Meeting with Julien Bec, ActiveUI manager

Cecilia Mobio |
July 19, 2019

Today we are giving the floor to Julien Bec, ActiveUI manager, who will explain his career path, the specific aspects of his work and the qualities required to join ActiveViam.

Hello Julien, would you mind introducing yourself?

Hello. I am responsible for the ActiveUI product, the user interface (UI) developed by ActiveViam. After studying computer science and embedded systems at ENSTA ParisTech, I had a couple of professional experiences: the first in an embedded systems research laboratory and the second at Thales, developing graphic interfaces for the French Army, before joining ActiveViam.

Why did you choose IT and ActiveViam in particular?

I have been interested in computer science ever since I was a child, so naturally I embarked on this path. After my studies I specialized in designing user interfaces, a very rewarding job because we have a direct impact on people’s work. I chose ActiveViam because the company was developing state-of-the-art technologies and the engineers already working there seemed to be experts in their field.

Tell us about your first months at ActiveViam

I joined ActiveViam to work on the front-end, but very quickly I was involved in everything. At that time there was no clear separation between the back-end and front-end R&D teams, the Pre-Sales teams and Customer Support. I contributed to back-end developments and was involved in PoCs (Proofs of Concept) and integrations with the customer. I was quickly promoted to lead dev on ActivePivot Live (the predecessor of ActiveUI), which was highly formative since this product meant dealing with customers and having a very good understanding of their business problems.

During the changeover of ActivePivot Live to ActiveUI, why did you choose JavaScript despite its bad reputation?

As a web application was being developed and JavaScript was beginning to grow, the most logical choice was to develop the application directly in JavaScript. We then had to choose a framework, which led us to compare prototypes and create benchmarks before finally retaining React. If you would like to know more about this complex but fascinating topic, you can read my series of blog posts which explain this choice: Our journey from GWT to React – Part 1/3: An Outdated Technology Stack, Our journey from GWT to React – Part 2/3: The Paradox of Choice and
Our journey from GWT to React – Part 3/3: React vs. Angular

JavaScript does not impose a development paradigm, unlike some languages such as Java that force the user to do object-oriented programming. This is both its strength and weakness. JavaScript can be used to script and animate pages, or to develop complex front-end or back-end applications. Therefore, unless great discipline and thoroughness are imposed, we would soon end up with a code that mixes different programming paradigms that are almost impossible to maintain – hence its poor reputation. In fact, JavaScript forces us to think each time about the most appropriate paradigm: imperative, declarative, object-oriented, functional…
What is more, JavaScript has a universal position because it is used for all web content, to develop scripts, front-end & back-end applications, to program connected objects… It is the language with the largest open source project base and this can only grow. It is modern and evolving, as it is reviewed annually in a public and participatory manner. Our application can be developed with the latest language while transforming the code into a version that is compatible with older browsers. And the list of JavaScript benefits doesn’t end there…

What are the specifics of UI work? How are customers’ expectations taken into account?

The main pitfall to avoid when working on interfaces is to reason purely in terms of functionality. It is very important to start from the user’s need to determine what you are going to develop but above all, what you are not going to develop: this is the UX approach. For ActiveUI, the complexity is still cranked up a notch since we have to take into account a wide variety of business needs, given that our tool is used both in the finance sector and in e-commerce or logistics.

What is expected of ActiveViam developers?

We are very demanding in terms of quality of the code written by our engineers because if it is well organized, legible and documented it will be easier to maintain, thereby reducing long-term development costs. In order to ensure the highest level of quality, several continuous integration (CI) tools have been put in place, including the peer review which allows the team to evaluate each person’s code. We constantly submit our concepts, ideas and code to our colleagues. You must therefore know how to use your own judgement. Finally, since there is currently a boom in JavaScript, you must constantly keep up with the latest frameworks, tools and concepts, integrate these concepts and reinject them into ActiveUI: you are learning all the time and that’s also what makes the job exciting!

What makes the work at ActiveViam appealing?

The company was founded by IT enthusiasts who understand developers’ issues. We feel it on a daily basis, especially as the company remained on a human scale, allowing us to regularly interact with the founders.
Unlike most software editors, where the hierarchy imposes deadlines and objectives to be met at all costs, ActiveViam consults with developers to estimate any project duration and adapts objectives to available resources. This ensures that sufficient time is allocated to produce a flawless code, even if the implementation of certain features is delayed.

Tell us about your international career at ActiveViam

Shortly after joining the company I was sent to London, then Copenhagen and Singapore to meet my colleagues, and I even had appointments with clients in Australia. And then I was given the opportunity to move to New York, so that I could be as close as possible to our American clients. It’s a city that never sleeps, and I’ve visited every corner of it… So in short, if you enjoy travelling and want to develop cutting-edge technologies, ActiveViam is for you. We are currently looking for new or experienced front-end R&D engineers so feel free to send us your resume!

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