He only works when there’s heavy metal in his ears. Well, not just heavy metal, but music is a must. Preferably with an even rhythm. – That’s when I get in the zone, and then the code and I become one – says Rafał Kotusiewicz.
Exactly. So now we know what Rafał does, he's a programmer, the industry calls him: senior developer. – When Inquise was in its early stages, I prepared the architecture and supported programming. The boys dreamt up what the system was supposed to do, and the team and I thought about how to implement all that – Rafał says.
Today, the IDMS system is already operational, and Rafał creates systems supporting INFORMATION DESIRED in making settlements with co-workers and profit sharing. We’re not stopping there, there is still much to be done.
What was the hardest task he was given until now? – Ehhhh, I don't know. I’m one of those people who don’t like to hear the words: “this is impossible”, so I never use them myself. I’m of the mind that, since it was possible to send people to the moon and back 50 years ago with only LISP, Fortran and 16 kB of memory, then today, we, with all these tools, programming languages and huge quantities of RAM in one machine, are capable of doing pretty much anything – says Rafał. An optimist as always.
- If I can't do something, I always think that it's definitely possible, but I’m not smart enough to do it at the moment. So no, I can’t remember any task that I couldn't handle (well, there were a few, but shhh.... ). Besides that, I’m convinced that Inquise is made up of the best programmers in the world plus me. Nothing is impossible for us - he adds.
“Don’t be evil”
How long has he been working with Tom Kuzak? It's October 4th, 2018, Rafał responds: 12 years, 3 months and 20 days. Precision worthy of a senior developer. There was no Inquise back then, no INFORMATION DESIRED, instead, there was GDP, which was where it all started.
- We met in 2006. I had just ended my employment relationship with a previous company where I was project manager. It wasn't a long gig. I walked away after six weeks. When I think about it now, it comes to my mind that Google recently got rid of one of its creeds: “don’t be evil”. Does that mean that now they’re letting themselves be evil? Exactly. At that company, I was encouraged to act against my principles from the very beginning. I thought: “So that’s how it is?! Never in my life!”. I went back home, talked it over with my wife for a bit, prepared my letter of resignation and walked away – Rafał reminisces.
Fortunately for us, he began looking for new, interesting things to do. He had already been programming for 6-7 years, and he just sent us his resume. - The headquarters of Inquise, still GDP at the time, was in the Wola district in Warsaw, at ul. Bema. I went there for an interview, everything was ok, but I thought: “Mother of God! I don't think I want to commute to work that far every day”. And I was living in the Praga Południe district, so I was facing a long journey every day, straight through the downtown area to boot. But it turned out that the company was planning to move to the Służew district. Still far away, but a bit easier to get to. So we reached an agreement – says Rafał.
From then on, nobody told him to be “evil” anymore.
Through tons of books to porch steps in a village. “Because a sandwich on a balcony just isn't the same”
How did Rafał take up programming in the first place?
- When I was in vocational school, I met a beautiful girl. There was chemistry there, but it wasn't exactly love at first sight”. I was 18 years old. About a year later, we became a couple. At the time, I had this crazy Polish teacher. Despite the fact that I was at an electronics vocational school, we had six hours of Polish, and the subject was just as important as electrical metering and analog systems. This is partially how love of literature was instilled in me. Although it actually started earlier still. When my older brother started going to elementary school, I was four and wanted to do what he was doing, so I learned to read together with him - Rafał says.
When Rafał and that beautiful girl were finishing school, they got the idea to go study Polish philology together. - I was also considering psychology, because it sounds so cool, you can sit in a cafe in a black sweater, I already had the long hair, and I was always lugging about a guitar. I wanted to impress her, so I even thought about philosophy. Ultimately, we both enrolled in philology. This girl – my wife today – graduated with that philology major, I didn’t. It just wasn't for me, and I dropped out after two years to take up music and make money – Rafał recounts.
His money-making endeavors brought him to Germany for a bit, then to a radio station, where he worked in the technical department, but with time, he began to host music auditions, and later still, he got a job at a music school teaching children how to play the acoustic guitar and sing.
- After a year, I came to the conclusion that one can’t start a family on a music teacher’s salary. But I had no idea what to do about it. One day, one of my older students asked if I could help him do a music project on a computer. I said OK, I’ll try, but I had no idea how to do it. He brought me a computer, a set of software, and left me to deal with the task. It turned out that I got it done. Then he came to me with another challenge. I ask my neighbor for help, and that's when Linux fell into my lap. I fell in love with its simplicity – Rafał reminisces.
Nobody needed programmers back then. Nobody suspected that they would be in such demand on the market, but he enjoyed it immensely. - Writing programs proved to be similar to composing music, harmony, rhythm... all that was a language I could understand - he says.
He bought a computer, borrowed a ton of books from the library, and became a recluse for several months. - I learned to program in C, and by spring of 2000, I started working as a programmer. Just like that. I started making money, paid of my computer and bought more books. Then I began making more money, and I bought even more books. And so it began – says Rafał.
New programming languages appeared over time. And so, before Rafał came to us, he was programming controllers in an assembler, he created what might be the first online pizza ordering system in the world (definitely the first in Poland - but nothing came of it, the program was to be sold, but these were times when not enough people had a computer), then there was a remote work coordination system and work in the experimental department of Poland's public broadcaster, TVP. In the meantime, he studied extramurally. Thanks to an individual course of study, it only took him four semesters to get his informatics engineering degree.
On the way, he moved several times: from Piotrków to Łódź, from Łódź to Warsaw, and after spending 12 years in the capital, to Skarżysko Kamienna. Why? – Mentally, I’m a redneck. It's not because I’m rude, I just love rural areas, the trees, the grass, the cows, the sheep, and eating breakfast on my porch steps, under two great walnut trees. It’s completely different than eating a sandwich on a balcony in an apartment building - Rafał states. And immediately, just in case, he adds: Skarżysko isn't a village, but there’s a lot of greenery and simple nature that is absent in Warsaw.
Conservatives in hats playing Iron Maiden
Rafał is a conservative, but one wouldn’t think that judging “by the cover”. Although he lives in a rural area, he walks around in motorcycle boots and a hat every day. And when he travels to Warsaw, he looks exactly the same. And he does go there sometimes, if only to play some Iron Maiden songs along with his friends from across Poland.
So how did music enter his life? - I was 9, my brother was 12. My Dad had died. That tragedy aside, we inherited a tape recorder from him, because Mom didn’t want to listen to music anymore. So that's how a Grundig came into our little room. Along with it, we also inherited a soldering iron, so of course, we started to disassemble the tape recorder to make it play better. That's where I caught the electronics bug, but music came along with it. We took apart Grandma's old speakers, and some speakers from someone else, we made “speaker columns” using old laundry detergent boxes, and we discovered that there was some cool music playing on the radio. I was 10, maybe 11 years old, when I first heard The Police. Then came The Cure, and after that Accept – a heavy metal band that I love to this day – Rafał says.
Ozzy Osbourne, Black Sabath, Bob Marley, Eric Clapton, Bon Jovi – he was forever lost in those sounds. But it was Frank Zappa who drove him to take up a guitar himself. Hours, days, weeks passed as he learned to play. No, it wasn't easy at all. Rafał learns by reading, not by listening. His nature wasn’t helping him. But nothing is impossible, after all.
Here, it would be worth writing about another one of his great passions – literature. But giving a brief description would be doing Rafał an injustice. It’s better to shut up now. Rafał reads up to 100 books every year. If you meet him someday, he will probably be eager to tell you about his favorites, the ones that ate him, chewed him up, and snorted him out. Just make sure to clear your schedule for the next three days.