It’s our CTO‘s turn to answer our questions. Please welcome Jean-Marc Hick who’s been with Rever since day one.
Hi Jean-Marc, tell us how you started your career ?
I began to be interested by IT when I was 15 or 16, I started programming in Basic and I quickly knew that I wanted to continue my educational background in this field, at the time the University of Namur offered one of the very first and most complete computer engineering studies in Europe. I then had the chance to work as a researcher for Professor Jean-Luc Hainaut who is a pioneer in IT teaching in Belgium, the subject of my thesis was « Maintenance and evolution of relational database applications ». When I finished my PhD, I partnered with my colleagues of the University, Jean Henrard and Didier Roland, to work on a common project in this same domain. That’s how Rever started as a company in 2004.
DB-Main (data modelling software) was in a way the bridge between your years at the University of Namur where it was first developed and Rever which is continuing to develop the software to this day. Was the transition simple between both worlds ?
At the university we’re essentially imagining beautiful functional things, but they take a long time to develop and test. We quickly found out that there is a divide between what is done in the research world and the business world. Enterprises have more concrete, immediate needs. We rapidly had to adapt ourselves to the market and to our clients’ expectations in order to be efficient.
You’ve been busy taking care of DB-Main for a long time, developing and maintaining it. Does your new position as CTO still allow you to follow the developments of this historical software ?
The CTO job does come with a lot of responsibilities, you really need to separate tasks to be the most productive possible on all fronts. But we’re not going to stop developing DB-Main, that’s out of the question. Continuing to work on Rever’s tools allows me to keep a 360° view of the needs and expectations of the market. There’s still a great deal of new things to do with database modelling and evolution, that’s why we’re currently working on the next evolution of DB-Main.
Are you involved with the development of DataSemantics Suite too ? If so, what do you bring to this project ?
Indeed, I’m involved with it, I join the team on imagining the tool specifications. I bring my experience in continuous development of tools, from specifications to testing. We use the Agile method which I especially enjoy using, it fits well with continuous development, and we try to apply the « Extreme programming » method as best we can. I also bring my experience in the context of back-end (implementation and use of DB-Main, etc.), whereas my co-worker Loup Meurice is particularly efficient with interfaces and therefore manages the front-end for DataSemantics. We make a good team with all our developers, we know each other well, for a long time for some of us, dialogue is facilitated, and projects move forward quicker since we all go in the same direction.
Isn’t it too hard to balance your many responsibilities ? What do you get out of this experience ?
The main thing is to always be prepared, whether it be for internal meetings (as CTO or as a developer) or for client projects. I see myself as a moderator in my position as CTO, caught between the technical part and the management part of the job. It wasn’t obvious from the start, I first had to try different methods to find the right one for the team, in order to move Rever forward. I had to learn how to negotiate, and as a researcher it was not natural to me, but I tend to share responsibilities, you need to know when to delegate the work to others when necessary, for the sake of the common goal. It’s a fascinating everyday challenge and it allows me to get even more involved with the evolution of Rever.
The technical department of Rever is meant to continue its growth. What are some of the qualities you look for in your future colleagues ?
But we’re not interested in compartmentalising skills, so we’re looking for adaptable profiles, everybody should be able to help on every project.
For our migration projects and other tooled services that we offer to enterprises, we’re also looking for people who can work with legacy technologies, which implies a good knowledge of computer languages that are maybe less used today. The tooled service we offer also requires deploying our products to our clients.