Today is Tuesday April 25 - a Tuesday unlike any of its namesakes I've seen over the past few years. Today is the last Tuesday I get to call myself a Rodesk UX developer. In fact, this is officially my last Tuesday ever spent as a Rodesk tribesman. Why, you ask? Well, today is the last day working here at Rodesk.
After spending years drawing huge amounts of fun and job satisfaction from my position at Rodesk, I will start out in a new job as a front-end developer at Sanoma by the first of May. And tacky as this may sound for someone switching jobs, I’m pretty confident that I am picking up “a new challenge” here.
Before walking out of the office for the last time in a few hours, though, squeezing in between my fellow Rodeskers and our bicycles as we press ourselves into that familiar green little elevator, I would like to take this blogging opportunity to reflect on my best memories and moments here. These are the musings and recollections of a true-blood pedigree Rodesk tribesman!
Amusingly, I knew Rodesk even before I started working altogether. You see, Rodesk had already popped up on my radar back when I was still studying media design at Grafisch Lyceum Rotterdam.
I stumbled across them in the same way that I still discover new digital gems every morning. On June 25, 2012, I was checking Awwwards.com to gawk at their Site of the Day. And lo and behold, there she was: the very first Rodesk website that managed to earn an Awwward! It was a one-pager featuring Laurens and Jasper proudly presenting their fledgling UX empire, and I can still feel the sense of awe I felt as I drooled over the wealth of animations, illustrations, typography, and structures used in the background.
By that time, I was in my senior year at Grafisch Lyceum, looking for a place to complete my traineeships. I wanted one where I could further hone my designer skills, and I was pretty sure the Rodesk crew would be able to help me out with that.
Any other student would have applied for a position straight away, but not me… Why, you may wonder? I lacked the guts! I didn’t think I was good enough. No way were they going to accept me – especially when they had just landed that shiny Awwward… Thus ended my first Rodesk moment.
Grinding my Gears
During my studies at Grafisch Lyceum, I got to know Jasper Rooduijn, who was my third year traineeship tutor. Throughout my traineeship, Jasper showed me the ropes in website design and development.
Whereas I had never really warmed to the idea of programming, preferring company logo and flyer design instead, Jasper managed to strike just the right chord and open my mind to this new area of expertise.
We started out by designing my portfolio website together, and I went on from there to build it by myself, under the watchful gaze of Jasper of course. Despite being sure that I wanted to be a designer, I nonetheless gained my first development skills there and then.
In those days, Jasper became not just my tutor, but a real friend as well, so we stayed in touch after I finished school. He was there when I graduated, and he invited me on the spot to have cup of coffee someday soon. He had been making some major progress at the time, opening an office for his 12Hoog enterprise at the Creative Factory venture.
I resisted the urge to visit the same day, but my drive to start grinding my gears was hard to fight down! Make some great stuff together – yes please! Fortunately, Jasper turned out to be of the same mind, and we quickly agreed on a course for cooperation. I was about to get cracking as a freelance designer and front-end developer.
Close Encounters - 6th to the Right and 6th to the Left
We, 12Hoog Internet Enterprises, were working on the left half of the sixth floor, and even though it defies the rules of chance, guess who turned out to be our neighbours on the right half of the sixth floor… Rodesk! This was my first real encounter with Jasper van Orden and Laurens.
To be honest, we weren’t that close with Rodesk initially. I would just pop over incidentally whenever we ran out of coffee or printer paper. I remember delaying these visits for as long as I could, because back then, Rodesk still made me jittery. You see, I was still pretty awe-struck by their work and I’d get nervous even thinking about chatting up to the guys running the place.
As time went by, however, the Rodesk encounters became less of a challenge, and as contacts improved, my anxiety gradually subsided. They turned out to be pretty nice guys, in fact! Sitting down for lunch together became a tradition, as did the Friday afternoons when we would order Surinam take-away and eat it with the entire office floor. This was a bit of a mixed blessing: it made our stomachs feel great, but we never managed to lose our pangs of guilt over stuffing our faces with greasy chicken and curry barras.
I also grew acquainted with Jonathan in those days, who was Rodesk’s all-time first graduation intern. Obviously, Jonathan had shown the balls that I had been lacking, as he had taken the leap of faith of applying for that position.
