It’s an easy equation: great team + lots of autonomy + modern technology + cool office spaces = a happy Mobile Developer.Tim Bresseleers’ decision to get into mobile development and work on our news apps was a good call. So let’s phone in with him.
Time flies when you’re having fun - a.k.a. when you work at DPG Media. Tim is surprised by his own LinkedIn profile: nine years in and still going strong. It’s not like nothing’s changed in nine years. On the contrary. Tim has built quite a track record: from web development and backend development for De Morgen, de Volkskrant, and other brands to app development for HLN, AD, regional titles, and 7sur7.
Until a few years ago, we didn’t have in-house app development. But because we consider our apps our core business, we would rather not outsource them anymore. So that’s when the first mobile app teams came to live. Tim: “I didn’t have that much knowledge when I started my first project in app development. But I gained a lot of practice along the way, and when the project ended, I wanted to continue the journey.”
Same, same, but different
“React Native was perfect for us at the time as it’s similar to web development. So it was easy for us to get the hang of it. But over the years, we reached the limits of the technology." Also, Tim’s team merged with another app development team, and they now all work full-time on ten different apps. “We have specialized iOS Developers and Android Developers in our team, and people like me, who are more generalists and do them both.”
The team wanted to go fully native. With Swift and Swift UI for iOS and Kotlin and Jetpack Compose for Android. “Swift is the programming language from Apple and is entirely native. To build user interfaces we use Swift UI, which has many similarities to React conceptually. The same applies to Jetpack Compose.”
Autonomy to make IT happen
So a team can decide to adopt new technologies, just like that? “Well, yes, actually,” Tim grins. “We had a lot of autonomy in making that call. We were convinced that our apps would become more stable and performant if we migrated to native. Our stakeholders took our word for it, but the main challenge was finding time to do it. We couldn’t just rewrite the apps for half a year and not work on other improvements or features, but luckily we could combine it with reworking things that were already on the roadmap, like new navigation.”
One line of code at a time, the news apps are on their way to becoming fully native. And yes, it’s more time-consuming because every feature now has to be implemented on iOS and Android separately, but it saves time through fewer bugs and complaints. Tim: “My colleague Tijs has written an excellent article about our route to native if you’re interested. Check it out!"
Check, check, double check to release
Another big difference compared to web development is the release process of an app. With the web, you can basically deploy any minute you like. So if there’s a bug, you can fix it asap. With an app, you’re dependent on the release process of the App Store or Play Store. It could take at least a few hours for the store to review the app. In addition, the settings of most phones only allow downloading updates via Wi-Fi. All in all, it could take a day before a fix has found its way to the user’s device.
You can imagine that quality assurance (QA) is thus critical. The team has a QA Specialist to help them out. They continuously run automated tests. And after each demo, the entire team meets in an hour-long online test session: everyone just clicks and clicks and clicks according to our test plan to ensure it’s safe to release the update.
I like that we have a diverse team with people from different backgrounds - technically, culturally, and work-wise.
Different backgrounds, same wavelength
According to Tim, the combination of specialists and generalists works very well in a team. The experts can work on the first setup and dive into complex issues, while the others can flexibly work on and deliver a wide diversity of iOS and Android tickets. Decision-making within the team is quite easy: “We’re on the same wavelength despite all our differences. I like that we have a diverse team with people from different backgrounds - technically, culturally, and work-wise. Everyone has a different perspective, and there’s much to learn from each other.”
The team has a naturally open attitude but also works hard to keep it that way. Reminiscing, Tim thinks the COVID-19 situation brought the team closer together. Normally, they work in two separate countries, which sometimes felt like Team Netherlands and Team Belgium. But with everyone at home, the ‘imaginary’ country barriers disappeared completely.
“I haven’t experienced a team like this in my career yet. I love working here because of the team, the autonomy we have, the modern technology, and the cool office spaces. It’s a cliche, but we’re really making an impact. Seeing people scrolling through the news apps I’ve helped create and knowing they are used by millions of people every day is a wonderful feeling. So it’s the impact we’re making in sheer numbers and how we facilitate journalism. Just think of the elections or the press conferences during the pandemic - our work contributes to informing people.”
If Tim’s story inspires you, we’d love for you to check out our vacancies in The Netherlands or Belgium. One piece of advice from Tim: show initiative. “Nobody tells you what to do. It’s a bottom-up environment. We need people that come up with ideas and solutions.” So, show some initiative and apply!