If you follow Nuxeo's activity closely, you have probably heard of Damien Metzler. In fact, we had already interviewed him two years ago. At that time Damien was running a developer team at Leroy Merlin, with a strong focus on Nuxeo projects. They have deployed many successful projects and contributed features and bug fixes in the process. But today, I'm interviewing him as a Nuxeo developer. Damien joined our team six months ago.
What did you do before joining Nuxeo?
I was in an engineering school which was not focused on computer programming at all. It was an Arts et Métiers school, which is to say a school specializing in mechanics. The thing is, I really got into programming when I was young. So I kept doing this. I have had a rather typical career so far. I started working right after school for a systems integrator in 2001. There were many opportunities at the time; it was easy. My first important customer was Auchan. It was also my first contact with the retail world. Then I went to another systems integrator who had me work for Leroy Merlin. I worked there for two and a half years as an external consultant before becoming a full time employee in July 2007.
And what did you do there?
I worked on system projects, like migrating a Windows server to a Unix server. Then I started developing applications, more and more focused around the company's intranet. And this is how I got my first contact with Nuxeo. Because at the time I was using CPS. Then I deployed several successful projects based on the Nuxeo Platform -- the intranet portal, an idea sharing website based on Solr; and the last one, the Labs, presented last year during Nuxeo World.
What prompted you to come work at Nuxeo?
Well, I was getting a little bored. The project started to look the same a little too much. Plus I wanted to see new things. It was not the first time I was wondering if I should leave. I already had several opportunities and then the Nuxeo opportunity arrived at the right moment. Good timing.
How was the transition between Leroy Merlin and Nuxeo?
Well, I was already really familiar with Nuxeo, both the product and the company. But there were many things I did not know about, of course, like the internal processes and how the development team was organized. And of course Nuxeo is much smaller than Leroy Merlin, although LM was not a bloated company. I had a lot of freedom working there. But yes, it's a new environment, with different goals and means to achieve them. But it's going really well. I feel like I bring more and more stuff to the table every day, so that's really cool.
And what do you do exactly at Nuxeo?
I built the new Nuxeo Online Services dashboard to understand how AngularJS works and how we could make it work with our technology. We needed to review how we create our REST APIs. Now we're working on how to expose the Nuxeo Platform through the REST APIs, to be closer to RESTful principles. I think it's easier to offer a RESTful API with an end user application. In the case of a platform, it's a little more complicated.
So we're trying to create an API that does not set things in stone, at least not too much. We're trying to have something pluggable and extensible, to make it easier for the people that build applications on top of the Nuxeo Platform. Developers can also create their own RESTful API, and have a nice documentation straight away. For us it's all about empowering the developers.
So I'm still working on this. I'm also trying to bring a more agile methodology to some of our projects.
Do you have any technical specialties or areas of expertise?
I like the web, so I like web technology. I like creating applications and products for end users. Right now I am creating REST APIs, so my end users are developers. We try to make it easy to use. We're not doing a straight mapping of the existing technical concepts of Nuxeo; we are trying to make something much simpler. And we'll try to create a sample application that actually uses the API and see how that goes. Creating an API is easy. Making it really usable is a lot harder.
I have always said I am not a killer developer. So I'm trying to do simple, pragmatic tasks. Pragmatism is about fixing the objectives and finding the shortest way to get there. I do come from an engineering school, after all, and pragmatism is one the values we learned.
My old friends from school are working at Renault and Toyota. And of course they do lean manufacturing at Toyota. So we have a lot of discussions on this topic. One of my friends is a Lean Sensei in the industry. That gives us a lot to talk about. One of the major topics is trying to avoid waste. That's why I don't always go by the book. I try to understand why we do things before actually doing them.
Speaking of conferences, you'll be giving a talk at Nuxeo World. What's your topic?
The title is not very creative -- Build your application in AngularJS on top of the Nuxeo Platform. It's the conclusion of all the work we've done since the new Nuxeo Online Services dashboard. It's about how we have tried to adapt the Nuxeo API to make it easier to use with AngularJS. The idea is to do a small example of a simple application, to show what we've put in the Angular Nuxeo library. And I'm leading a hands-on workshop about this the second day.
Do you actually like giving talks?
I think I gave a talk at every Nuxeo World since Nuxeo World exists [laughs]. So yes, I like it :) I hope the attendees like it, too. I have had good feedback so far. And I like to communicate, so that's nice. Especially when you have awesome stories to tell!
If you could work on anything related to Nuxeo, what would that be?
I would like to see how we could serialize Nuxeo data in Couchbase, basically to use it as a storage backend. The CoreSession would be hooked to it directly. The reason is really that I am curious and want to know what's inside nuxeo-core.
I would also like to do the Labs again. I have had several experiences in this area and I would like to do something more platform-like, or something less end-user oriented like we did at Leroy Merlin. I'm interested in something that makes it easy to edit a web page.
You live near Lille. How's the home office? Do you have Haribo candy at home like we have at the Nuxeo office?
Yes! I do have Haribo candy too :) Working from home was one of the challenges I had when coming to Nuxeo. I mean, I needed to find out if I could actually do it. So I've started by organizing a completely dedicated room to be an office. It's organized as if I was actually at work. I prepared quite a bit for this.
In the beginning, I was a bit rigid with my wife and kids. I closed the door and it was as if I wasn't home anymore. Now, it's a bit more relaxed. But the fact that I come to the office two days a week helps me keep contact with Nuxeo. Compared to how it was before, it's much better. Because yes, I was in an office, but it was in Lille and the commute was two and a half hours every day. Because you know, I live in the countryside. So I have saved two hours of my day. I can eat lunch with my children. This gives me so much flexibility for my family life.
On a more personal note, what do you do in your free time?
Well, I have three kids. They are 2, 4 and 6 years old [laughs]. And I indulge myself and go horseback riding every week. That's my favorite hobby. Although I did finally install a NAS at home. I also have more time to do more home improvements. There is always something to do.
But the thing is, now that I have an office at home, when I am in my office, it's hard to not work. When I am on my computer, it's a little hard to get into something other than work.
You are from the North of France. So what's your favorite beer?
Tripel Karmeliet! I live near Saint-Omer, but it's kind of a cheap blond beer. It's not that good. I do have a neighbor that works at the 3 Monts brewery. It's 10 km from my place. And 3 Monts is a really really good beer.
Is there any place cool to visit near your place?
I live in West Flanders. It's quite nice. Really agricultural. Mont Cassel is quite near. It's one of the few hills in the North. So no, the North is not flatland (plat pays). And it's beautiful, there's a little city on the hill, with an old windmill. It's very nice.