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Hacking in Haiti

This is a guest post from Joe-Bernick Rameau, a self-taught developer in Haiti. Joe-Bernick talks about the challenges of building things in Haiti and how communities like BeeHyve can help. We hope you enjoy it. There are learners all around the world.

Who are you and what is your Background?

I’m Joe-Bernick Rameau, and I’m a self-taught software engineer from Jacmel, Haiti.

Hiking with some Haitian friends

Born and raised in Haiti, I started programming at the age of 13 (2008) when my mother brought home her first work computer. I started by playing games on Miniclip until one day I decided to create my own Miniclip, even though I knew nothing about web development. It was really hard for me because none of my friends liked computer science, but I still made it. I even failed most of my classes at school because I was so into it. I used webs.com to create http://gamestaken.webs.com, which one day became http://gamestaken.com. It’s now down because I got hacked internally by my co-founder who started working on it with me (long story).

During those 9+ years, I did a lot of freelance and created products on platforms like CodeCanyon (Envato) and through my own personal agency (Crakken). Though these, I was able to sell my own stuff. This is when my parents started to realize how good technology can be as a career. However, they were still hesitant because it wasn’t stable. However, through this experience, I learned multiple languages, frameworks, and improved my English radically, but barely improved my connections. At the time, I was more into web development but last year, I decided to become a generalist and learn whatever I like. I realized I can learn anything, as long as I’m dedicated. This is when I got into 42 School USA, an amazing game changer in my life.

In Haiti, everyone believes in a diploma, even though it’s clear that if you don’t have the right connections, you’re not going to get a job. I never believed in that, so it was really hard to get support from my parents. It was tough for me, even now. I’m 22, and I’m always stressed because after all these years I still don’t have a stable job, even though I feel like I have enough experience to be at least a junior dev at a company. I was part of the inaugural class of 42, and most of my peers got a job while I’m still here trying my best. Since I don’t have a US green card, I’m never even given a chance and get rejected from the very beginning. But I have to stay strong, and keep hustling.

Enjoying some free time with 42 friends

Eventually, I made a lot new friends at 42 Silicon Valley. Not only did I learn to code there, but I also learned to be a people person and a better teammate. Of course, it wasn’t always about code since we went to social events together. Those AFK moments and the people I meet are what makes the hustling so enjoyable.

Another parth that makes the experience more enjoyable is working out. I do calisthenics almost every day to stay healthy and to motivate others. That’s why I keep a profile on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/justpull/. You can also find me on BeeHyve as r4meau or email me at r4meau@gmail.com.

Going to devweek 2016 event in SF

What are you Building?

Right now, I’m working on a mobile app that can be of great help to the creative people in my country. I’ll post more about it on my blog soon (It’s a secret for now ;) ). At the moment, technology is not the biggest asset of Haiti, and I’m trying to change that. I’m also doing some freelance work online to support myself. I’m currently re-learning C++ (it’s been a long time since I’ve used it) so I can get back into competitive programming. I’m also learning visual art in a language called Processing, working on a school project (which is about creating my own shell in C), and learning little bits from here and there to stay in the loop (this is how I found out about BeeHyve). I blog about what I do at my website (https://rameau.me), and I post my open source projects on Github (https://github.com/r4meau).

Hacking in Haiti

I’ve got to say, it’s a hard commitment right now. I know very few people who code so the distraction is at its peak. It’s hard to balance your social life and work because there’s no direct relationship between those two.

The biggest challenge to me right now is to be taken seriously both by local and non local companies since I dropped out of college for an informal school called 42 (no teachers and no diploma). Thus, in a country that strongly believes in paper diplomas, it’s a big no-no.

Me doing some acrobatic move

Even though it has made some progress recently, Haiti is still an insecure place, even more for the locals than the tourists, so I stay at home. There’s not even a “Starbucks” like place where you could possibly meet another developer. I believe that hacking is sharing, but when you are all alone in your room, relying on just the internet without any hacktivities in the area, is it really hacking? I just try new things all by myself, and hope one day I’ll be able to put my knowledge to great use out there. I just wish there were more hackathons and conferences around here.

How has BeeHyve helped?

Beehyve is a resource sharing website between students on any topic. If you are a student and that definition doesn’t make you want to join, please, rethink your life (just kidding :P). On a serious note though, this is a God send. I’m good at finding what I want on the internet. It’s only after finding Beehyve that I realized how long of a process it was by myself (opening a bunch of links in multiple tabs, reading them quickly to make sure it’s a good one for the subject…). Now imagine having another student do that for you and tell you why they recommend a particular resource with other students voting and commenting on it, all in one place. What else can you ask for? Link to my BeeHyve profile.

What is coding in Haiti like?

Even though it has made some progress about it recently, Haiti is still an insecure place, even more for the locals than the tourists, so I stay at home. There’s not even a “Starbucks” like place where you could possibly meet another developer. I believe that hacking is sharing, but when you are all alone in your room, relying on just the internet without any hacktivities in the area, is it really hacking? I just try new things all by myself, and hope one day I’ll be able to put my knowledge to great use out there. I just wish there were more hackathons and conferences around here.

My current workspace

Any tips on hacking with limited resources?

I was lucky to be able to afford a PC because I bet a lot of Haitians also love to hack. They just don’t have access to it. All I can say is, keep working really, really hard, because compared to some other people, you have to work twice as much as them to become who you want to be in this world. It’s the cold, harsh reality. It’s taking time but I’m pretty sure things will change. For now, if you have limited resources, the best thing to do is raise money (through crowdfunding) so you can afford the materials needed. Also, take full advantage of what you already have.

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