Reconciling web development and biology, it's possible! Sylvain, a PHP instructor at Wild Code School, talks about his career path

Published on 17 February 2021

Reading time 6 minutes

After a career in web development in the biology sector, Sylvain decided to pursue his passion and become a PHP trainer at Wild Code School. Let's take a look back at his career path!

An interest in web development and biology

Hello Sylvain, could you briefly introduce yourself?

I'm 37 years old, I live in Orleans and I've been a web developer for about 15 years. I've been an instructor at Wild Code School for 5 years and I'm specialized in PHP / Symfony. I will soon start my tenth training session!

What attracted you to work in these fields?

When I graduated from high school, like a lot of people I think, I didn't have a very clear picture of what I wanted to do. So I decided to continue my studies. I had a preference for biology and I was already very interested in computer science even though I had started quite late. We barely did computer science in high school, and university studies in this field were mainly oriented towards a lot of math and physics, which didn't entice me. So I preferred to continue studying biology and eventually specialize in genetics.

Notably, you had the opportunity to merge the fields of web development and biology. What was the point connecting these two domains and what were you able to achieve thanks to that?

During my studies, I had the opportunity to incline towards bioinformatics, using computer tools to solve problems related to biology and specifically to genetics. There is so much complex data to be processed in this field that computer science quickly became an essential tool. I discovered my first computer languages (PERL, which is widely used in bioinformatics). I had the opportunity to apply this during internships at LORIA in Nancy in a team that was working, among other things, on the computer modeling of DNA curvature.

Web Developer's job: a versatile role

Your career at Greenpharma has permitted you to pursue several activities (from web development to design, commercial and e-commerce activities). From a professional and personal standpoint, what have you gained from being versatile?

I joined the Greenpharma team in Orleans (this time in the chemo-computing field) as part of my M2 internship, and then went on to do a thesis there. I was mainly involved in web development. The objective of my thesis was to develop a computer platform dedicated to pharmacognosy (the study of natural molecules of interest present particularly in plants). It was a fascinating subject. After my PhD, I continued working on improving this tool, but also on another more e-commerce oriented project. We had indeed acquired a company specialized in the sale of chemical compounds and I had to develop a dedicated website. This coincided at the time with the release of Symfony 2 and it allowed me to take control of this Framework. This project went a bit further than a simple e-commerce site with specific constraints (allowing molecule search via dedicated tools, managing a catalog of several tens of millions of references, etc.).

I was the only Developer in a small company. This required a lot of versatility and autonomy. I had to meet the very precise business needs of my colleagues and develop dedicated tools. But I also had to manage the computer equipment, part of the customer requests on the e-commerce site, and sometimes even do some graphic design to format scientific posters or flyers to be printed.

This versatility not only allows me to work in many different fields, but it also gives me the feeling of having a real impact on the company's development.

You then became a PHP trainer at the Wild Code School. How did you hear about Wild and why did you join us?

After 10 years in my former position, I wanted to leave the scientific field for a while in order to devote myself more to the development part. I think it was through Twitter that I saw the announcement of the Wild Code School ("coding in socks" had caught my attention). I was already used to speaking at a few conferences, mainly in an associative framework on the promotion of Free Software, as well as to write a few articles about Ubuntu in a print magazine. I was already fascinated by the idea of sharing and learning, and the pedagogical innovation of Wild Code School finally convinced me to apply.

What do you take home from your experience as a Wild trainer?

Probably a few more white hairs! I started the school in Orleans five years ago and it was a very intense experience because everything had to be created from scratch. We've come a long way since then, and I've had the chance to train about 200 students. But the desire to keep improving is ever present, so I never get bored!

In Orleans, we are lucky to have our premises in Lab'O, a large business incubator, where many Wilders have found an internship and then a job. So I'm lucky enough to frequently come across dozens of former students. There are few things as rewarding as seeing on a daily basis the impact of one's work on the working lives of all these people who, for the most part, had never coded a few months before.

Why reconcile biology and technology?

What advice would you give to Wilders who, like you, would like to work in the Biology sector and combine it with Tech?

Bioinformatics is a very interesting field, but developers in this field are often biologists who learn code later on. So I would have loved to follow a training course like the Wild's before working in this sector, to learn good development practices, agile methodology, etc. So I would tell Wilders who would like to join this field (like many others) not to be afraid to be pedagogical towards their future teams so as to apply all these good practices learned during the training.

Thank you for these answers. If you had a last word for our Wilders, what would that be?

You have chosen one of the most beautiful jobs, because it is possible to do everything, to create everything, from a clean slate. But it's also a demanding job, where you have to constantly keep yourself informed, and practice, in diverse fields. This is what constitutes its strength, because in the end you will never feel bored!

I leave the last word to one of the greatest sages of our time: "All we have to decide is what to do with the time we have been given" - Gandalf.

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