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CO-FOUNDER AND CTO AT SIDE.CO, HUGO MICHALSKI

For our next Alumni profile, I introduce you to Hugo Michalski, Co-Founder and CTO of the now funded start-up Side.co. As described on their website, this company allows you to: “Work on the Side—Earn Money and Experience While Working to Your Schedule.” Filling positions and meeting the increased demand for hiring within the corporate staffing sector, Side is currently building its presence in London and Paris while reaching out to other cities in France and the UK while considering expansion possibilities on the near horizon in several additional cities and countries. Since its founding in August of 2015, this innovative Software as a Service (SaaS) company has offered a completely new way to work. As new tasks are uncovered every day, side tasks can take just a few hours or they might take several months, and everything in between. This service provides freelancers the opportunity to work either from home or at the office.

By pre-selecting the best matched freelancers to work for various companies in need– determining the optimum candidates for these positions with timely selections (meaning within 24 hours) and by automating the administrative processes, Side provides a service to the increasing number of these freelancers for whom roughly half at this point participate in order to complement a traditional work contract. The vast majority of these freelancers are students or those who have just recently graduated. This trend of having people who turn to freelance on their free time while continuing their main activity (be that their job or their studies) represents a shift in the cultural mindset in Europe; labor laws and cultures were not traditionally inclined to indulge this type of activity. People and companies are now showing an increasing readiness to embrace this new way of participation in and organization of labor forces. By using staff cloud services that provide the client with task descriptions defining each mission and individuals on demand to meet their punctual demands while allowing them to scale or adjust part of their activities merely by making a few clicks, Side takes care of selecting the best qualified freelancers matching its client companies with the perfect profiles to meet their task lists. In the cases where both parties are satisfied with the arrangement, some freelancer positions have turned into permanent contracts yet in many cases, freelancers of all sorts flock to Side thanks to the freedom and excitement they often experience while partaking in this ground-breaking new work format.

The legal entity of Side was formed in April of 2016 after a round of seed funding in Europe, and Hugo has been “employed” and acted as the CTO there ever since. As anyone might estimate or expect, the role of a CTO will vary greatly depending on the size of the company and the product team. At first, there are many technological choices and lines of code to be written; next you must start to recruit people to help you out. At some point, management becomes a necessity so instead of coding core features, one’s main role as CTO is to make sure that your product team is at full capacity, fully enabled and working well together. As you are ultimately responsible of the technical quality of your product, it is imperative to know when to recruit, to implement processes, to delegate, to code support tools for your devs to be efficient. Today, his focus switches on a weekly basis between R&D, management and recruitment. To this one could add daily management to his list of duties for as a Co-Founder, on occasion, he still has to fill gaps.

Hugo was a participant in 42’s first piscine in Paris in August of 2013. He had very little coding experience before coming to 42, except for having had the opportunity while he was around 10 years old to play along with an Apple 2 computer coding simple stuff and copying “Basic” code from books in order to play games. He reports that although his knowledge was not terribly extensive, ever since his childhood, he has had a basic level of familiarity with computer logic thinking that may have given him a small advantage over some of his fellow pisciners and cadets at 42. He noted that he always liked to play around with computers (tweaking stuff); perhaps it was not coding experience in its truest sense, but he thinks that some of this initial tinkering may have facilitated his approach to computing later on in his life.

In his current position, in addition to C, Hugo’s first real language was Ruby (and Ruby on Rails), which he used @ 42. As a freelancer, he also used some Swift and iOS. Today, he employs:

– Javascript (ES6, 7) and NodeJS environment with Flow, Babel, Webpack.

(He was using a lot MeteorJS, which is a nice prototyping framework to quickly iterate over your product.)

Golang (web-server & internal tools), which has no real framework as there are many built-ins, and it’s not really the spirit of the language as well as…

Docker (dev-ops, CI, CD, production servers)”.

