Interview: Isaac Riquelme

Intro

I had the privilege to meet Isaac, while working for Greenhouse Innovation, a young startup in the heart of Amsterdam. 

Isaac

Before this interview I knew he is from Spain, he listens to good music and he likes good beer.  Little did I know what an interesting story he has to share …

The Challenge 

In this interview you will find out how a social anthropologist learned to code all by himself and landed a job building Android apps for a startup. #selfDetermination

Who is Isaac?

Isaac is a self-taught Android developer with a background in social anthropology.

He was born and raised in Madrid but after his studies he traveled the world, working on social projects and even publishing a paper about his work.

At one point he decided it was time for a change so he started coding. Soon after, he got a job as Android developer in Amsterdam.

What project did he work on?

Isaac had an idea to create a simple Android app that would allow Spanish-speaking expats to read news from their home country. If you look at it the app is quite simple, but considering he learned everything while coding it, it seems pretty impressive.

You can take a look at his app here: Noticias Latinas.

The Interview

For this interview I met Isaac in a noisy bar and recorded our 1 hour-long discussion. Below you can find the summary of our chat. I tried to transcribe as much as possible of the conversation.

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Me: How did you come up with this idea?(What, when, how, where or who influenced you?)

Isaac:
It all started when I joined a programming course. I liked it but realized that if I really wanted to learn how to code I need to build my own product. I wanted to do something free and useful.

I think that my background influenced my choice. Being an anthropologist, living in Latin America and doing projects with emigrants/expats, I noticed people need to connect with their home country or city.

Also I noticed that most news available through news agency were quite broad and talking about the broad economic situation. I wanted to build an app that would inform people what happened in their own neighbourhood. Just pick a country and automatically get the news in a mobile friendly format.

I wouldn’t say this was a problem in the real sense of the word or I don’t see it as a problem. I just wanted to help Spanish-speaking people feel more connected to their homes.

Me: I bet you had a lot of ideas. What made you choose this particular project?

Isaac:
Being my first project I was scared to start something and not finish it, so I wanted something that would be easy enough to finish.

However, I learned that once you start, you also start growing and you learn more by the day. Big tasks like sorting the news in reverse order or selecting if you want to download the news over Wi-Fi or Internet become small tasks.

Additionally, I also did a research and I saw that there are a lot of Spanish-speaking people abroad and thus there is an existent market for an app like this.

Me: So who developed the app and why?

Isaac:
I did everything from scratch and this was the first time I ever built an app.

I did this all by myself because I was trying to make a shift in my career. I remember thinking that there are many people taking courses and graduating from university but when you go and apply for a job people want to see what have you done. So I wanted to be able to show them the app and say look this is what I did. With a background in social sciences this was even more relevant in my case.

However, I did have a good friend to ask when I got stuck.  There were moments that I didn’t know where to go. When you hit a wall and spend a week on a problem it helps to have someone to ask for help.

As a programmer you develop a way of looking at things. When people study for 5 years in university they slowly develop it, but for me it was difficult at the beginning.

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