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If you were raised on an island, you’d probably grow up with a strong urge to see the world outside it. That was the case for Ildefonso Padron. His desire to study computer science took him to his mother’s native Czech Republic, but an offhand remark he made at his first job took him even farther.
Ilde was hired as a full-stack developer at Salsita Software fresh out of Charles University in November 2018. Salsita’s interview process for developers is, to say the least, thorough. It’s divided into several phases to test a candidate’s theoretical and practical knowledge and to see how well they would fit in with Salsita’s culture. The latter would end up being Ilde’s saving grace.
Whatever you chalk it up to—nerves or just rotten luck—Ilde’s mediocre first-round interview made an impression on interviewer and Full-Stack Developer Tomy Novella. “He did poorly, which was unusual for a student of Charles University,” said Tomy. “So, I dug deeper.”
Tomy learned that his colleague David Kuboň had been the thesis opponent for Ilde when he was at university. “I had trouble finding anything to criticize in Ilde’s thesis,” said David. “And when Tomy mentioned that he was being interviewed I said, ‘wow, we need to have this guy!’”
Tomy heeded David’s words and did something he doesn’t remember doing for any other candidate: he disregarded the initial interview and gave Ilde the green light to move on to the next round of interviews. “It was the right call because Ilde’s a solid programmer with a personality that fits perfectly at Salsita,” said Tomy.
LEARNING THE ROPES
At Salsita, Ilde joined the team working for Ordamo, a UK software company that specializes in solutions for the restaurant industry. Their product range includes contact-free ordering and payment, tablet-based menus, and self-ordering kiosks.
Ordamo turned to Salsita in 2015 to help finalize the development of their initial product, a mobile app for tablet-based ordering in restaurants. What started as a six-week engagement has grown over the years into a close partnership. Salsita's technical and product skills complement Ordamo's vision and deep understanding of the restaurant industry.
When Ilde joined the Ordamo project in 2018, the team was already composed of eight Salsita staff members handling full-stack development, UI development, QA automation, project management, and DevOps. Ilde quickly took on a leading role with contributions ranging from integrating thermal printers, point of sale systems, and payment gateways.
“Since some of our conversations were getting lost in translation between Salsita, Ordamo and the respective support teams, I felt the communication between the different parties we were integrating with could be improved,” said Ilde.
A FREUDIAN SLIP
During a weekly stand-up meeting last year, Ilde made an offhand remark that would kickstart a series of unexpected events. The product was gaining traction among London restaurants and Ordamo was beefing up their on-site technical team. “Maybe one of us should go to London and help Ordamo out on the tech side,” said Ilde. “Yeah, maybe it should be you,” replied Alfred DeRose, the team’s project manager.
“After that we all started laughing,” said Ilde.
Ilde didn’t give much thought to it at the time, but after a while, that joke grew into a real possibility. A few months later Ilde approached Alfred with a well-thought-out plan to move to London to support Ordamo. “We typically do not embed engineers with a client so there were some logistics to figure out, but Ordamo also thought it was a brilliant idea,” said Alfred. It made perfect sense to him, so he set the wheels in motion to make it happen.
Ilde is a young, but extremely talented engineer and I feel very lucky to be working with him on Ordamo. It is a challenging project for a number of reasons but Ilde thrives in this kind of environment. He sees those challenges as opportunities to grow and learn. His attitude is always positive and affects everyone on the team. – Salsita Project Manager Alfred DeRose
THE BIG SMOKE
Ilde grew up in Las Palmas, the capital city of Gran Canaria island in the Canary Islands. Ilde’s mother is Czech and he would often visit Prague during the summers and occasionally stay for Christmas. “The hardest thing to get used to was the Czech mindset and real winters,” said Ilde. Moving to the Czech Republic was tough for him, but London presented new challenges.
Ilde had never been to London before he moved there and had to do everything on his own. He didn’t have the familial support he had when he moved to Prague five years before. “I had to find a flat, do all the freelance paperwork, and get my national entrance number,” said Ilde.
Moving to a city with a population almost the same size as the last country you lived in is intimidating. Ilde was smack in the center of town. “Prague was already big for me, coming from the Canary Islands,” said Ilde. “London’s a huge city , especially compared to Prague, and there’s a lot going on”
The biggest motivating factor for moving to London was to help Ordamo, so he threw himself into his work. That—along with his freelance paperwork—took up most of his time. After things settled down, he got a chance to enjoy the local sights and started to discover the vast city. His favorite part of the day was walking through The Regent’s Park to and from the office.
