Juan de Paco – Toolset lead developer

September 8, 2016

juan2Does this quote from a recent Toolset Development tech report remind you of someone?

“I am entangled in the middle of a task that keeps growing :-P……..  there is no clean upgrade path,….. While working on it, I rescued another request …….So I added it to the mix……And finally, we had another bug…..It all is related and entangled, but makes perfect sense.”

A colleague was prompted to say:  “He is doing some crazy Toolset Dev stuff for as long as I’ve joined the company. Crazy as in… How does he manage to do all of this? Does he have clones? Is he not sleeping? How can I be more like him? :)”

Who is he?

Juan Antonio de Paco Moreno! Such an aristocratic name – where does it come from? Tell us about yourself.

Juan Antonio comes from my father. All I know is that de Paco Moreno means Paco the Black-haired. So somewhere in my family’s history I must have had a dark haired ancestor!

I, myself, was born in a not so small city in the southeastern corner of Spain, called Murcia. Murcia was founded in the early 9th century by the Emir of Cordoba, although the name goes as far back as Roman times. The last Muslim empire ruled southern Spain until the middle of the 13th century. Murcia is known to be a quite hot place, with hardly any rain during the whole year. And, indeed, it is having a share in the desertification of the country. Paradoxically, it is also known as “the orchard of Spain”, due to the efficient system we developed for water preservation.

When I was just one year old, we moved north to Catalonia. We spent 9 years there, and then we returned to Murcia, where we settled in a small town called Las Torres de Cotillas 20 km away from the center of Murcia. I continued living there for 13 years. I began a degree in pure Mathematics, and I almost managed to complete it, but some personal issues walked me out of the University, perhaps prematurely.

You are living now in Madrid.  How did this come to be?

Quite unexpectedly, I met a girl called Gloria and in no time at all I moved to live with her in Madrid – literally, two months after we first met! Madrid is Spain’s capital city, so it is big, full of things to see, but also welcoming. Madrid prides itself as it builds and blends with people coming from many places around the world to make the city their home.

It is hot in summer, but not too cold in winter. Living downtown, the noise and dirt of any big city mixes with Madrid’s rich culture.  We have some of the best museums in the world very close proximity to each other (Prado, Thysen, Reina Sofia), thousands of theaters, popular races held in the middle of the city and the famous festivities of each district.

After living in two small flats with just one bedroom, we are finally moving to a penthouse on the fringe of the city center, with two bedrooms and a fantastic terrace.

Speaking personally, my girlfriend and her parents have been a positive influence on my vision of the world and on family culture. My own side of the family has not always enjoyed easy times; we had several problems with my father that sadly escalated. Gloria brought me models and roles I never had before and which I needed so badly. Being teachers, her parents’ sense of community, efficiency and public welfare mixed with their steady and calm personalities influenced me. I used to be resolute but messy when working and even when at home. Definitely, I was not always the most composed person when under stress. Now things are much better – both in our personal lives and professionally.

We enjoy long walks in the open green spaces we have around here – Madrid Río and the Retiro park are just two examples. We have a small wire haired dachshund named Tuna, and she is lovely. On weekends, we usually go and visit the family. My side of it is quite far away from us, so we go primarily to my girlfriend’s parents’ house, in Salamanca. It is a nice, small, restful city.

How long have you been working with OTGS now?

I joined OnThGoSystems on December 2012, and it feels like a complete lifetime already.

Before, I was freelancing finding my own clients, but that did not pay all my bills. When I was much younger, as a 19 year old boy, I started working as a waiter and I developed a nice friendship with my boss. I continued working for him at weekends while I experimented to combine both my mind and body in different workplaces.

When I moved to Madrid on November 2012, I left my weekend job but I kept freelancing for a while. I knew we were in the middle of an economic crisis, but the right moment had come. I started to look for a new job on the street as a waiter, but at the same time for a more permanent solution by making the best use of my love for coding. Being a WordPress-focused developer meant there were at least some prospects to join a bigger project.

his dog Tuna
his dog Tuna

A month before moving, I had sent a request for the company behind WPML and an answer came at a time when I could not address it – in the middle of the change. So, a month went by and I was not that sure that answering so late was a good idea, but I did it anyway. I was lucky enough to get a response!  I was asked to complete an exam full of test cases within a timespan of a week or two, and it came as such a surprise when I was asked to start work right away!

