Developer stories - Nootan Ghimire from Kathmandu 🇳🇵

Welcome again to our latest Developer Story, this week we’re learning about Nootan Ghimire from Kathmandu, Nepal. If you’ve missed our previous conversations, this is the motivation:

Software Development is such an interesting career - from working remotely to working in a large tech hub to checking in from the beach - each person works in a wildly different way and that’s why we love it!

We wanted to know what gets devs started, what keeps them dreaming and how they work - so we asked some of our users!

Nootan's Workshape

Hi Nootan, please introduce yourself:

I'm a Software Developer and I live in Nepal, a small country between India and China.

Things are really different here, if you were to compare the development scene to the one in other countries, and I'm really glad to be sharing my insights on it.

Photo of Kathmandu

Which city (or town) are you from?

I currently live in Kathmandu, the capital. I moved here for my studies, I came from a small, rural town.
The way it works out for most people here in Nepal is that after 10th grade they move to the capital to pursue higher education, since it's a very small country and we don't have many cities to choose from.

I've studied computer engineering, but I've been working as a Developer since before starting my studies.

What do you currently do?

I'm an active volunteer and contributor in open-source communities and projects, and I also work full-time in a local company.

About that, let me clarify that the eco-system of companies here in Nepal is following the footsteps of countries often thought of as outsourcing hubs, such as the Philippines and others.
In the same way, most Nepali companies would be taking on implementations for companies abroad, with customers in the United States, Europe, Australia, etc..

The main business model of my company is to support customers from Australia and Pakistan, though we do have an in-house project on which I'm working as a PHP developer.
It's a platform that helps with school management, providing with tools that allow staff to publish exam results, track attendibility, provide real-time information about public transports, hostels, dormitories and automate everyday day tasks and communicating with students. The product is called Edufinity.

Though it's pretty safe to say that most of the revenue comes from outsourcing, and pretty much every tech company that reaches a decent size in Nepal does so thanks to business coming from abroad.

Is there a physical community in Nepal, and do you take part?

Actually, Mozilla has an official presence in Nepal, and I'm one of the local representatives. We have a phyisical communty, and we do quite a bit of work which, more than being technical, consists in collaborative translations of Software to Nepali, with the help of tools that make it easy for people to join in the process.

Mozilla Nepal logo

More Mozilla Nepal folks

Mozilla Nepal folks

I have also contributed with to the development of open-source Software, such as the Pootle localisation Software (by Translate House, a UK based company).

Which technologies do you mostly work with?

I would describe myself as a Back-End Developer, on my day job I mostly work with PHP, specifically using CakePHP as framework of choice.

But in my spare time I experiment with a variety of technologies and try to use a bit of everything, and my number one choice would be Python, though I also enjoy working with Node.js.

Python is one of the nicest languages in my perspective, and I've learned so much working with — for example, things like Interactive Debugging and Unit Testing.

Hose are the sort of good practices practices that I try to bring to my workplace, which is a bit problematic since in Nepali companies we tend to forget about standards and when I'm working a job I don't quite manage to implement these things in the workflow.

We often end up working in messy codebases, which is not ideal, but it's hard to reduce technical debt in an environment that doesn't prioritise for it.

What's the very first time your interest for development started?

The very first time I tried programming I was in 4th grade, I was in my home-town and we had a class on QBasic (a Basic DOS IDE) which we played around with a lot.

The first result that made me really happy and satisfied was when I developed a program that allowed you to express a simple application using meta code and then producing the source code for a working version.

QBasic opening screen

That was so empowering and it's what motivated me to continue learning.

The first job I had though was as a Data Entry professional, which means I would just enter data into a database, which is what I could do at the time, and while doing that job I've thought myself HTML and PHP.

I wouldn't know much about how servers worked as I would just be writing basic PHP, and I also had no internet connection, so I would just write applications in my computer hoping that someday I could deploy them and have them running in the wild.

So, occasionally I started going to internet cafes and manage to push my programs live on the web, which made me so happy.

So, without internet, how did you go about leaning?

QBasic (the language I learned first) was on our textbooks, and still is (I'n Nepal you get to learn some programming at school in 4th/5th grade).

Great, seems like Nepal has been doing well introducing programming in the school curriculum quite early!

Yes, it's cool, people learn very young and it's enough to get people out in the industry, but even if you complete your bachelor's degree people are never teased or taught about emerging technology, best practices and standards.