Given the current state of the job market, Hugo believes that finding a job as a developer is ridiculously easy. As a recruiter, he can say that it has become an issue as developers are overloaded with job-offers and have a hard time to find the offers that truly correspond to them. He had no trouble finding freelance work with good pay and job opportunities have never stopped stacking up ever since. Then of course, with Side.co, he created his own job, which was difficult to achieve, but he has never stopped enjoying it ever since. At Side, they have employed people who have barely finished their first year at 42 for their first internship, solely based on their skills and determination. If people are skilled, whatever their school records, he writes that they can always find a job. It can vary depending on where they are and what expectations they have, but if they are ready to work hard and always learn, they will never suffer unemployment.

Hugo states that his experience at 42 was one of the best things that ever happened in his life, and it came as an accident. Before 42, he had been doing things that had no link whatsoever to code, and he then learned about the program’s existence during a press conference. He loved the idea and philosophy, and so he started the on-boarding process without having any expectations; (he was living far from Paris at the time, he hadn’t much income, and he had absolutely no plan about how to make such a move). Step by step, he applied himself. He did his piscine, and started his first year as a student with no clue of how he had ended up there. Then, it surprised him, but it went amazingly well. He made lasting and important school partnerships, he met awesome people, and he tried many new things. It seemed that sky was the limit, and whatever he tried came true through hard work, of course, but still. This was when he rediscovered his personal sense of ambition– something that his previous experiences had dulled pretty hard. He learned hard skills, of course, but more than that, at 42 he learned a certain mindset: that nothing is impossible and that complicated matters can all be hacked with the right amount of focus and determination. It may sound crazy, but by hitting wall after wall while having the implicit means to overcome them, he started thinking that there were no walls high enough to stop him, and this is how he has continued his life and what has brought him to this point. He writes, “Everything is about hitting your objectives hard, teamwork, dedication and hacking your way through.” If you could not already tell, he is very passionate about this subject; he informed me he could talk about this stuff for hours.

Hugo’s working style evolved in his first year at 42, which was intense due to the many projects he worked on at the same time with lots of pressure, and things he hadn’t touched for over a decade– 9 years had passed since his high-school experience. He had a work group, which he still has today. He even has some of these peers from his days at 42 as co-workers today. He dedicated himself to 42 and to its projects– trying to learn as many things as he could. His second year was as intense but in a different way because he started working at the Bocal, which put some of his regular student projects on hold. This is when he began applying what he had learned in real-life through freelance and side projects. He thinks that the project work, which he completed at 42 has helped him to address his company’s problematics. “Traditional school recipes will only help you for a while”, he writes. “Being used to starting from scratch and capitalizing on your environment while searching by yourself is all you need. Everything is on Google and Youtube. Knowledge is all around you for you to seek.” There is no longer anything he would say that he can’t do just because he’s never done it before. It might take some time. There may be other developers who could do write code better/faster than him at first, but if he decides that he wants to take on some complex yet unfamiliar new task or domain, he has learned through his experience (and with the benefit of having great determination and a good skill set), that in the end, he will usually be able to do whatever domain he sets his mind to.

Hugo’s advice to 42 students:

“Hack the system and be bold. Do some freelance on subjects you don’t know. Be transparent about it and price it accordingly. Never put yourself in a box; don’t say, ’I’m just a student, I can’t do that.’ If you want something, go and get it, you’ll break a few things along the way, but if you are transparent, fair and repair what you have broken, you’ll never stop ascending. Don’t get lazy, don’t let yourself stay in a comfort zone for too long. The last thing is about meaning, it’s easy to lock yourself in just the technical aspects of your job. You can get technical challenges while serving a greater cause. It’s important to do things that have meaning and to find meaning in what you do. It’s especially important when it’s so easy today to find well-paid, meaningless jobs just to get by. That might work out, but maybe also, there is something even better for you if you look hard enough.”

published by Kim Alvarez – March 9, 2017