July 31, 2012

Student in the Spotlight: Andy Bas

Andy Bas played bass in high school and thought he'd be a musician. When that didn't work out, he tried many paths, including a police academy, and accounting, as well as traveling his home country, Canada. When he became fed up with being told what to do in retail, he decided to become his own boss in the online space. The price of contracting development got to be too high, and so he decided to teach himself to code instead.


####So what were you interested in in high school?

High school was nothing computer science-related at all. I was actually thinking about going to school to be a musician so it was totally different. I wasn't even into sports or anything; I was just playing music and kind of almost a music nerd in high school. And basically that fell off right after high school.

I played bass. I played in a couple different bands, a jazz band and a classical band.

####Cool. And then so what'd you think you were going to do coming out of high school?

I was kind of all over the place. I went to school for a year into a program to become a police officer, then I thought I was going into accounting, and then I kind of moved all across the country. The only thing that stayed constant throughout was the thought that, one day, I want to eventually run my own business.


So whatever I was doing, I was trying to kind of learn or take up to help me do that at some point in my life. But other than that I really had no idea what to do.

####That's cool. So you had a constant there somewhere.

Yeah. That little bit was always constant but what I was doing currently was always changing.

####So I guess running was a big part of your life. Do you want to tell me about that?

Definitely. I got into it in 2009 thinking I was going to run a marathon and all this fun stuff. Right away, I realized I was able to get pretty quick — pretty fit, pretty fast. Got to the point where I was decently competitive within Alberta and then got the injuries and it's pretty much been a nonstop battle with the injuries. But slowly getting faster and fitter and it's not as much the only thing I do anymore.

####Cool. So just one day you started doing it.

I'm a pretty scrawny guy and I had this goal back then that I was going to get big weightlifting and everything. Was doing that with a friend. Then it finally clicked that I'm not really built to be a — to put on muscle like that, to get really big. Then I got into running. That's when I realized that's where I can actually excel at something.

####Where did that take you, competitive running? You did compete with it.

Yeah, yeah. Actually, it got me a year of school almost entirely free in Alberta.

####Nice. So you've been involved in doing development for a while now. So how long have you been involved in it and how did you get started?

Yeah. Definitely. I think back maybe a couple years ago now, or coming up to a couple years, I was working retail and I couldn't stand it. I just wanted to not have to go somewhere to work every day and set my own hours.

So I got into affiliate marketing a little bit and, from there, I started building simple HTML/CSS landing pages. Then I started doing web development and some marketing, some Facebook fan pages and that where I would hire out contractors from India, Nepal or wherever — Sri Lanka. From there, they were doing a lot of custom PHP stuff. And there was also a lot of WordPress stuff, Joomla, Magento stuff in there as well.

Slowly from that, I just started learning on my own. Obviously, you want to keep your profits to yourself and not pay contractors to do it. So I just started learning. Starting to write some PHP on my own. A lot of HTML and CSS and a lot of customizing WordPress themes or Magento, that type of thing.

And that's kind of where I was at when I came across Bloc. I could write some PHP programs, not so well, but I could build off a program decently well. Googling every line of code. Every line of code, I was Googling. I could do that. I couldn't really write anything decent.


I could still make customers happy with building Magento sites, WordPress sites, that type of thing. But I couldn't really build anything of my own.

####Something changed because you wanted to be able to build your own ideas. Is that right?

I would pricing out what it would cost to build these crazy applications or whatever I was thinking of. I was trying to go and find $50,000 from a family member or some kind of investor, a friend or whatever. Or someone to partner up with who had some cash to build these things because I didn't have the skills to.

From there, I just kind of put them all off to the side and I would start doing some tutorials — Python tutorials or Rails for Zombies and, every time I did it, I'd work on it for a week and I'd get to a point where I couldn't figure anything out and I would kind of give up from there.

####Did you find it difficult to balance Bloc with your day-to-day?

In my case, no. I put aside all the fancy stuff I was doing and only did the minimal amount. I got obsessed with Bloc and started doing that nonstop as if I was making money off it, which I obviously wasn't.

I kind of turned Bloc into my full time job almost. And I'm lucky I had the freedom to do that; I didn't have a full-time job I had to be at. I think if I were to give out how I were to go about it if I had a full time job, I think it would be quite difficult.

####We had some people do part time and it's definitely a challenge. Takes a lot of discipline to come home after work and code.

I mean, for the three hours a day it's not so bad, I think. But I was getting a little obsessed and spending six, seven, sometimes eight hours a day writing Ruby and that sort of thing because I wanted to get the most out of it. I think if I had a full-time job I would probably just sleep less.

####Now, how do you feel you've improved since taking Bloc?

The biggest thing is I would always have customers or family members or whoever say, "Oh, can you build this?" or "I have this great idea and I'm looking for someone to build it" or "I want to build this". Before Bloc, I would say, "Oh, that sounds really cool. I can always hook you up with some developers or we can plan it out or contract it out. And now the biggest thing is being able to say, "Yeah, I can build that."

####That's a pretty good feeling.

Exactly. And maybe you can't build all of it on your own but you know how to build the part you know how to build. Whereas before there was no chance of anything.

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