'Just like sitting at the organ, as a Full Stack Engineer, I also play on the keys'

Erik Ammerlaan -
​​​​​​​Full Stack Engineer and organist

You’re never too young to learn

‘From a young age, I’ve had a fascination with programming. I wrote my first code when I was eight years old. So, I knew early on that I wanted to do something with computers when I was older. I found and still find it interesting how technology can help make people’s lives easier and better. For example, at secondary school, I developed an electronic learning environment where teachers could put their teaching material for the students. It was an asset for the school because it saved a lot of time.’

‘I turned my hobby into a job. After graduating with a degree in computer science from TU Delft, a year and a half ago I started work as a Full Stack Engineer in the innovation team at NN. As a Full Stack Engineer, you’re an all-rounder when it comes to software development. You build websites, as well as web applications, mobile apps and – slightly more technical – APIs. Our team is constantly working on developing start-up initiatives that make a contribution to the life of our customers or society. We investigate what society needs and develop the right software for those needs. In my job, I support the entire technical spectrum involved.'

Innovation on the housing market

‘One of the start-ups that I’ve developed with the innovation team is Brickler. It’s a platform people can use to sell a house without using an estate agent. In the current housing market, an estate agent isn’t always needed any more, so people want to be able to sell their own houses. But how do you find a suitable buyer? We’ve developed an algorithm that finds the perfect buyer for you. And it also works the other way round: traditionally, as a house hunter, you look for a suitable house, but we bring the ideal house to you via social media campaigns. When Brickler was launched, it was very exciting. You’re launching something new and you wonder whether it will take off. It’s going really well though and I’ve even got my own house for sale on Brickler!'

Playing on the keys

'When I’m not sitting behind my keyboard, I’m behind the keys of my organ. I’ve been playing the piano for a long time, but during my visits to church, I became fascinated by the powerful sound of an organ. So, seven years ago, I started organ lessons. At home I’ve got a digital organ with headphones: the neighbours are really pleased about that. And sometimes I play on the grand Garrels organ dating from 1732 in the Groote Kerk where I live in Maassluis. It’s one of the most famous organs in the Netherlands and its fame has even spread abroad.’

‘It would be hard to find a greater contrast: playing classical music on a centuries-old organ and working in the innovation team at NN. But for me, these roles complement each other very well. In addition to my passion for technology, music is also very important in my life. I need both to make me feel whole. You play an organ with your hands and feet and it’s like playing a full orchestra on your own. It means you play a crucial role in the sound that’s created. Sometimes I play for tourists who come and visit the church, which is great fun. It’s so satisfying to play on such an old instrument and to fill the space with a unique sound. Just like sitting at the organ, as a Full Stack Engineer, I also play on the keys and have a lot of responsibility. You’re creating a product for people and play one of the most crucial roles in the process.’

Technology and tradition go hand in hand

‘I try and use my technical knowledge in various ways to make a difference in society. Not only in my work at NN, but also for the church which I visit often, the choir I sing in and the Stichting Garrels-orgel, where I’m a board member. For example, during the coronavirus crisis, I set up live streams so that people could enjoy an organ concert or church service live at home. It was incredible to do because it offered comfort at a time when it was much needed. It’s fantastic of course that technology and tradition go hand in hand in this way.’

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