So I think we do a great job teaching programming and spreading tech literacy but our main challenge is about setting people up for working well with new technologies, and that's really holding us back.

Are there lots of young professionals like you, trying to push forward?

It's hard, for example at work we have a weekly event to suggest new ideas and practices to implement in our development process, though most technically impactful changes get thrown off due to the intense staff turnover (and the need to being able to hire from a pool of developers ready to fit in straight away) and the lack of interest for Software Engineering practices.

So, it's true that programming is part of the school curriculum but it must also be made fun in order to create a healthier environment, and most people seem to pick up the knowledge that's offered but not develop a solid interest for it.

Have you thought of relocating abroad?

I have, and I've been in conversations with some companies already, although when I do talk to people in more developed tech hubs, I have the feeling I need to first catch up and learn more before feeling comfortable making the jump.
So I'm open to the idea, but no luck so far.

If you had to pick another profession, what would you be doing?

All right, that's pretty hard.. Though I think I'd make a career in cooking, I love to cook!

What would the ideal job look like for you?

I'd like to work in a flat organisation structure, with a crowd easy-going people where good practices and modern technology are valued.
Also, I like the idea of a job that would allow me to travel, as I love to move around.

How do you and your colleagues usually find work / hire?

I've been hired for my first development job through recruiters that came directly to my University, and after that it's been through my personal network and word of mouth.

I'm also part of a community that we formed locally, the PHP Developers Nepal – we have a Facebook group and run regular meet-ups, and many organisations hire through our job boards / posting on our social media pages or by attending the events.

One of the talks at the PHP Developers Nepal meetup

But since the market is quite small and there's only a handful of renown companies a lot of developers would apply directly to the company they want to work for.

Tell me more about the meetups

There's around 30-50 regulars at our Kathmandu PHP meetups, which is quite a good level of attendance.

We also have a Javascript community (KTM.JS), Python meetups, Ruby groups, etc..

Meetup groups Logos

KTM.JS meetup

Python user group meetup

Ruby user group meetup

Are the talks mostly in English, and can everyone join in?

Yes, I think of course it's great to have meetups in the local language, but when it comes to technical events a good knowledge of the English language is a must, and we encourage to have the talks in English even though most attendees are local.

I don't know much about Kathmandu, tell me about the city.

Kathmandu is a relatively small city (about 50sqkm, 1 million in population, elevation 1,400m), it's very polluted but aside from that you get a great scenery and lots of very beautiful sites to visit.

People are friendly and helpful, though it's crowded as hell, and in peak hours it's hard to travel.

Photo of Kathmandu

Photo of Kathmandu

Photo of Kathmandu

How would you ideally want to find work?

The current, most popular approach is to get in touch through LinkedIn on other recruitment platforms. I've tried and like the way it displays my skills in a graph, though I think what most platforms are still not quite nailing is a way to display non-technical aspects in a profile.

For example, as a Developer, I think that could be way more emphasis on my open-source activity, as there's plenty of relevant data that doesn't get used in a recruitment context, and is very valuable.

What excites you about Software Development?

It's just a good feeling to be making something and seeing it work, it's a self-motivating passion, it's hard to describe but the idea that some bits of text that you write could have an impact on someone else's life is what makes it exciting to work.

For example, right now I'm building this Software for schools and the idea that doing my hours today and just implementing some functionality will result in a product that will be used by so many people and improve their experience and accessibility of everyday tasks is a very important part of what keeps me motivated.

What dream do you work towards?

I'm a big time open-source supporter, and I would love to be able to spend my days developing good Software and good products that have a meaningful impact, along with a passionate community.

Do you reach out and keep connected to people around the world?

Especially since I started actively contributing to Mozilla, I was always pushed to keep talking to people from all sorts of backgrounds in order to bounce ideas around and implement projects, so I managed to build a pretty good network of my own.

Rant about something!

The way people post job descriptions and ask for qualification when hiring is to an extend annoying, every job post seems to be so specific to having experience with this or that library specifically, things people could easily be trained to in a short amount of time and maybe didn't just have the chance of playing with.

I wish to see hiring more aimed towards assessing individual personalities and focus on their potential and willingness to adapt to new technologies rather than just experience with libraries and tools, which is in my opinion of minor importance.

Thank you, Nootan!

And thank you for reading - you can follow Nootan on Twitter, collaborate with him on GitHub or check out SystemCrashes.