My working spaces over the last 7 years

Warning: this article can be quite boring for you. I really wrote it just for the sake of nostalgia and fun.

I started working as a Software Engineer in 2014. Since then, I’ve worked for companies in 4 different countries, sometimes in an office and sometimes remotely, either from my house or from some weird hostel in a tropical city in Brazil.

This is a registry of my working spaces over time.

You might find it interesting if you’re starting to pursue a career in Software Engineering.

2013~2015: Learnings and first job

Most of my learnings happened in my room. I used to live in Vila Velha, a small beach city located in the state of Espírito Santo in Brazil. Yet, my room makes it look like I used to live in an abandoned metro station in some weird suburb. I kinda liked it tho:

That was an old laptop my father had bought for him initially, but then he got sick of it and I took it for me. Same thing about the display.

The table, chair and the whiteboard in the back were leftovers after the company I was working for decided to move and give away old furniture. I got the whiteboard because I wanted to have a place to brainstorm with myself. It was extremely helpful during my first years as a Software Engineer.

I eventually would use the TV hanging in the wall as a display, but my neck didn’t like it that much. I used it mainly to watch skateboarding videos and Netflix.

My work environment was much different though.

Quite strict, very conventional, was even obliged to use a uniform just to sit in a room for 8 hours. If there was a company party in a restaurant or something and you asked for a beer, the boss would say “this is coming out of your pocket”. Once he complained because I was wearing a beanie.

(not so) fun fact: I had to promise to cut my hair in case I ever get promoted to a Software Developer role (I was a Technical Support guy at the time), which happened in a meeting room in the office when my then manager shaved my hair with a machine, which I still have on video.

The challenges were nice though. The product itself had some interesting features and building it and the tools around it taught me a lot.

Here is a quick timelapse of the work environment recorded by the Tech Lead of the team back then:

Kinda liked this gif

Here is a closeup of my part of that desk in specific:

Using a Mac keyboard with windows is awkward. Also, the scrolling wheel on that mouse was painful. Happy to see that the younger me was studying often though, by the pile of books on the side.

A fun fact is that we also had a TV with in-house incident management software running, and some times I had to fix issues on it.

This was a Delphi XE3 application and responsiveness wasn’t really a thing for these types of apps, so I had to literally get the TV and work with it:

I was cringing, it was fun tho

At some point here, my father bought me a used Macbook Air as a gift. With 4GB of ram, it was (surprisingly) a good machine for my work.

2015~2017: Second job as a consultant

After a while, I ended up leaving my previous job to work as a Consultant in a Software House in Vitoria.

This company had what we call “Baia” in Brazilian Portuguese. This one eventually was mine:

There is the Macbook Air I spoke about, nice eh? I find it quite surprising I didn’t care about how destroyed this chair was tho

I’m going to always refer to this working space as a “Baia” through this article. Bear with me.

This environment was “ok-ish”. Met some smart people there, worked on some nice projects, had a good relationship with my manager and my peers. They also had nice parties, and unlike the previous job: in this one, we were allowed to drink in the office (yay!)

Me happy in 2016, eating good Brazilian food and slightly drunk

Sometimes, I would try different things on my “Baia”, from turning my display so I could pretend it was a vertical display, to even preparing my own kanban board on the “Baia” wall.

At home, things were fun. A lot of my best friends ended up working as developers as well, so sometimes they would visit me and we would work together on a pet project or just hack into something. This is how it looked like:

My roommates did complain sometimes. (But look how many books!)

Sometimes I would just be too lazy to go to the office, and thanks god my manager trusted me enough to allow me a few days to work from home, so I could enjoy moments like the following:

Enjoying some cuddles from Pandora while working from the balcony was a thing already.

But the best of all perks was when I had to take the projector home after presentations in customers and then I would be able to use it as my main screen:

i3wm does look nice on those

01/2017~04/2017: Third job, a very short one

After a while, I moved to another Software House. This one was called ITIX. A bit bigger, with even smarter people and new things for me to learn. I liked it there so much that I still visit this company HQ when I visit Vila Velha.

Anyway, this was my desk when I joined:

The view of the window shows the beach of Vitoria and the 3rd bridge, that connects Vitoria and Vila Velha. Quite astonishing.

At home, I ended up buying myself a used iMac. The thing is that this company was a huge Microsoft Software House. So we used everything Microsoft would tell us to use: Azure, VSTS, SQL Server, Visual Studio, Typescript, .NET Core (even though it was still in beta), and of course, Windows 10.

So this is what happened:

People made a lot of jokes about this, some involving Steve Jobs spirit haunting me

04/2017~11/2017: First remote and international job

Even though things were great in my previous job, I was pursuing a life outside of my country and different working experiences. So I spent a considerable amount of time applying to jobs abroad all meanwhile working to local companies to develop experience.

One day in March 2017, I received a message on Linkedin from a Portuguese fella, which was the owner of a hosting provider based in Lisbon called Flexi and wanted to offer me a job. I replied saying I was interested and so we started the interview process.