12HOOG Web Specialists
After six months working freelance for Jasper, we decided to team up and proceed as 12HOOG Web Specialists. As we picked up speed, our concerted efforts with Rodesk intensified in tandem. Our collaborative assignments came along nicely, and the first Friday afternoon sociables – legendary by now – were launched. These afternoons usually devolved into Friday nights, with me ending up missing the last train to my home in Dordrecht and crashing on the couch of Laurens or either one of the Jaspers on a regular basis.
These Friday gatherings were always buzzing with new plans and plots, as we all philosophised about every topic imaginable and well beyond. This included the 12HOOG company style, which had never quite taken off despite several attempts by Jasper Rooduijn and yours truly. Thankfully, Rodesk came to the rescue, generously offering to take this terrible burden off our shoulders, and sure enough, we soon had a 12HOOG Web Specialists company style to show off to the world. I vividly recall the moment when we were enjoying a few beers at De Nieuwe Grafische printers, as we watched our shiny new business cards roll off the press.
6th to the right Party
It wasn’t long before Jasper O. and Laurens mobilised the colleagues at 6th to the right to spark the very first Rodesk Party. Jasper R. and I obviously had to show our faces, as word got out that there would be a big announcement during the event.
After months of planning and gallons of beer, Rodesk and 12HOOG Web Specialists decided to shack up and share an office on the seventh floor of the Maassilo tower. A move that made perfect sense, since we were teaming up on assignments anyway; this would only boost the impact of our joined forces.
Apart from all the stress involved in moving house, it was also a time of great new insights and opportunities. This was a period when I could feel the chemistry between Rodesk and 12HOOG get stronger by the day.
We decided to refurbish the place, and set our sights on building a desk of genuinely epic proportions, spanning over 10 metres of office space. We all invested a serious deal of weekend and evening hours in bringing this monster to life, but I’m proud of the result that we managed to pull off, and I am spending my last day here still relishing the look and feel of this masterpiece. I am definitely going to miss our massive Ikea hack.
The Rodesk Trainees
Despite being acquainted with Jonathan before we moved due to our regular activities, I never really got to know him until we visited the 2013 edition of The Next Web together. Having obtained press passes through one of their relations, Rodesk dispatched the two of us to go check it out together. That day is etched into my memory, as we feasted our eyes on truckloads of cool and progressive stuff related to the web, and laughed our asses off while doing so.
Although Jonathan was the first trainee I came across who still works at Rodesk today, I have witnessed many others who started out here as carefree interns, only to end up working there still, chained to the Rodesk treadmill for all eternity. Tom is one of them, and I have watched him grow as a person and as a professional as I got to know him better. Starting out as an exploring trainee, he became a graduation intern along the way, and he currently has his own position as a full-blown Rodesk UX co-developer. I fondly recall our long discussions on the most innovative front-end tactics, and the best way to implement them in our next project on the horizon.
Of course, I could never forget to mention the highly educational Friday night gourmet cooking classes provided by Samantha. Both Samantha and I are still reaping the benefits of these classes on a near-daily basis, I am sure. In fact, these classes may have turned out to be more profitable to her than to myself in the end – one wonders whether this was her intention all along 😉
Personally, I have always considered the Rodesk trainees as huge additions to the team. They have played significant parts in determining the Rodesk culture. It is a culture marked by an open mind for new ideas, where no idea is ever off-limits, and where everybody gets to be who they are. It’s a culture built to last for a long time to come.
After spending more than a year on the seventh floor, it became very easy to forget that Rodesk and 12HOOG Web Specialists were still two distinct enterprises. To me, the lines that separated us had become blurred to the extent where I no longer noticed them. Even so, we were still two separate businesses on paper, and in the way we showed ourselves to the outside world.
All that was about to change by January 1, 2015. After months of preparation, we decided to merge the two enterprises, and continue ahead under the banner of Rodesk.
During the process, I decided to take a step back. Over the years, I came to realise that I prefer to focus on front-end development, leaving the entrepreneurial side of the matter to others.
Jonathan and I were to become the very first Rodesk “2.0” employees. I experienced the merger as one of the best decisions ever. Finally, we were truly on one team – a team in which I could go all out on front-end development.
