Our team at Botpress works to build the very best chatbot building experience possible. Get to know the Botpress team through our People of Botpress series where we highlight our team and the great work they do by talking about life at Botpress.
In this edition of The People of Botpress, we interview Botpress Software Developer, Francois Levasseur.
Give us an introduction! Who are you? What do you do at Botpress? Favorite Code Editor? Dark theme or Light theme?
My name is Frank Levasseur but everyone calls me Fleur. It’s a contraction of my first name and last name. I’m a developer at Botpress. I work more on the NLU/NLP services but as I like to say and as we all say at Botpress: I’m just an average developer who loves coding. I’ve used pretty much every major OS like Mac, Windows, Ubuntu. I like them all. It’s just a tool at the end of the day. I love coding obviously. Strictly typed languages are by far my favorite.
I come from a very weird background. Unlike the others on the engineering team, I started coding very late in my life. I actually started with a natural science and engineering background, more specifically chemical processing engineering. Then, I discovered coding which made me switch to computer engineering. I realized I liked coding more than hardware so I came to Botpress for that. That’s my profile. I’m a developer — that’s it.
What does a regular day at Botpress look like for you?
A typical day at Botpress is waking up, coding, going to meetings, then coding some more. I code until quite late actually. Sometimes I'm at the office until 7PM, 8PM, and even 9PM sometimes. That’s about it.
Are there any projects that you’ve worked on that you love and have become your favorites?
Of course, my main project is what you call the NLU server. I think it’s well done. But I won’t say that there’s anything special to it outside the fact that it was my first really big project which I was the owner of. That was the start of my developer career.
Before that, I was an intern. So, the NLU server1…it's not actually called that yet, but that's what I call it in my head. It runs on premise with really low technology and really low requirements. But, at the same time it can be production grade for our cloud. It does both in a quite elegant way.
Other projects I had, for example, when I started at Botpress, I was an intern and I was given the task of bringing C++ libraries to the Node.js world and I had to make fixes in those libraries. I know it’s not really sexy but I made substantial fixes in really old machine learning data science libraries. I was quite proud of being a contributor of CRFSuite which is such a big library used in Scikit-learn and I believe it’s the default library that everybody would use for such tasks. That was cool for sure.
Based on what you just mentioned, Sylvain (Botpress CEO) said this to me once: Developers love to be challenged and push the boundaries of what they believe they can do. Do you believe that was the case for you?
Of course. I am really challenged at Botpress. I’m a really ancient employee at Botpress because I started as an intern a long time ago. Sylvain got me because, back when I was working as a dev at another place, he described it instantly like this: “You have to take data, put it in the database, get it back and put it in the front end. That's your job right.” And I just remember saying to myself: “Damn he’s right. It really is that easy sometimes.”
Then he said to me: “At Botpress, there’s more, you know we have actual big challenges.” I don’t know if it was a narcissistic characteristic in me, but I told him that I was up for the challenge and succeeding. He got me like a fish, I couldn’t resist.
Do you feel like there’s been a big growth in your capabilities from that moment until today as a developer?
Oh yes, I was such a noob and I thought I was good back then. Now I know that I really suck but I’m way better than I was. I come from a background with almost religious beliefs about software and computer programming. I was really dogmatic about it.
When I came to Botpress, I met these two really good developers who didn’t really care about programming principles. They knew them but they had a big pleasure of breaking every rule I knew. Now, I understand that there’s a balance. I know why the rules are there, I don’t tend to always over-engineer and I do tend to get a good amount of work done for a requested feature.
So, this was a huge clash for me. At first, I was borderline angry seeing guys doing something that was against my computer science beliefs. As you probably know, there’s a lot of religion in computer and software engineering. People say: “You shouldn’t do that, that’s bad practice, etc.” Now, I know a few rules, I like learning rules, but I also love breaking rules and I don’t care about them. I just try to not over-engineer things.
What do you think makes Botpress different as a company?