To my own surprise, I actually got the job, so then I started working full time from home. Because of the timezone difference, I’d often wake up around 4:30 am to get the beginning of the day in Portugal and sync when needed. This is how it looked like:

Sometimes I’d get sick of working from home, so I’d go to coffee shops, coworking spaces and sometimes even travelling. Here is how it looked like:

At some point, I decided to pay for my trip to Lisbon to meet my coworkers, get to know the company building and all of that. It was an amazing experience as I could work from different Airbnb’s as well.

When I arrived in Portugal, I stayed in a coworker apartment during my first week, as he has offered. After that, my office during a week was a quiet old Portuguese apartment in Barreiro, on the other side of the Tejo river, very close to Lisbon. The style was old but was quite cosy during the nights.

A while after I came back, I started experimenting with an iPad as an external screen. Since this was for Linux, I ended up using VNC for this with a virtual display in X, and it worked quite nicely:

This was all nice as a moving setup, but I also had that iMac that I bought a while ago, so in the end, this was my actual office setup:

I’d lock myself in this room with headsets for 4 hours so my roommates wouldn’t bother me during working hours.

11/2017~02/2018: Relocation to Amsterdam

After ~200 job interviews abroad since 2015 to almost every European country, I finally managed to find a company that was willing to relocate me from Vila Velha to Amsterdam.

At this point, I had never been to The Netherlands before and I never even heard a single word of Dutch in my life. Still better than living anywhere in Brazil, so I said yes without even thinking twice. My first day was scheduled for 02/02/2018.

Then we started the relocation process. During this time, something fun happened in November 2017: my employer ran out of seeding money for the project I was hired for. So I am without any source of income during my last 3 months in Brazil.

Luckily, I had some savings and that was enough for me to prepare everything I needed to move out of Brazil. During this time I travelled a lot between Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Espirito Santo to get my MVV visa, get all the documents prepared and say goodbye to family members.

My flight to Amsterdam was scheduled to depart on 27/01/2018.

02/2018~11/2019: First job abroad

At this moment I am already in Amsterdam, living in a temporary space that the company got me for my first month and looking for a definitive living place somewhere in the city in my free time.

The company is called Travix and has offices in the UP Building, located very close to the Centrum of Amsterdam with an awesome view of the IJ river. Being very international, they had ~60 nationalities and ~500 employees in the UP building, spread through 3 floors.

When I joined, I was hired as a Full-stack Developer, and my first team was the Backoffice team, responsible for the fulfilling and delivery of flight tickets. This was my first desk for a couple of months:

This time turning the display on the vertical was an actual feature, not a hack like previously.

The setup in the Travix office was that every table located at the windows would be a standup desk. I wanted to try one so badly, so it didn’t take much time for me to eventually get one for me and ask for another display as well:

At this point, I already got my first apartment in Amsterdam and am settled. Located in Bos en Lommer, not so far but not so close to the job, but good enough for a start. I got a furnished rented apartment so I wouldn’t have to think much about furniture during my first years.

Sometimes I would also work from home, so again, very privileged to be able to receive visitors in my garden like this:

You probably won’t even notice that I am working on a VM here. Our frontend couldn’t be built on Windows, and that is probably for the best.

After a year of working in this company, a lot happened:

  • I got promoted from Full-stack Developer to a Software Engineer
  • I moved from the Backoffice team to the Payments team
  • I started being more active in frontend contributions
  • I stopped working with .NET API’s to focus on integrating new payment methods in our frontend applications

At this point, I was able to get rid of Windows and started using Xubuntu with i3wm (again). Yet, some payment methods like Apple Pay demanded me to have an actual Apple Device. It started with an iPhone, but eventually, I got a Macbook from them, so my desk was looking like this during the transition:

so. many. screens.

That Macbook didn’t cut it though because I needed a device with Touch ID to implement and test these features, so at some point, I got a newer device.

Sometimes I had to travel for work as well. During my tenure in this company, I got working trips to France, Romania and Germany. I was once supposed to go to Belarus as well, but my passport needed to be renewed, so that didn’t happen.

But I do have some pictures of me working from Berlin though!

Yet, at this point, my situation at this company is not very nice. I am getting less engaged in the challenges this company can offer me, certain things about management in the company were frustrating me, so I started looking for a new gig.

Also good to note that at this point: I am in love with Amsterdam and want to settle here for good. Coming back to Brazil is more like a nightmare than a possibility. I visited many countries by now and I don’t feel the same way I do in Amsterdam anywhere else.

11/2019 ~ 02/2020: Second job in Amsterdam

After my search and a lot of discussions, I got a new job in a startup in Amsterdam called Framer as a Senior Product Engineer. Framer is an astonishing product with a very nice community around it, very smart folks and some ex-coworkers from Travix working there. You could feel a lot of ambition and drive in everyone working there. Quite smaller than Travix, ~100 folks in a very charming building located in Singel, one of the most beautiful areas in the very Centrum of Amsterdam (for me)

Public photo from Framer office from some weird recruiting website; This room was called the Bubble room because of the lights with the Bubble format.

