Who are you? Where are you from and what is your backstory?
I’m a 19-year-old entrepreneur, developer and designer from Arco, Italy. I study Computer Science at the University of Trento while working with a friend of mine on the launch of Igloo - our IoT startup - and playing the violin.
My biggest achievement so far has been my nomination for Design Innovator at the Windows Developer Awards 2018 thanks to my first app, Fluently, as well as being selected as one of the ten community leaders that Microsoft invited to their campus in Redmond in October 2018.
What made you get into programming?
I started programming at 12 because of my interest in my dad’s Arduino-based projects, I remember being particularly interested in a remotely controlled gate for our home. I went on creating a remake of Nokia’s Snake with Andrea Zanin, a friend of mine who would eventually become the co-founder of Igloo, but we ended up scrapping the project due to its huge size.
In 2016 we started thinking about our own startup, although we were just 16, and in the summer we started developing Igloo at WìtLab, a fab lab in Rovereto, Italy. In 2017 I took a break from Igloo to develop Fluently, a diary with support for digital pens which I published in the Microsoft Store, making it my first completed project.
What made you create Igloo and Fluently?
Igloo had quite a complicated development process: it started as a service to manage home devices with its own line up of compatible appliances, because I wanted to connect my Arduino-based projects to the internet, then we decided to rewrite from scratch at the end of 2016 and focus on making it compatible with devices to measure the health of the environment. In 2017 the project had a bit of an existential crisis because we weren’t sure how to place it on the market and at the end of the year we rewrote it from scratch for the third time, this time presenting it as a framework to simplify the development of Internet of Things products. We have been working on it on a daily basis ever since and we are hopeful we’ll be able to launch it by the end of 2019.
Fluently on the other hand was really straight forward to develop: I needed a diary with pen support to jot down my high school homework on my Surface Pro and I decided to build it in the summer of 2017. I put a great deal of effort in making it look polished and when I completed it, I was so proud of my work that I decided to publish it on the Microsoft Store.
What does your process for learning to code look like?
Every time I decided to learn something new I went hands-on with the code and tried experimenting with it. I believe this is the most effective way to learn because you can immediately answer all of your questions by just running the code and seeing what happens. Of course you will need to read some examples or pages from the official documentation to learn the basics syntax and concepts of the language you’re learning, but I suggest relying more on your experiments that the guides someone else wrote.
Another great way to get to know your code when you just started is trying to break it once it works to try and seeing what happens, this will allow you to better understand your future errors.
What does your process for building apps look like?
When building a new app I start by listing the features I want it to have, as it’s often easy to start adding too many features and never completing the project. This does not mean that I don’t add new features to the list once the development has started (I do, a lot), but having a complete list helps me remember what the app was supposed to be in the first place.
Then I focus on its design: I usually start by drawing some sketches of what I want the UI to be and then use Figma to design a final version.
After all of this I start writing code, usually by doing the UI first and then working on the logic, this helps me see the app as my users will see it and thus it allows me to better understand their needs.
Do you face any particular challenges when building over a period of time?
In my experience, the most challenging part in the development of an app is its last stretch. This is because there are tedious tasks and bugs that are seemingly impossible to fix that tend to pile up and it’s not easy to find the strength to complete the project. Another problem is that once your project is finished you need to publish it and you find yourself doing things that, as a developer, could be out of your comfort zone, such as working on marketing campaigns and legal documents.
The best solution to these problems is believing in your project and your skills, this was fundamental for me to understand in order to complete Fluently and ship it to the Microsoft Store.
Are you currently learning anything new?
I’m currently learning to work with Gatsby.js, I’m really liking it because having no web design experience outside React.js it is allowing me to design the Igloo presentation website really fast, using technologies I already know. That said, I still got quite a few things to learn about it, as differs from vanilla React in some ways.
I also recently added Figma to my workflow, I never used it at an advanced level before but I’m finding it to be really intuitive yet powerful, so I suggest it to anyone trying to design a UI for their website or application.
Advice for those learning to code?
If you just started coding, I think the best way to learn how to code is to start a project, no matter how small. This will help you understand how the language you’re studying works outside the official docs and will make you much more invested in what you’re doing.
To those who already know how to code I’d suggest looking for good first issues on GitHub: they usually offer small problems that require some thought to be solved but won’t take away too much of your time. Another great thing about them is that they allow you to see how big projects work.
What’s your tech stack?
What have been influential books, resources and links that have helped you?
The most influential book in my career has been “Don’t make me Think” by Steve Krug: it’s a book on UX design that played a fundamental role in shaping my way of thinking about design. The author analyzes how users interact with web pages and shows how the best design is the one that makes you think the least.
Another book I would suggest to everyone thinking about building their own brand is “Spin your tale” by Dona Sarkar. She gave it to me as a gift at the end of my visit of the Microsoft Campus and I embraced her philosophy when it comes to one’s brand. The key concept of the book is that if you don’t take steps to create a brand for yourself you like, someone else will.
Where can people learn more about you and your work?
Igloo website (still under construction): http://igloo.ooo/
Igloo on GitHub: https://github.com/IglooCloud