What did you learn to build your catapult
"We wanted to build a device that you can fly with"
Daniel, how did you get into IT?
Daniel Schreiber: On a not so straightforward path. I studied math. In my bachelor's degree I studied computer science as a minor, but no longer in my master's degree. When we were studying math, we were told that we could do anything afterwards. However, it wasn't so clear to me what I actually wanted to do, because internships were not necessary in my degree program. In the end, I was faced with the decision between IT and management consulting. I then applied to an in-house strategy consultancy at a large logistics provider. The tests were pretty good, but the boss didn't find me motivated enough for a real job. Finally we agreed on an internship. At the end of the internship, they made me a job offer, but the 60-hour weeks weren't for me. So I switched to IT consulting at NTT Data Germany.
Did you enjoy it there?
Actually already. I learned a lot and was able to prove myself in various roles. I was also able to work for quite a few large German companies, which was very exciting. The company has grown a lot during this time. More and more hierarchies were drawn in. After a while, I felt like I wanted to do something more dynamic.
"At ti & m, software development is valued."
You were one of the first ti & m employees in Germany. How did you come to us?
How something like that happens is actually clear. I set my Xing account to jobseeking and then a little later the inquiries from headhunters came in. I then spoke to a few companies and the ti & m concept sounded good to me. It addressed what I found important. I am particularly impressed by the engineer-driven concept. At other companies, developers are often seen as a necessary evil because they don't bring in revenue like sales. I didn't have this feeling at ti & m. This is where software development is valued. Since the location was completely new, I also had the feeling that I could make a difference quickly.
Have you ever regretted your decision?
I am not a person to repent. (laughs) Of course there are always things that could be improved. Last year, for example, I spent nine months in Bern on a project as a Java developer. In terms of content, it was super exciting and I've never worked on such a well-managed agile project. The long distance and the commute were exhausting. On Monday I had to get on the train at 5 a.m. and on Thursday evening I could go back to Frankfurt. I worked there on Friday.
What did you do at the bank?
I did three quarters of the EU GDPR. It was essentially not about the IT implementation. My job was to ensure communication between the actors. The project is almost complete now and I'm excited to see what's next in the pipeline.
Do you see differences between working in a German and a Swiss company?
Most obvious to me is the language barrier. The mere fact that people are always talking about offers irritates me. This word wasn't even in my active vocabulary. Here in Germany one speaks of offers. There is always a slight irritation factor when you hear it. When people then speak in Swiss German, it becomes more difficult for me. I am an IT language expert, but not a people language expert. (laughs) Otherwise I also have the feeling that the quality standards are higher in Switzerland. You tend to turn a loop and keep working on the product.
What are you doing?
In principle, I provide a wide range of skills. For example, I can develop Java, talk about application architectures and find a useful set-up. In addition, I can also take on pure consulting mandates, as is the case with the GDPR project at the bank.
And what would a lead engineer do?
I understand it to mean that a lead engineer leads a small team of developers. We in Frankfurt have not yet had the necessary size for this and we cannot stick to such roles dogmatically. Such a dogmatics would also contradict the agile approach.
What does a typical working day look like for you?
It depends on the project. Currently, around 60 percent of my working time is devoted to sending e-mails via Outlook and giving work instructions. At the same time, I have to be the sparring partner of the project manager, who in turn has to report to the program level. There is also often friction between the program and the project. I have to help find, formulate and enforce the interests of my own area. Therefore, a large part of Excel work and Powerpoint is still included. In addition, there are a lot of phone calls with everyone involved to coordinate.
I saw on your LinkedIn profile that you have already founded a company.
Actually two. But that always ran alongside my job or studies. One company is called Alternate Fox and I built it up together with my brother. To be honest, the idea came from other people who did a thesis on it. Wechelfuchs is a platform that is supposed to make it easier for consumers to switch electricity providers. In Germany, the electricity market is liberalized and customers usually get a discount in the first year after switching. This means that you actually have to change providers every year in order to keep the cheapest price. Many people shy away from this effort. There are also dubious providers on the market. We wanted to remedy this with an automated platform. We provide customers with the cheapest tariff and receive a small commission for it. This payment model was important to us. If the service were free for the customer, then it would be the product. However, we didn't want to do it that way.
And why are you not working there as the boss now?
I am a scaredy rabbit in a way. I didn't have the courage to go “all in”. The project was therefore more of a sideline for my brother for his studies, it is currently not more.
And your second company?
It arose from the first project. We used Podio as an ERP for the Alternate Fox. We had all of our customer data there. If the service had failed, we would have lost all data. So we needed a backup. I finally found a rudimentary backup script for Podio on the Internet. Since I was bored during the summer holidays, I expanded and improved the program. I am now on the market with the “Cloud Backup for Podio” program. It actually works better as an alternating fox. But here, too, I don't have the courage to put everything on one card. Because the dependency on Podio is too great. Should you close the API, the business model would be over.
You built a human catapult. How do you come to that? Tell me the story behind it.
First of all, I have to say in my defense that it is almost time-barred. It was 6 - 7 years ago, after my studies. I visited my brother during his semester abroad in India and on the two-week return trip we thought that we wanted to do something «useful». Our goal was to build a device that you can fly with. We used a design thinking approach. At first we had thought of a ramp or something similar, which would have been too time-consuming and expensive. Ultimately, we came to the conclusion that a catapult is the easiest device to build to make a person fly.
And then did you start implementing it?
Exactly. We have all calculated the necessary values. My brother is a mechanical engineer and he contributed his knowledge of acceleration and the like. Then we raised around 1000 euros for the material with a crowdfunding campaign. The planning then followed the waterfall model, as my brother and I did not live in the same place. On a long weekend we screwed together the catapult at Grandma’s garden.
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Did you also fly with the catapult yourself?
As a manufacturer you have to. However, I gave the very first test flight to my brother and I had to be the second.
How is the feeling?
It's tough. Now, if I'm honest, I don't need it anymore. But if you're looking for a real kick, then it's just the thing. There are extreme forces acting on you. We cock the catapult with a pulling force of two tons. There are already brutal forces that affect you. In return, our crowdfunding supporters received a test flight. However, about half just wanted to watch and not fly.
"My goal is always to do something useful."
It looks damn dangerous.
It is. During the first test flight, my brother's eardrum tore because he hit it in a strange way. You also have to be very careful with the water, it has to drop very quickly, because the person flies - depending on the tension and weight - possibly only 5 - 6 meters. Quarry ponds are ideal there.
And now the machine is mothballed?
The catapult is dismantled in a garage. We also only set it up three times. Once for the inauguration, 2 years later a repetition and later for Japanese television. The makers of a show saw our Facebook page and wrote to us. On the show, a Japanese B celebrity was traveling around Europe and doing some weird stuff. One of them was a flight with our catapult.
Finally, what are your plans for the future?
I have no concrete big plans. My goal is always to do something useful. Otherwise, I hope to have a lot of fun and implement a lot of cool projects.
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