Ilde made the transition from Prague to London in December 2019. He didn’t know it yet, but he was about to be thrown a Koufax-esque curveball that would completely derail all his plans.
The COVID-19 outbreak and ensuing lockdown affected businesses across most industries and millions of people. To slow the spread of the disease, swift action was taken in most countries. “It wasn’t that crazy in London,” said Ilde. “The government wasn’t closing everything like Spain had done.” Ordamo, however, closed their offices and Ilde started working from home. Then things got worse.
A week into his working-at-home stint, Ilde received some bad news. Ordamo had decided to put its operations on hold. “Even though it was kind of obvious because all the restaurants were closing, it still came as a surprise,” said Ilde. After this, there was a month-long wind down process in which they focused on preparing the project for hibernation. Ilde now had some heavy options to weigh: move back to Prague, stay in London, or go somewhere else completely.
When Ilde was living in Prague he often thought about moving back home. Not to Las Palmas, but to Barcelona, where his girlfriend and a lot of his high school friends currently reside. “Moving back to Barcelona was a long-term goal,” Ilde said. “All my friends are there and it’s closer to my family.” He initially wanted to make the move two to three years after he got to London, but then the COVID-19 outbreak happened. So, like before, he took a chance and moved on.
Ilde narrowed his choices down to two: move back to Prague and continue working at Salsita or move to Barcelona and find a new job. Salsita CEO Matthew Gertner and Alfred proposed an unexpected third option: move to Barcelona but continue to work for Salsita. "We don't usually employ remote developers, but Ilde was already part of the team and a great contributor," explained Matthew. "So I decided to make an exception to our normal policy."
A CHANGE OF SCREEN
With Ordamo on hold, Matt and Alfred told Ilde he could join another project team. “I was excited to be working on a new project because I had only worked on Ordamo,” said Ilde. “This transition from Ordamo happened while I was moving from London to Barcelona. It was hectic.” Ilde was provided with all the necessary hardware for his new role and he was looking forward to working with some new technologies.
On top of uprooting himself again in the midst of a global pandemic, Ilde was back to battling bureaucracy for the Spanish government. “Now I had to get my papers done for Spain, which included a certification for moving during the outbreak,” said Ilde. “I also needed a certificate from Salsita stating that I would officially be working in Spain.” Moving from one country to another while starting a new job isn’t an easy thing to get used to. Ilde thought he had seen it all, but the changes kept coming.
Ten days after Ilde arrived in Barcelona, Alfred gave him some unexpected news about Ordamo: they were reopening. Ordamo had decided to focus on a new product: a contactless app for customers to use on their phones to order food in restaurants. The point being to minimize person-to-person contact and help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
The new web app would allow customers to load the restaurant's menu on their phone, order food, and pay for it. It’s essentially an e-menu that connects to the existing Ordamo back office system implemented by Salsita. This would mean less waiter-customer communication and handling of shared menus, both explicit goals of the UK government due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Did this mean that Ilde had to move back to London?
Ilde agreed to go back to the Ordamo team. In regards to all this back and forth Ilde said, “I was excited because we were starting a new project from scratch.” Everyone agreed that moving back to London would be too much of a hassle so Ilde continued to work remotely from Barcelona.
“The normal timeline for building such an app is three to four months,” said Ilde. “However, in a complex project like this, the development takes a bit longer.” Time wasn’t on their side. The UK government had announced that restaurants would be reopening on July 4. The goal was to get the new app done by this date in a little over a month's time. Ilde and the other developers on the Ordamo team pulled 12-hour days during June.
“After a titanic effort, our core team pulled it off in time,” said Ilde. Along with that core team of developers, they got a lot of help from Salsita's UX designers and QA engineers.
HOME SWEET HOME
As of now, there are no more shake ups coming Ilde’s way. He’s still fighting to get his papers in order for the Spanish government and is looking for his own flat in Barcelona. “Getting an apartment and doing the paperwork isn’t as easy as it seems at first sight,” said Ilde.
When asked what this experience has taught him, Ilde said he now knows how to optimize his time to a great extent. Balancing your daily workload and bureaucratic hassles aren’t the most pleasant experiences, but it’s left an indelible impression on Ilde. “There's a great feeling of relief once you get through the first bump in the road and you start learning from a new culture,” said Ilde.