Today, it’s far from a luxury for a family to own a personal computer (or three, according to the 2013 census), and most kids grow up with a working knowledge of technology.
When Julian Hansen (julianH) was a lad, however, it was still quite a novelty for people to have a PC in the home. Luckily his father was a computer programmer and Julian was exposed to all sorts of tech at a very young age. He took a shine to it, and began playing around with BASIC programming at age 14.
With a love of problem solving, the decision to study business and computer science at the University of Cape Town was easy, despite it being considered a “weird, geeky thing compared to something like accounting.” He was often asked, “What are you going to do with a degree in computers?” Quite a laughable idea today. His courses had a strong emphasis on entrepreneurship, so it makes sense that he got to work as a freelance consultant right out of the masters program.
A Career in Freelancing
Throughout his professional career, Julian has only worked for two years as a regular, full-time employee. The rest of his experience has come from freelance work, just the way he likes it. He noted of the early days after finishing school, “I had a very inflated view of my skills, so the coding wasn’t as hard as figuring out what to charge.”
For anyone starting out in the business, Julian’s recommendation is to chase the experience rather than the money. “It’s like chasing your shadow, especially at first,” he said. Rather than getting hung up on making a profit, taking your time and focus on the final product. “Produce great work, and your value will become intrinsic.”
Leveraging Experts Exchange
Julian found his way to Experts Exchange in 2003 the way that most people do, searching for an answer online that he needed for a project. “The Microsoft forums weren’t very helpful, but Experts Exchange was,” he said, “it had more of a personal touch than other sites like Stack.”
As someone who worked from home, the inter-connectivity of the Experts Exchange community was a motivating factor for participation as well. After a couple of weeks answering questions, he earned free membership, but left the site soon after and didn’t return for another 9 years.
It wasn’t until 2012 that Julian really committed himself to making the most of his time in the community. He came back to find a better perspective on the industry and his place within it, but found many other benefits to contributing. This time, it stuck. “I learned more than I thought I would just by participating in questions,” he said.
Julian built up his profile over time, and now holds an overall rank of Ace, has over 2,000 accepted solutions, and was voted Most Valuable Expert by his peers on the site. He now sends potential clients to Experts Exchange in order to showcase his experience, expertise, and positive feedback, which has helped him land more than one freelance project.
Cleansing the Palette
In order to stay sharp when switching between the many projects that he can be juggling at one time, Julian also uses Experts Exchange, “…like a sorbet between courses at a French restaurant.” Often, forcing himself to focus on a totally unrelated problems and help users find solutions will help him to switch gears and cleanse his ‘technical palette’, giving him a fresh perspective with which to tackle the next project.
Apart from generously donating his time to help others in our community, Julian enjoys running, woodworking, and spending time outdoors. He also moonlights writing children’s stories, which came about from years of making up bedtime stories for his three kids. “They kept asking me to tell the same ones over again, so I thought I’d better write them down,” he said.