Living with 10MBit internet connection and no running water – the priorities of a Views plugin developer

August 7, 2015

Jan loves nature

Passionate about hiking and code refactoring at the same time. If you are following our news you might have noticed that developers working here have unique combinations of interests.

However there is something extraordinary about Jan Štětina, the Views plugin developer from Czech Republic. He is completing his master’s thesis, lives in three different places during the year and proves that as long as there is a good internet connection, having no running water is a mere marginal issue!

Find out more about this seemingly shy guy in Helena’s interview.

Tell us something about yourself

My name is Jan Štětina and I come from the Czech Republic. Currently I am preparing my master’s thesis so for now I am working part-time for OTGS.

I was born in Prague where my parents and younger sister still live. My father works in the chemistry department of Charles University and my mother is the chief editor of a science magazine.

Family cottage where Jan likes to spend his time

I myself divide my time between three different places. First in Prague, where I have a small but pleasant flat. The second place is a small town in Moravia, where I keep company with my grandfather (who is living alone) as much as possible. Finally, there’s a family cottage hidden in a secluded place in western Bohemia, that is now my responsibility.You have likely seen the photos I posted on our G+ community. The cottage is just a 15 minute walk to the village where I can shop for groceries and other necessities. If you visit you will also see the priorities an IT person has: there is a 10MBit internet connection but no running water. :-) I need to fetch it from a well at the bottom of the hill! I live there alone, but my friends are frequent visitors.

At the moment the roof of the cottage needs repairing to stop the rain coming in! So between this repair job, travelling between places and working on my thesis I don’t have much free time. But I am passionate about nature and hiking. With a group of about 10 friends we go walking for a week at a time, sleeping in the woods. Our goal is to trek all along the Czech borders in stages, a distance of about 2000 km. We’ll do it eventually!

You are still a student, so how did you begin working with OTGS?

Until I complete my thesis I am, strictly speaking, a student. I became interested in WordPress very long time ago, when I began my own blog. I also enjoyed helping others with their sites and built several small-scale WordPress sites for pay. Getting a job at OTGS was a very lucky double coincidence. Last year I spontaneously decided to attend WordCamp Prague, and there I met Agnes. She was making a WPML presentation and posed some test questions. The prize for the winner was a WPML license. I am quite shy by nature but nevertheless I raised my hand to answer and was noticed by Agnes. She passed on my contact information and I was sent an e-mail asking for my CV.

That summer, though, there were quite a few complications to overcome. I was to undergo some surgery and the timing was not good. It was not until November that I eventually started.

I admit I don’t have much technical knowledge but I am really interested in what you do in your job.

Example of code refactoring handled by Jan
Example of code refactoring handled by Jan

I am a developer working under Juan’s leadership in the Toolset team, mostly on the Views plugin – I find and fix bugs, implement new features, and basically help wherever it is needed. I would say this is a stable, “standard” type of workload for a developer, but I appreciate the calm, organized and effective way we’re doing things here. From my previous experience and from what I hear from my developer friends I know that this is something to put a high value on.

One part of the job I really enjoy is refactoring. That means improving the not-so-nice parts of the source code, sometimes written by people who are perhaps no longer working in the company, and which is difficult to read and understand. The WordPress motto “Code is poetry” is not just an empty phrase for me. Although the work I do is not really that obvious or in the limelight, helping to improve the Views code base gives me a sense of satisfaction, makes for better maintenance in the future and, very importantly in the long-term perspective, happier clients.

What knowledge is required by someone interested in this kind of job?

I would say a sound knowledge of the languages we use: PHP, JavaScript and CSS. Of course, the ability to write good, well-structured, understandable and maintainable code is essential.

One also needs to be very familiar with the particular tools we’re using, starting with WordPress itself, including various JavaScript libraries and such. Last but not least, it is important to know the product you’re working on inside out, but that comes with time and experience. Even after 9 months at OTGS I still have a lot to learn.

Last but not least, a good general knowledge of computer science is very important, but this cannot be summarized that easily, I’m afraid.

Describe a normal day in Views

First thing we have a daily team meeting. All the Toolset team participates and sometimes Denise, Amir, Bigul or just anybody who needs to talk with us. We review our previous day’s work and lay our plans for the day. We discuss any issues that may have arisen. Toolset plugins are meant to work together and in some aspects they are dependent on each other. Because of this, we often need to make a joint release of new versions of multiple plugins simultaneously. This can pose an organizational challenge so it is important for everybody in the team to have a broad knowledge of what is going on.

Jan's office
Jan’s office

Recently this proved to be essential: the WordPress 4.2.3 “security update” had broken some Views functionality even on production sites. The whole team (especially Juan and also Bruce, who came to help us from the WPML team) worked very hard to fix it.

After the meeting. I usually start working on tickets coming from YouTrack.There is always so much to do!

Days and often weeks of coding are followed by a short period of testing to make sure all is still working normally as before. Usually we switch from our “home” plugin to a different one in order to test less familiar features through a new pair of eyes. For example, I could be testing Types, CRED or Layouts while Francesco, Riccardo, Marcin or Gen do the tests in Views.

Any plans for the future?

Jan resting while hiking
Jan resting while hiking

My absolute priority now is to finish my thesis before the end of August and so I will be absent for the month because of this. At this point I want to express my gratitude for the understanding and cooperation I received from Laura and Juan in permitting it.

In addition, the cottage desperately needs my attention, and it’s going to get it as soon as possible. It is a big, old house but it was not maintained at all for several years. This is going to be a huge challenge for me, as I grew up in the city and I’m inexperienced in this kind of venture!

Also, my health issues need to be cared for. I plan to start exercising more and resume tai-chi lessons which I had to stop because of the surgery last year. Tai-chi not just a great activity for improving physical health. Originally it was developed for self-defense, but its self-paced system of gentle physical exercise and deep breathing is recommended to reduce stress and improve overall health, especially when combined with a little bit of eastern philosophy. I find it very calming, which is important in my world. :)

Oh, I could go on and on about my plans! The list is endless. But one of the most important things – I hope that someday I will find someone to share all this with…

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