The company offered an amazing working environment and hardware. This is how my desk looked like when I joined:

I loved this standup desk for its simplicity. The monitors were 4k and 5k respectively. Amazing.

Probably the best hardware a company has ever given me. I also received flowers when joining the company.

The laptop there didn't cut it, though. It had only 8GB of RAM and an i5 processor. I had to get that upgraded at some point because running the dev environment for Framer was quite heavy. So at some point, they've got me a bleeding-edge Macbook Pro 2019 with (an ESC key!) 32GB of RAM and a wonderful i9 processor.

Unfortunately, it wasn't long until I got an offer from Netflix to join as a Solutions Developer. I left Framer after 4 months in the company and went to LA to start my onboarding at Netflix in February 2020.

02/2020 ~ Currently: Third job abroad, working at FAANG

So I got a job at Netflix and was stoked. I got a trip to LA, stayed in Hollywood for a month and went walking every day to the company headquarters in Los Angeles. Was my first and only time in the US at the time of this writing. Here are pictures of the building and main entrance:

As I was hired to work in Amsterdam, I used a temporary table in the LA office together with my teammates that are based there:

After the onboarding was over and with COVID19 starting to hit in LA, I came back to Amsterdam in March and went for a few days to the old Netflix Office in Amsterdam.

My table in older Netflix Office in Amsterdam

After this picture, COVID got very intense and working from the office was discouraged, so we all switched to working from home.

This required me to be a bit more creative in my setup. Inspired by my previous Framer table, I've got a standing desk similar to the one they offered:

This is that same display from my first place here in Amsterdam.

This display had a very bad resolution. You could see the pixels on it, and after a few years with it, I decided it was time for a new one. So I got this one wide LG 34":

After a while, I thought some monitor arms would be nice here. So I've got a double monitor arm that came with support for my laptop as well. This was the result:

It looked nice and it worked well, but this white table was literally bending with the weight, so this triggered me to buy a better table. So I've got this IKEA Idasen desk which made things much better:

A very nice and sturdy table. Can recommend it. It held my heavy setup well and gave some space for my girlfriend to use the table as well.

After that, I stuck to this setup for a while. It was simple, worked well, things were nice.

Then December 2020 arrived, and I decided it was time for me to try split ergonomic keyboards and bought a Moonlander MK1:

I love this keyboard. The learning curve was a bit steep but it paid off very well. I basically can't go back to using normal keyboards anymore. (check my layout if you're interested)

But this now brought flaws to my table, one of them being that the keyboard case was too small and I couldn't really use my Moonlander there to its full extent because of discomfort, my fingers would hit the table when using the number row.

To change things: in January 2021, my LG display ended up with a broken USB C port, which made me buy another display, this time a Dell 34" UltraHD.

This monitor is quite heavy, so I stopped using the monitor arms and also the standing desk, which made my table quite clean:

I've got very happy with this setup, to be honest, but at this moment: I'm addicted to split keyboards and am keen to learn more about them.

After 2 months of using the Moonlander, even though I loved it, I wanted to experiment with a keyboard with a 40% layout and smaller thumb cluster, and then I decided to try the Corne Keyboard. I bought a kit and all the tooling I'd need to assemble one:

I've decided to build it as a 3x6 keyboard, as the last column is handy for modifier keys and other types of keys I use often. After an entire weekend of soldering and troubleshooting both hardware and firmware issues, I got my keyboard working:

Then I've got some wrist rests for it and used a bigger TRRS cable to enable a better posture:

Nowadays, this small keyboard is my daily driver for everything: from typing to coding. The small layout conquered me fast. (check my layout for crkbd if you're interested)

As I share the table with my girlfriend, sometimes (only if she's not using it) I borrow (steal) her display, so this is a common thing to happen nowadays:

Last but not least, in March 2021 I moved to my very first owned apartment in Amsterdam. Now that we got settled, this is my current working space:

This is where I'm finishing to write this article hehe

Recently, I went to the Netflix Amsterdam office in search of some alone time to focus, and so I managed to take some updated pictures on how it looks like:

Overall: I'm very happy with my current setup. I think I learned a lot on the last few years about my own ways to use a computer for programming and I'm still learning. I've been through many operating systems, programming languages and cultures. This makes me proud, and thankfully: I'm pretty sure I still have a lot to learn and try out.

If you made to the end of this article: thank you for reading! I hope you've enjoyed learning a bit more of my trajectory and all the weird places from which I worked throughout my career. Claps are very much appreciated.

See you next time!

Armando is a Brazilian Software Engineer based in Amsterdam, currently working at Netflix as a Senior Software Engineer in EMEA. https://armand1m.dev

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