I'm an ex-bartender/waiter who is now a web developer and DevOps engineer, Ask Me Anything!

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At around the age of 21 I dropped out of uni before getting my bachelor's in physics, and went to work on a crew ship. After that, I spent almost 6 years traveling around and working in hotels and restaurants.
At the age of 27 I "woke up", left my bar manager job at Oxfordshire and worked my way back to tech and programming.

me back then

2011 Puerto Vallarta. I may look good, but I had tough times on the ship. Not complaining though.

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I had a similar path with one major difference; I started programming at the age of 16. When I was was 25, my mind was a mess and I needed a change so I.. wait for it... joined Carnival Cruise Lines as a photographer. The job and money were a disaster but I coud not have cared less since financial benefit wasn't the primarily reason for taking the job. Now in retrospect, I can say that being a photographer on CCL was an excellent experience and would recommend it to anyone in their 20s. You will see different cultures, toughen up and become more independent. My CCL story ended with something so unexpected that to this day I'm still perplexed about it. I met my wife while working on board CCL Triumph; at first we hated each other, were appalled by each other, but as time went by we sort of clicked and everything changed. Here's one funny one of me feeling sorry for myself πŸ˜‚; programmer became a photographer, continued to becoming a pirate, and eventually went back to being a programmer.

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My ship was Carnival Inspiration! :) I absolutely agree, it's a great life lesson especially in your twenties. The drills, the discipline, the lifestyle, and the adventures. For me it was a bit more dire though. I started as an assistant waiter - just one step above the galley stewards. It was army :D

 

Hi, I completed a diploma in mining technology but I have more interest in programming and want to be an android developer, And I want to self learn everything, What suggestions I can get from you. So that I can be successful in my journey

Note: I already failed many times trying to become a programmer

Thank you

 

Find a way to get a programmer job. Doesn't matter how simple or bad. Find the easiest route. Then start learning and get some experience.

 

What surprised you about (web) development? Anything you had different ideas about before?

 

The first thing that hit me was the revelation that no one knows the solution to problems right away. In hospitality it's usually quite simple how to connect the dots, and I thought development is the same. It took some time for me to realize that I shouldn't hide any uncertainty to look more competent, because it actually just slows my learning process if I don't ask questions. The thing what I had to understand is that we never know how to solve the problems right away. Because the job itself IS actually about figuring out the solutions. Not just executing them. Executing them is easy, everyone can type. :D

 

Hah, good point. I can relate to that. In a meeting often noone dares to ask clarifying questions, risking they look stupid. But once you get into the habit of not letting details slip, it turns out others had no idea either, and thankful to get things clarified. (See also my unwasted meeting time calculator)

Wow cool. Just noticed you're also Hungarian btw :D

 

It may sound blatantly simple but if you think about it: usually in other jobs you're not there because you are competent at figuring out solutions for a certain problem. You are there to execute some tasks.

 

Do you ever miss your old job, or certain aspects of it ? (like interactions with customers for example)

 

Yes, some things I do!

  1. The madness: Standing behind a bar on a party, having like 50 people around, back-to-back with your bartenders, shaking 16 espresso martinis or 20 jager bombs at times, loud music, loud people, managers are looking away when you drink a few shots on duty because they see that you must work super hard to stay above the water and they are grateful. Oddly I miss those things. No bullshit, just "right now" solutions and improvisation. It was hard to come back to corporate software dev. - where we have meetings for two weeks to decide something. :)
  2. Brotherhood: There is this tendency in hospitality, that the businesses are constantly testing how much they can decrease their used resources, without losing the quality of service or revenue. This often means that the crew has to work harder and harder to get through the night because they haven't got the manpower, or there is some other logistical problem that the business 'saved on'. But the thing is: the harder the work gets, the closer and more intimate you get with your colleagues. You get a kind of "soldiers together in the trenches" feeling, and it's very satisfying. You know that all of you have to work hard to keep the operation under control, and you must support each other. You never get that intimate with people in an office.
  3. The small wonders: Making fresh coffee by the Thames, keeping the bar clean and tidy, managing ales, teaching kids to do cocktails and latte art, explaining wines. I liked those things too.

+1: confession. I must admit I never really liked to serve people. Inside I'm more of an introvert. It was always a bit hard to play the nice talkative guy.

 

What was your favorite and least favorite drinks to make as a bartender?

 

Good question!

fav: Old Fashioned.

Beautiful drink, beautiful ritual. Classic cocktails need the most creativity. Choosing the right bourbon (or even rye), executing the cooling nicely, experimenting with the amounts of acids and sugar, playing with it's garnish. Needs competence to figure out how a certain guest likes it.

least fav: Espresso Martini

Has to be individually shaked, and usually 10 is ordered. Coffe is needed in it which is sometimes hard in a bar that has a separate cafeteria. Makes such a mess.

 
 
 

I would gladly draft some for you if there wasn't a bottleneck.

 

How was your transition back to being a developer like? I'm talking about learning paths, commitment, stress and how easy was it for you to land at your first job and what was your role?

 

Good question. It was tricky. Actually I first applied again to the university and after I was re-accepted I applied for internships. There are two reasons for why I went this way:

  1. In Hungary you have a certain amount of free semesters payed by the government. I still had 2 back then.
  2. It's much easier to get a developer intern position, than getting a junior developer job, if you don't have experience. Because every damn job requires experience! I only had some portfolio and a bootcamp qualification. For some reason companies don't want coder wannabe adults, but they want to pick up ambitious students (which is just elitism really. Sometimes a fast learner ex carpenter is much better than a disinterested 19 year old kid who only works for some extra money to spend on weed. I'm exaggerating but you got the idea.) So if you are a student companies are more willing to train you, and you are also cheaper for them as student workers have tax benefits.

I got an intern position at a big telecommunication company, where I started working in a DevOps team. This was really beneficial, as I was quickly exposed to many toolchains and practices. Git, bash, python, groovy, java, perl, C++, Ant, Make, also a lot of development practice stuff like source code management, building applications, CI, build automation, etc. I was learning a lot and working a lot. I was watching tutorial videos even after work. My team really supported me, so the stressful part was only my own fear of failure. I was really afraid that I can't learn fast enough. The first year was hard but I really wanted to make it, and I also enjoyed this new lifestyle. Later I was offered a full time position, so I dropped university and I've never looked back since.

 
 

What was your biggest challenge as bartender/waiter which you like to fix using your Web Development/DevOps skills?

 

Geat question! And the answer:
Managing operations between departments in a hotel.

A lot of times I had situations when I was organizing functions or daily service and information was scarce. Just some examples:

  • Finding out in the last minute that the couple changed the wedding welcome drinks three days ago, but the concierge forgot to hand you the sticky note he wrote it on.
  • Asking the kitchen that is a 5-minute walk away if they finished the cakes for the 16 people afternoon tea session - when you can't make the walk as you're alone in the bar and there are guests pouring in.
  • Checking the cellar stock if there are enough beer kegs for the festival days without going down to physically count them.
  • Running all the way to reception -leaving the bar unmanned again- to ask them to call housekeeping to check if a given room is ready for a guest who keeps asking you in the bar if her/his room is ready yet.

It would be nice to fix this somehow. Actually, maybe even a proper slack group could solve these things with proper notifications. :D

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Richard Lenkovits profile image
DevOps guy, software developer, quasi-physicist, ex-bartender. 🍸

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