Product manager & engineer. Bookworm, entrepreneurial spirit, melomaniac & ocean addict.
I grew up building all sorts of things. Simply because I couldn’t find a single class at school challenging enough to keep me engaged.
Every day after school (sometimes during school — don’t tell mom), I looked to build something new and exciting. Ranging from wooden swords and tree-houses at 10 years old; to websites and computer viruses (apologise to those affected) at 14; and to construction industry ERP systems at 16.
For all that I’ve created, I had no prior knowledge of how it should be done. It usually started with me confidently responding to someone “Yes, this can be done.” My curiosity and positive attitude propelled me to learn what was required on the spot, making my building experience interesting and fun.
I gravitated towards projects that were more challenging and meaningful, which kept me engaged and motivated to passionately keep building. With every new project, not only did I find my knowledge growing, but the projects were also growing in both scale and impact.
In the age-of-information we now live in, I find learning by building more relevant and important than ever before. Action-driven learning is more effective than abstract learning, especially now given the information overload we all experience online. This learning method focuses your attention on what is immediately required to solve the problem, while also physically showing you the impact of your actions. This drastically improves the brain’s ability to understand and absorb the new information.
Thinking about how learning can be optimized for effectiveness takes me to another important experience that really helped me learn and grow. It is a discovery that stacks up to project building and unlocks 10x personal growth; it’s something I’m still working on at this very moment…
With my project ideas now growing in scale, I realized that I could only do so much alone. A strong need to connect with like-minded individuals started rapidly growing in me and I immediately recognized that this wasn’t a new feeling. I had felt this a couple of times in the past and it had been fulfilled by the connections I made during my military service and university studies.
I realized that the only way forward was to find my tribe; to connect with like-minded people who also love building and working together. It is what I call the “ultimate learning method”, connecting with people who have similar interests and are equally passionate about learning, collaborating and creating new fun experiences.
And that’s how my current journey started. I was 25 and at the highest steps of the corporate ladder, but felt no real sense of purpose and fulfilment. I just knew that I had to take action quickly and that’s exactly what I did.
Finding like-minded people is not an easy task. Especially when living on a small island nation with a population of 600,000 and in a pre-social media era. There’s a small chance you find interesting connections in smaller communities, such as through schools and universities. But this wasn’t really all that helpful for me given the old fashioned schooling system and also that I had already graduated at this point.
I started researching and quickly accepted that my time on the island had to come to an end and that I had to leave to find what I was looking for. So at 25, I seized the first opportunity that came my way; I handed in my notice of resignation to the CEO; booked a one-way ticket and flew 14,000km from Cyprus to Melbourne, Australia. That’s where my new search for purpose began, and for the past 8 years, I’ve been in this pursuit.
It’s been a real roller-coaster; living in Australia, the Middle East, then back to Europe, in Cyprus and the UK. I’ve worked alongside great teams and individuals on many projects of varying sizes and impact. I’ve been lucky enough to be part of different amazing communities where I met many interesting individuals from all across the globe.
My search for purpose had been a challenging one that I would not recommend to others, and that got me thinking of ways that I could make that journey easier for others. How could I help people connect with like-minded individuals to collaborate, learn and grow together? That is where CodePeople was born, an online community that welcomed over 65,000 people in tech across social media last year.
My journey had evolved, taking a slightly different route, but with an even stronger sense of purpose. Off I went again, wide-eyed and excited to find others to join me on this amazing new journey. Little did I know how difficult that would be. 18 months into my search and losing motivation, I came across Antler, a tech startup generator. I was fortunate enough to be accepted into the London 2 cohort and that’s where I met my co-founder, Robin Bentele. She is a like-minded and bright individual who I admire, have huge respect for and enjoy working with every day. She brings a complementary skill set to our team which enables us to work effectively on our shared passions and interests.
Our vision at CodePeople is to inspire and connect people in tech to learn and grow together through side-project collaboration. This will be achieved through a multi-sided hybrid marketplace that removes friction between like-minded people, fun learning experiences and purposeful opportunities.
I have found through my own personal experiences that leveraging each other’s knowledge and experience while working on side-projects can make learning far more enjoyable and significantly increases one’s personal growth (intellectually and emotionally). Sharing the burden of work with others makes side projects less stressful, faster to do and also increases the likelihood of completion.
Working alongside others also has the added benefit of providing you with peer motivation when you need it to get out of your comfort zone or push through the final stretch. If the last few months of being cooped up at home have reminded us of anything, it is that we are social beings and thrive when we have a strong sense of purpose and belonging. Working together makes us more efficient and happier.
If you’re in tech and it feels as if your side projects are beginning to feel like a drag, this is your opportunity to take action. Lacking time, motivation or if the journey feels lonely, then join us and thousands of other CodePeople at www.codepeople.io
Previously published at https://medium.com/@xnorcode/great-journeys-start-with-a-side-project-60d917250807