Holger Dörner

From Joystick to Keyboard

How to become a professional Developer – via detours. A former crane operator who became physically handicapped is now making his way into software engineering.

Written by Holger Dörner | Wednesday, 26th of June 2019

Sometimes, paths in life change in a way you wouldn’t expect.  The fact that this sentence holds some truth in it, is something, that I could experience myself.

I’ve always loved PC games, especially those with joysticks and controls. Since cranes are basically real, big, expensive toys for (more or less) grown-up children, I always wanted to operate one someday. After all, I had the chance to become a crane operator for a world leader in heavy lifting and transportation. I started as a ‘Rigger’ (someone who is responsible to ‘rig-up’ the load so that it can be safely lifted and moved by a crane) and managed to gain sufficient know-how and a positive reputation pretty fast. The last machine I put into operation had a weight of 200 tons.

The day which messed up with my future plans was after a rock concert visit with friends, I couldn’t walk because I had massive pain in my right foot. It turned out that I was suffering from nerve damage. The doctors made it clear that I could never lift my right foot like an average person again and that there was no treatment to repair this nerve. This and ‘Dystonia’ diagnosed in 2005 in my upper body (mostly in my right hand and forearm) left the doctors with no choice but to ask me to quit my profession.

Today I’m glad about the time I spent in front of the PC when I was younger. Because that’s how, besides playing, I developed some broad IT skills that are very useful today. Actually, my passion for writing code comes from the fact that I started cracking PC games just for fun and curiosity. Over the years I have learned and used many different technologies like BASIC (on an old Comodore C64 and under DOS), Assembler, C/C++, C#, Python, JavaScript, HTML/CSS and more recently Java. I learned all this without any support from my own initiative, because learning and improving is my main motivation; curiosity is my nature.

So I decided to go the road to becoming a professional software developer and went from the joystick to the keyboard.

Widas Technologie Services GmbH gave me the opportunity to complete my practical training as part of my retraining at the Mannheim branch. During my internship at Widas, I had the opportunity to get to know many new technologies, such as cluster environments, dockers, automation with Ansible, Java technologies like Spring Boot and Apache Spark. Recently, I also completed my first full-stack machine learning application to classify lyrics of songs according to their musical genre (text classification). I also learned a lot about development and communication in an agile environment, so I now have an idea of what Scrum really means.

I enjoy my time here with Team Widas very much and look forward to the tasks that lie ahead. ?

Kind wishes,

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