A full-stack freelance software developer and founder of A3D Studio, Adrian Bardan, sheds light on tech life as a freelancer in Luxembourg.
Hi Adrian! Can you tell us more about what it is that you do?
I’m a software developer and founder of A3D Studio. I consider myself a freelancer, and work with 2 companies in the US. We’ve been working together for roughly 10 years now, and I focus on various projects from web technologies, mobile apps, e-commerce, internal projects, to websites for their end-clients. Of these two companies, one of them is a design company which used to be in print, but now focuses on fancier tech elements in the design world. The second company used to be a traditional advertising agency, which moved its presence online a while ago. Both companies have a portfolio of clients of various sizes and industries, from e-commerce to automotives, and everything in between. It gives me a chance to develop software for small to large scale projects, covering various fields. Of course, we experiment with different concepts, to see what works and what doesn’t.
What were you doing before you started A3D Studio and why did you take the big leap?
Before founding my own company, I was a junior working for other companies. One of them was Ipsos, where I worked on their software development, but found that I transitioned into a more senior software developer as I started working on small side projects, something a lot software developers do. It gave me a chance to explore and see what I liked doing more and further develop my skills. At the time I was younger, and could handle the stress of also working at night to complete my side projects; however, as the number of projects rose, at a certain point I had to decide if I would stay with the company, or go freelance, because you cannot keep doing both at the same time. In the end, I took the leap and since I met these two companies, it has been working really well.
I started A3D Studio with a friend of mine, but at some point we decided to part ways because he was more into branding, and headed in the direction of creating a marketing agency with links to tech development. For me, on the other hand, it has always been purely about technology.
Have you ever thought about becoming an employee at a company working from 9.00 to 18.00 again?
I’ve thought of being a regular employee, but I guess I like the flexibility of being a freelancer. Of course, sometimes it means you have to push harder especially when there are several deadlines to meet around the same time. You have big responsibilities as a freelancer, and I take them seriously. Depending on the project, there are times when I’m the main person, and have a few people working under me. On other projects, I’m one of several developers. It all depends, I usually have 2-3 projects going at the same time, some requiring more coordination, others more work, more pressure and more sleepless nights ? Like with every job, some projects are more exciting than others, and coupled with flexibility…I’m very motivated and happy working as a freelancer in this line of business.
Do you have any source of inspiration or role models, like Steve Jobs, to name one?
I don’t really have a role model, per se, I’ve read their biographies but I’m not 100% convinced, because you can’t be sure if it’s all really true or if the writer sheds the right light on these influential people. However, I’m inspired by the open community in technology because it drives development. It’s not the big companies that create proprietary software but it’s the open source companies which actually support open source software, like Google which is leading in that way, even if they have a lot of projects which aren’t public. Also Microsoft is going towards making open-source part of their projects. There are a lot of platforms where you can help others or they can help you, which is good for the community and a major source of inspiration for me.
Do you think you’re unique?
I’m not unique, but what makes me an asset to any team or company is that I take responsibility seriously, so when I have to deliver, I’m sure to deliver! Unfortunately, in the world of developers, I’ve met some who are not as serious about their responsibilities. Tech used to be a niche 20 years ago, but now, everyone’s in it and there’s a huge demand for it! The big need for tech in all industries, also means that, sometimes that the people hired to do things, don’t actually have the necessary skill set. In Romania, for example, there is a big boom because of high salaries awarded in the tech field, but many don’t have the skill level and you end up with mediocre software. Some just copy open source which is readily available, but don’t understand how it works…I studied computer science and also did a master in it, so I have the right background. Of course, it’s true that nowadays you can learn and develop software without a degree, and still do something on a superficial level. If you want to be serious though, you have to go deeper and understand how it actually works.
There are many languages in coding, how do you keep up?
Yeah, you can easily become obsolete, but I keep up-to-date as much as possible. I try and learn as many new technologies and skills as I can. It’s a continuous learning process, especially in the web area. If you work for big companies, and just code and update existing software, it’s one thing, but demand is high in modern technology and not the old ones.
Do you have a favorite type of technology to work on?
I’m a full-stack developer, so I can work on frontend and backend of software. I do prefer working on the backend, like building APIs for apps. The front is usually very time-consuming, as clients tend to very picky, especially if they are designers. Designers often want to move buttons over, even if it’s just for 1 pixel to the left. They try and want to experiment, but for me, it’s redundant work. On the back-end you build a functionality, test it, and see if it works. It also makes you think more than when you develop an interface. However, as a freelancer in my world, you have learn both to be fully operational, or at the very least understand both parts to work properly.
Any goals or special direction you plan for A3D Studio?
Well for now, I consider myself part of the teams in the US. I don’t think they are aiming to go global. At some point, we may roll out one of our internal projects, and see if they take off. If that works out we would get out of client work and focus on those projects. Currently, we’re in the trial and error stage internally. We’ll have to see, you never know!
What keeps you motivated as a freelancer in the tech field?
As a developer, I love the tech community! In terms of the companies I work with, they continue to be challenging with a healthy work-life balance. They’re very driven and forward-thinking- it’s exciting to hear new ideas you’ve never thought of and it’s a continuous cycle of development and innovation! Even if I have to push harder at times, I’m very happy with how things have been developing over the years!
Anything less pleasant about being a freelancer which you would like to share?
As a freelancer, I don’t have paid holidays- I guess that’s the worst thing! ? Of course, sometimes you have tough deadlines and work more. This also means that I always have to take my laptop with me when I go on vacation and work remotely when needed…So far I only had one holiday that was completely ruined, but otherwise, it has been quick calls and tweaking.
Any advice for our readers who are thinking of becoming a freelancer?
Specifically for the technology sector, I would say it’s very tough, maybe a few years ago it was easier. However, if you find a field that you’re good at, and it requires using tech, there is room to grow! For me, it’s difficult to have my own project or app because my expertise is solely in technology. Of course, I had contact with companies from various industries, but I don’t have internal insight on the particularities of these sectors. So if you’re good in a certain field and find a way to innovate using technology, there’s room. If you have a good idea you’ve got to try!
What are the first things that come to mind when you hear “The Office Luxembourg”?
We have a very nice community, for sure! The coworking spaces offer a pleasant environment to work from, which are spacious and quiet, so you can still get plenty of work done. And of course, The Office is very conveniently located.
So, why is it that you decide to work from The Office?
When I first came to Luxembourg roughly 3 years ago, there were not nearly as many spaces, as there are today. I actually coworked from another coworking space that was closer to my home, but they relocated and their terms changed. So for a while, I was working from home, but then I finally found The Office! I came for a visit and became a member right away. It was perfect from the start!