That’s a good one. Botpress has evolved a lot as a company since my first days. It’s not the same as it was two years ago, let alone one year ago. Something that’s special about Botpress is that there are a lot of developers and there are a lot of developers in many different departments. There are devs in sales, in customer success, in marketing, and of course in the engineering team. The product is made for devs and the company structure shows it. That’s really nice.
Everybody at Botpress knows a little bit about computer science and is passionate about it. It’s not like there’s one department that really loves software and the rest dodn’t care and only thinkabout sales or whatever. Everybody has to care about software here. For a dev like me, it’s really nice to know that. It’s good to know that devs aren't these super strange aliens who know how to code and are asked by business people to make something for them to sell. People genuinely like software here and even the non-devs know a little bit about software. That’s special.
You did speak about your background a little bit before, but I want to know more specifically why you brought your talents to Botpress?
One thing that really intrigued me is having developers for clients. It’s kind of a whole new game. I don’t want to say that it’s way harder because there are challenges out there with non-dev clients too. But, it’s a world of its own to have devs as clients for sure. That really intrigued me at the time and I really wanted to try it out.
I must say it’s something I love — developing apps for developers, that’s how my brain thinks now. How can I make an API as sexy as possible and as nice to consume? It's almost the same thing as making a great looking UI, but with code. How do I make it sexy? That’s something that I really love. This is one of the key factors that made me choose Botpress.
What do you think is so exciting about the Botpress technology?
Something I really like about the current Botpress projects, without speaking about what’s currently in the pipeline, is the simplicity for a developer or even half-dev.
In a really short amount of time, you can develop an application and get it to production. That’s something I see myself using. For example, when I was in university, I used to make a lot of small Python scripts that I would share with everybody. It was kind of weird because I would share my scripts on Facebook Messenger and no one had the same version of Python so it wasn’t amazing. I could have hosted it but I had no real knowledge of infrastructure back then. It’s hard and a lot of code is involved.
I believe that by using Botpress as it is now, I could have shared a small amount of code through Slack or through Messenger in about 10 min with no real work. Essentially, by just sharing what you want to share, the speed and the power it gives to a developer who just wants to share a chatbot or anything is immense. It’s a small level of automation that makes things easier and faster.
If someone is debating about coming to Botpress versus another company, what would be the main selling point to you?
I did that a few times in the past actually — I’ve already convinced people to join Botpress prior to the referral initiative. What I told Sebastien Buron, who is in customer success, is that it’s sometimes a high pressure job, but it’s a high reward job. It’s exciting at the end of the day.
I’m not saying it’s always calm. I’m not zen necessarily all the time. But it’s really exciting and fast-paced — you will never get bored. You’re going to be able to really push your abilities as a dev, not just by learning new technologies but you’ll really push your soft skills too.
When I got Sebastien Buron in, I knew the guy was passionate and I knew that he didn’t want a boring job. The guy had a fire in him and I told him that the only place he belonged was at Botpress with a fire like that.
Also, I played hockey all my life and I feel the same way about Botpress as I do about hockey. Sometimes the pressure is there but we’re all teammates. And even when it’s hard, when you win the game, you really don’t care about the slashes and the pucks you blocked. You’re just happy you won the game. I see my Botpress teammates as really talented and passionate devs. No one is here just to get a paycheck and go home. It’s really like a hockey team.
If you had the chance to say one thing to everyone in this world, what would it be?
I don’t want to flex or anything. I would say: “How much do you bench?” It’s a simple question but I live by this rule.
Francois Levasseur is a Software Developer working at Botpress. You can find him on LinkedIn.
The People of Botpress is a series where we highlight our people and the great work they do by talking about life at Botpress.
Read our episode of The People of Botpress with Michael Masson, Site Reliability Developer
Read our episode of The People of Botpress with Sylvain Perron, CEO & Co-Founder
Read our episode of The People of Botpress with François-Xavier Darveau, Head of Engineering
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