I started working with Toolset Views, and I came face to face with a codebase I did not know and with a task which was not well-defined. I was so used to working alone that two or three times I seriously considered quitting. I wanted to escape –  I had this Impostor Syndrome hitting me hard.  But I persevered and managed to learn the codebase, complete my tasks and finally inherit the plugin as Bruce was about to move on elsewhere.

During my first days working with him, I was asked to move my working hours to match his in Australia, which meant getting up at 5am! I also had to learn to understand his Australian accent – not something easy to do when not you are used to it –  and at 6 in the morning to be honest!

As time passed, the company kept growing and we defined better roles and teams. As I was the de facto go-and-ask guy in the Toolset world by then, I became the team leader. The task is too big and complex, so eventually Riccardo joined me to help balance everything.

One thing I like to remember is that I was lucky enough as to be on the right spot at the right time. Other members of my team are just as capable, or better than me both on the technical side and for organizing things.  It reminds me always to recognize my limitations.

Can you explain to us what you do?


Besides maintaining the two plugins, Toolset Views and Toolset Maps, I share with Riccardo the team leadership.

This involves several things. First, we lead the calls to organize the work, and we have a say in moving the workforce from one project to another when needed. We organize the development cycles, coordinate QAs, and decide about techniques, and which third party libraries to use.

The most important part of being a team leader is listening, thinking and answering. We provide support and feedback for a very large number of issues. Sometimes you do a blind feedback as you cannot know everything from everywhere. Actually, sometimes not knowing precisely allows you to ask the right questions which help the developer to realize what the best solution to his problem is.

So I could summarize my position as a listener who asks questions and makes decisions, while keeping a well-balanced overview of the whole team’s state at any given time.


Coming from being a freelancer and not graduating with an engineering degree, I feel I still have a lot of technical things to learn. I was and still am a WordPress developer, so I tend to favor the WordPress API and ways. Working here at OTGS and having to make decisions, forces me out of my comfort zone and exposes me to the elements! I had to learn many new things, such as mastering JavaScript, and I plan to continue learning much more.

That is also the thing I like most about my work – learning. Sometimes I feel like I would like to have more time to learn more things, but life has its limitations.

How would you describe your daily routine?

Juan on last trip to Mallorca
Juan on last trip to Mallorca

Every day, I start by checking my inbox to see whether anything urgent is waiting for me. Although I keep a healthy count of about unread 30 items which, by the way,  I never get to manage to clear,  I can see new and important things easily. I created a complete set of Gmail labels to help me with this.  I combine this email checking with checking my calendar to see what meetings are waiting for me during the day. I also developed a series of separate calendars (personal, management, deadlines, etc) so I know what kind of events I need to deal with during the day.

After addressing those issues, I usually get from 3 to 5 pings from people in and apart from my team asking for some things related to their tasks. I provide feedback, sometimes simultaneously, to all of them, and my fingers start to dance over the keyboard :-)

At 10am, one hour after beginning my day, we have our daily meeting. As we tend to prepare week-work and even dev-circle-work in advance, we don’t usually have outstanding news to share apart from the usual status of things. When the meeting is over, further questions usually come privately or in order to follow up on something we discussed.

At about 10.30 or 11.00  I finally have time to tackle my own tasks. I usually reserve for myself the larger complex tasks having lots of implications on other parts of the code and possibly causing side effects elsewhere. These tasks usually last for a week or so. I have lunch quite late at 3pm or so, and then I try to complete the ticket I am working on. I usually get another round of private pings in the afternoon. One hour before closing, I review my inbox again to see whether I am missing something that can be quickly answered and then I close for the day.

What are your future plans?

I usually do not like planning too far ahead in the future, as my experience tells me things tend to change. For example, in our industry people usually switch companies too often, but I am more of a sit-and-stay-put guy.

having fun with Gloria
having fun with Gloria

On the professional side, I would like to stay with OnTheGoSystems for a very long time to come. Perhaps switching positions inside the company and doing something new in the future is a possibility. However, I would not like to move too far from the coding itself. I would like to improve in managing people. I also have a thing for support, as I like to interact with people and solve their problems.

On the personal side, Gloria and I would like to have a baby! We are both in the second half of our 30s, so we should not delay this much longer. We would also love to buy a small house in a small town in the mountains, or by the beach, in the north of Spain. We never decided whether we wanted to buy something in Madrid or not, but I tend to believe that living in the city is something you do for only a while in your life.

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