Apart from the great assignments, we paid attention to improving and reinforcing the team. Together with Jonathan, I organised the first of our Culture Sessions. These are sessions in which you invite the team to explore a specific topic together. It turned out to be a huge success, followed by sessions on scrum, 3D printing, beer, and a wide range of other subject matter.
These Culture Sessions also set the scene for forging our fledgling plans to create our ‘new’ website. It was so good to see all of the enthusiasm it provoked, as everyone readily invested heaps of spare evenings on top of all the daytime work we put into it. They were nights where we would be hunched over our giant homemade desk together, working hard on our fledgling masterpiece. Nights filled with discussions, tough decisions, and heated debate. Most of all, though, they were nights when I was part of a team hell-bent to come up with the greatest and finest result the world had ever seen.
In the end, all of our efforts were rewarded. On July 2, 2016, we had the honour to call ourselves Site of the Day – the very Site of the Day that had kept me from applying for a position just a few years back!
Work hard play hard
Apart from all the hard work, there were all the great trips I had the pleasure of enjoying with the team. To me, the Christmas editions were always the most legendary ones.
Our first Rodesk Christmas was themed around boats. We started off with a gut-wrenching boat tour in the RIB experience on the swirling waters of the River Meuse, and then went out in style by finishing our rampage on the sleepover boat. It was a night of delicious food, even more delicious drinks, and fun and games all over the place.
The next year, we decided to top that experience, only this time, the setting was German rather than Dutch. We set our scopes for Cologne, and enjoyed a Christmas of cultural sightseeing, polishing our spectacular golfing skills, and dazzling the clubbers with our equally sensational dancing abilities… or perhaps I should say, eagling abilities 😉
Anyway, whatever that was exactly, I am convinced that the poor lady behind the bar is still in therapy over our shock visit. That place will never be the same, I am sure, nor will we, as the occasion still regularly pops up in our conversations.
Rodesk’s international mindset was soon to direct its gaze beyond Cologne, however. On December 9, 2016, Tom, Jasper de Kroon, and I set sail for Paris, eager to attend the local DotCSS event. We booked our Thalys tickets, found an AirBnB to crash in, and set out on a Rodesk adventure together.
Although it turned out to be a hugely educational and inspiring conference, our discovery voyage of Paris was at least equally awesome. I’m pretty sure we covered the entire city map, and my feet still ache thinking about it, but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world! Exhausted, but bursting with new energy at the same time, I headed back to Rotterdam.
The Final Days
As my account of my Rodesk experience has probably revealed by now, it’s been a blast – I have experienced some wonderful stuff over these past few years. And to be fair, ethical considerations forced me to leave out some of the best bits. I’m also sure that right after posting this, I will be banging my head against this gargantuan desk repeatedly, simply because I’ve forgotten – or repressed – certain events. Oh, well. To be fair, there’s no avoiding some omissions, considering that 99% of my time spent with the guys and gals of the Rodesk Tribe consisted of great moments.
You won’t be surprised, then, when I claim that I could fill dozens more pages reminiscing on all of those memories. I’m not even mentioning the treasure trove of ‘Jappiean’ proverbs chiselled forever into my brain structure here, nor the ping-pong tirades of the Campsite Boss, the eagle skills of Mr. Van Orden, Tom’s unparalleled ‘gabber’ dance routines, and let’s not forget the bone-shattering table tennis stunts I have seen Laurens pull off… Jackass is definitely for wimps!
Still, as they say, there is a time for everything, and I will have to stop rambling about my Rodesk experience at some point, so there you have it. As the sun sets on my final Rodesk day, and I slowly back away towards that impossibly claustrophobic, yet equally familiar green little elevator, there is one last thing I have to say. This is my little shout out to all the insanely cool people I have had the pleasure of meeting over my Rodesk years:
I am swollen with pride. I am fiercely proud of what we have managed to pull off here together. I am proud of all the wonderful and inspiring people I have come across. Or, to use the eloquent phrasing of Kongmeis:
Well folks, let me tell you something. I may not be a genuine, true-blood, home-grown Rotterdam citizen, but nonetheless:
I am ‘groos’! Groos to be part of the magnificent and ever-swelling tide of User Happiness that is the Rodesk Tribe. Ich bin ein Rodesker!