Meta Q&A: Erwin Heiser

Lindsay McComb / Posted 4.10.2012

Meta Q&A:
Erwin Heiser

Forget everything you know about Belgian ExpressionEngine developers.

Wait, you didn't know anything about Belgian ExpressionEngine developers to begin with? Perfect.

This week, Meta Q&A heads to the Berchem district of Antwerp, Belgium to chat with the talented polyglot (Dutch, English, Spanish, HTML, PHP), Erwin Heiser of StookStudio.

MQ: Tell us about your work in 140 characters or less.

EH: Basically, I design and build websites and I'm the go-to EE guy for a few design agencies. I like clean, minimal design and code.

MQ:How/why did you get into the web industry? Why do you stick with it?

EH: My parents never bought me a Commodore64, which started a life-long fascination with computers.

Truth be told, I got into it because my girlfriend needed a website (it's always for a girl isn't it?). 

At the time I was studying to be a translator (I have a Master's in translation Dutch-English-Spanish), and I thought to myself: Might as well learn HTML, CSS etc... while I'm at it. One thing led to another and by the time I graduated I pretty much was set on continuing my web activities, so I started freelancing straight away and never looked back. 

Working with ExpressionEngine has allowed me to travel and meet some interesting people I wouldn't have met otherwise. It's a constantly evolving industry so it never gets boring. I don't see myself doing anything else for the foreseeable future. If anything, I still have a lot to learn to perfect my craft.

"Try to love what you do and have a good time doing it. Remember you work to live, not live to work." 

MQ: Why do you use ExpressionEngine?

EH: I used pMachine on my girlfriend's website, so once that evolved into EE I just rolled with it. I soon decided, rather than learning a few CMSs, to focus on EE. I had built a few sites in Wordpress and Textpattern, but I just felt EE had them all beat.

MQ: What was the first EE site you ever worked on? What was that experience like?

EH: My first real one was a trilingual site for a hotel in Mallorca so for me at the time that was a major project. This was before the path variables method that's common these days (or the many multi-language add-ons that keep cropping up), so I used a suggestion from Sue Crocker (a long-standing member of the EE community) and used some PHP in my templates along with segment variables to get it working. It was all pretty basic but it worked like a charm.

MQ: What does a typical workday look like for you?

EH: There's no such thing as a "typical" work day when you freelance. I can spend a day locked in meetings, either through Skype or in real life, spend it coding a layout in CSS/HTML, do an EE set-up, collaborate with a designer etc...

It's the variety that keeps it interesting.

 Belgian shoutouts
 from Erwin:

I want to mention a few fellow countrymen/women who are doing awesome work:

Having this kind of talent in the same small country as yourself really keeps you on your toes.

MQ: How do you stay passionate about your work? What do you do to refocus when you're having a bad day?

EH: If you're not passionate about it, you won't last as a freelancer. Luckily it's pretty easy to be passionate about it because the industry is constantly evolving, so there's something new to learn every day. On a bad day I just switch off and do something else entirely. You have to get away from it all every now and then.

My favorite EE site I worked on is: 

EH: The website for the Walry bookstore because it's been running (and I've been maintaining it) for quite a few years now. The people at the store really consider me one of their crew, so that's nice.

My favorite EE site someone else did is: 

EH: I thought the recently redesigned Focus Lab site was about as perfect as an agency site can get, quite envious of that. 

If I could change one thing about ExpressionEngine it would be:

EH: The update process! That's the one thing where WordPress really shines.

If I had once piece of advice for someone trying to break into the web industry it would be:

EH: I'm pretty sure I'm the last person you'd want advice from, but I'd say build a broad skillset but also try to find your niche, the one thing you excel at. Try to love what you do and have a good time doing it. Remember you work to live, not live to work. 

Lindsay McComb

Writer and Content Specialist

Lindsay is Q Digital Studio’s writer and content specialist. She develops heady technical jargon into clear, coherent (and optimized) content. She has a knack for finding just the right words - but only after she’s had a nice cup of coffee (or two). She happily dives into the depths of the Internet on a daily basis. Lindsay has worked as a writer and editor the world over.