we work on. I’m upfront to my clients about this, and those who understand are the companies we love to work for.
To embody this belief, employees are allowed to pick the projects they’re involved with. In turn, they’re happier, and happy developers mean they push themselves and other team members to take projects to the next level.
I’ve also built Code Nomads’ culture in line with my own personality. I like freedom, independence, building genuine relationships with the people I work with and enjoying the occasional beer. This is all reflected in Code Nomads.
I believe people are responsible for the growth of their career, and employers should provide the best environment and tools possible to support that growth. I also try to coach all the developers on soft skills, and I’m constantly looking for new ways to challenge them or put them in touch with someone who can help them progress. It’s a learning process for them and it’s a learning process for me.
Some people call me naïve for providing this amount of independence and freedom to all Code Nomads, but I prefer to be naïve than a micro-manager.
What’s next for Code Nomads?
Code Nomads is already a successful company, with a big client portfolio, a great group of world-class developers and countless positive references. But of course, there’s always things to work on. First of all, we want to be better at outwardly showing who our developers are and what they’ve accomplished.
To do so, we’re launching a brand-new website this year, focusing on our experts and projects. Visitors will be able to read in detail about what we’ve completed and what we’re working on, we’ll share technical insights in blog articles and show all the cool team activities we’re doing.
Another dot on the horizon is a Code Nomads abroad. We’ve proven our business formula works, so we’re eager to expand our reach into other countries.
And of course, we’re always on the lookout for skilled software developers and innovative ideas from clients. So, if you have an exciting but demanding technical challenge that needs solving, check out our website or get in touch.