Magnetic plastic ponies, Python and Raspberry Pi: Daniel Fernandes’s work experience story

My name is Daniel Fernandes and my time at White October was a very eye-opening experience. While trying to keep sane between magnetic plastic ponies moving of their own accord and a barrage of a co-worker’s increasingly questionable lunches, my first few days of work were devoted to standardising some python code made by Ed (my developer / mentor). The purpose of this code was to create a dashboard which could control multiple Raspberry Pis with LED strips attached. Next I made a pre-commit-hook that stopped any non-standardised code from being uploaded to Github, and finally I had to try to understand the code, to actually update and improve it.

This is the first time I’ve ever actually had to dissect someone else’s code, and as someone who has in the past been very lazy about documentation, I now feel terrible. But it was fantastic to get to see actual commercial-standard code, and very rewarding when I actually understood it. Furthermore, communication could be difficult sometimes, with co-workers referring to things which I think may have been popular in the twentieth century.

My next task was to build the game of life on a raspberry pi, and then display this on a 7×17 LED grid. While my game of life ran fine, the LEDs lit up randomly while making high pitched whistling sound whenever I ran the program, so that sadly never got finished. In lunch breaks I ate in the small kitchen at the back of the building, next to the “toasty” food disposal bin and the fridge sticker which has said “Empty Today” for the entire week. While co-workers mysteriously disappearing without a word mid-way through conversations was unnerving at first, it did mean there was always a fresh supply of people to question.

One of my main regrets is never finding out what the name “White October” means, but that was primarily because no one seemed to know. There was however a cute stand on the first floor, full of miscellaneous similarly named items (such as “Red November”, a board game about gnomes on a submarine) which I assume is company’s attempts to claw some form of self-identification out of this confusion.

While I was slightly worried before coming here, my colleagues made me feel incredibly welcome, constantly offering me tea, coffee and an array of different nuts, as well as involving me in their own group celebrations, such as having fancy Italian almonds to celebrate a co-worker’s upcoming marriage.

When asked to describe White October in three words, I said:

Wholesome​ - it’s a quirky place with puns, ponies and lots of almonds
Surprising​ - Learned a lot about software development from the web perspective, and Python things like PEP-8
Helpful​ - Everyone was friendly and willing to share their knowledge

Overall this has been an incredibly enjoyable and wholesome experience.

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