This week, I published Bert Jan Schrijver's #DevJourney story on my eponym Podcast: Software developer's Journey. Among many other things, here are my main personal takeaways:

  • When Bert discovered he could make a machine do what he wanted, he became hooked. Like many before him, he started playing games with a C64 and quickly turned to the programming side.
  • Bert discovered that small hobby projects, which take about a couple of days to complete, are the right size for him.
  • Bert didn't take his career into his own hands until his 2nd or 3rd job. In his first and second jobs, he kept on saying "yes to everything" and learned a ton. But it's only in his thirds job that he found a mentor who opened his eyes to what is possible when dedicated developers decide for themselves. Since then, Bert has been trying to give teams he worked with as much independence as possible.
  • The best sources of topics to speak or write on are 1) what I did at work during the past year, 2) weird hobby projects, 3) look back over your whole career 4) cool and shiny stuff I don't know anything about. Bert was surprised once or twice by submitting talks about "basics," expecting it to be rejected. But those talks were the most successful ones. Last but not least, do not censor yourself: "You don't need to decide if a topic is interesting. You need to decide if you are interested, and then let a conference organizer if they find it interesting for their audience"
  • Bert organizes the J-Fall conference in the Netherlands. There he created a mentorship program for new speakers. It builds over 3 sessions: 1) picking a topic, writing abstracts, and sharing 2) experienced speaker stories 3) practicing a mini-talk. From this program, some new speakers emerged who really "made it" in their speaking careers.
  • The typical progression of an engineer, said Bert, looks like this. As a junior, you are not productive. As a medium, you are productive yourself. As a senior, you make others productive. When you grow past that, you can impact a whole organization. Experts or technical specialists are seniors but on a different axis. But you cannot have too many of those Rockstars and Ninjas in one team. It would be best if you had a diverse team.
  • Speaking of diverse teams. Working from home is not a silver bullet. It helps to increase diversity, but it brings a lot of communication and cultural problems.
  • Community work is volunteer work. As such, it should be an enjoyable experience. Bert spends, on average, a couple of hours per week working for the community.


  • At any company, you only see a thin part of what our industry has to offer. The community will expand your horizon and learn what else there is. And there is free food 😇


  • "Basically, I had no idea what I was doing. I still get this from time to time. But not constantly."
  • "The bigger the (hobby) project, the bigger the chances of not finishing it."
  • "When I started my career, I wanted to become a senior and then a team lead, because I could then tell others what they should do and not do that much work again"
  • "At first, I wanted to become an architect to design everything and not write code. But then I discovered that it's not fun anymore."
  • "You don't need to decide if a topic is interesting. You need to decide if you are interested, and then let a conference organizer if they find it interesting for their audience"

Thanks, Bert, for sharing your story with us!

You can find the full episode and the show notes on

Did you listen to his story?

  • What did you learn?
  • What are your personal takeaways?
  • What did you find particularly interesting?