“Programming is like communicating, but in a different language”

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Working in tech, but also a little bit in healthcare: NL News of the Week Marianne van Roosmalen does it. She is a front-end software engineer at BeterDichtbij, a communication platform on which healthcare providers and patients can easily get in touch with each other. As a software engineer, you ensure that there are no bugs in the application and that new options are continually added to the platform. Marianne has completely found her way in it and you wouldn’t expect that straight away.

From communication to programming

“I come from the communications field. I studied communication management, but I noticed that I communicated very differently. During exams I tried to get to the core and give short answers, while you had to write down a lot about what you knew. Programming is precisely about getting at that core: you go back from what someone wants to the basics. After communications, I took some IT courses and worked as a communications employee and IT manager, but I never learned to program. Ultimately, after years of work experience, I decided to do a boot camp for full stack developer at Novi University of Applied Sciences.”

A very good idea from Marianne, because then she completely noticed that this was the right direction. She worked for her husband’s company for eleven years, where she created an app, among other things, but she missed working in a team. “I didn’t have anything specific to healthcare, but I did want to work at a company that makes a social impact. Participate in something that matters.” Ultimately, Marianne came across BeterDichtbij on a job site. “I also had an interview at a web agency that did more commercial work, but I really wanted to work on a product with which you can contribute to society.” The fact that it was also half an hour of cycling made it extra attractive.

“I worked with my husband for 11 years. First as a communications officer, I made designs for logos and banners and then I built a webshop. I really liked that. After studying to become a full stack developer, I built a cable configurator: a quotation system for cable assemblies with which you can put together a kind of pick-and-mix cable: exactly which type of cable, length, which reel: all the information for this was in my head. man and was in various catalogues, but now they have a complete quotation with just a few clicks.” It is of course quite intense to start doing something different after working with your husband for so long. How did that get home?

Away from her husband: in terms of work

“He saw that it would be fun for me to work for another company. I started working for him for practical reasons because it allowed me to manage my own time, which was useful with the children, because they come first. However, I wanted to learn to program in a team. If you, as a developer, cannot work well together in a team, you will miss an important part of the work. But you can’t do that if you develop everything alone. I did use a platform where you could bring in people who could then review your code, but I felt that I wanted to do this in a company with a team of people.”

She is fortunate that BeterDichtbij also handles times flexibly. “There is a lot of work from home and you can organize your time very flexibly to suit your private situation. I am still very happy with my choice. I’ve been working here for almost two years now and I still have so much to learn as a front-end developer. However, I am also developing somewhat more broadly: I do scrum master tasks for another team. I am a developer in the front-end team of the platform and am a scrum master in the mobile team that develops the apps.”

However, it is not just the learning that makes her so happy. “I think programming is magical. You create something that helps healthcare providers in their work process, you really make an impact. And create that anyway: you start with a black screen, empty, then you put text in it and then a button, for example, emerges from it. It’s making something out of nothing.” At the same time, Marianne doesn’t consider herself to be very deeply involved in tech, which is quite funny when you interview her for NL News of the Week.

To tech or not to tech?

“It’s not super technical: if my computer breaks down, I also have to ask someone else what to do. I can build something with software, but I have no idea how to set up routers. When I think of tech, I often think of the hardware side, more helpdesk-like IT.” Fortunately, we can make it clear to her that she really works in tech, because she also has very good advice for ladies who also want to go into development. “My pitfall is that development always happens so quickly and that you always have the feeling that you are behind and not up to date. But that is not possible at all: there is so much to know and it is always changing.”

“If you see a vacancy, apply for it: don’t see it as a barrier if you see something in the vacancy, you will learn it along the way. If you’ve never worked with something before, just try it. I think that all developers are eager to learn and have perseverance: that will get you there.” And, what is it like for Marianne to work in a tech team? “Very nice. There is a friendly, relaxed atmosphere, everyone helps, the lines of communication are short. At first I thought tech people were real computer nerds who couldn’t talk about anything else, but that’s not the case. Everyone is very involved and interested in each other and working with young people is really fun. We have drinks in the neighborhood every month and colleagues also organize outings such as padel and climbing: really fun.”


Before the corona outbreak, Marianne was teaching computational thinking to children in primary schools, but then the virus came and external students were banned from schools. “Moreover, you are at school for 1 or 2 hours and then your work is done. I wanted to learn to program myself. I am still active with CoderDojo, where we teach children to program in Scratch. It is fun to teach children this skill through play. Because yes, programming is actually communicating, but in a different language.” And that’s where Marianne hits the nail on the head: programming is not such a far-fetched show for someone who once studied communications. And therefore also very tech.

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