Job of the Month #14: Backend developer

New episode of our Job of the Month series to discover the many facets of the music industry. This month, Julien Seveno talks about his career as a back-end developer at IDOL.

Each month, IDOL presents a job in the music industry. Or more than a job, a person! Because behind the same job title, there are significant differences from one structure to another. Each person can define the scope of his or her job according to his or her career path, qualities and skills! Meet Julien Séveno, back-end developer at IDOL. For 15 years now, he’s been designing all the technical elements essential to the operation of our Labelcamp digital music distribution application.

Developed in-house, the Labelcamp solution offers a complete range of tools for managing deliveries, sales reports and analytical dashboards. It enables distribution companies to manage all digital operations, with maximum autonomy and efficiency. With its focus on user experience, Labelcamp is designed for large catalogs and complex operational needs.

What does a back-end developer do?

A back-end developer does pretty much everything that users don’t see, but which is essential for an application as complex as ours to work. Antoine is a front-end developer, for the part visible to end-users, while I work on the back office to ensure delivery of tracks and albums, display of data and results.

Labelcamp is an API client, which means that all our customers can build their own interface according to their needs, based on our design and functionality choices.

To create a new feature, I’ll write the technical specifications, then implement that feature, while ensuring that the API (application programming interface) is maintained and that our customers receive a short response time.

We have to think about how to structure the elements provided by DSPs or labels, in a database. Every day, we make a choice of technology to find the best way to display or store data. There’s also a whole section of unit tests on the code, to make sure that when we write a new feature, we don’t risk breaking the existing one. If we didn’t have these tests, we wouldn’t be able to serenely deploy new functions.

What are the qualities required for your position?

You need to be rigorous, logical, pragmatic, patient and optimistic. And above all, you need to be able to question yourself: as you evolve in your thinking and develop your skills, code written a few years ago is inevitably less good than today’s code. The more experience you have, the more you need to question your old code: just because your code works doesn’t mean it’s necessarily well-written and optimized; there’s always room for improvement.

Sometimes we notice it because of performance problems, or a bug, which makes us peer into the code. Sometimes you know that part of the code has been written in a hurry, because you had to take care of the most urgent needs, which means that at some point you’ll have to come back to it. We also like to throw out some code because it’s no longer useful, because we’ve created a new feature for example.

In the particular case of the funnel, we wrote it several times before managing to integrate it into Labelcamp, because we had different technical constraints. In the beginning, users had to digitize CDs, so we wrote it in low-level languages. Today, we’ve decided to stop digitizing CDs, which has opened the door to more powerful code, with much simpler deployment management.

Can you tell us a little about your career path?

After a scientific baccalaureate, I did a technology degree in computer science and software engineering. I could have gone and done a professional license, but my school offered a specialization in network, and that wasn’t my favorite subject at all. Alternatively, I could join the general course by taking a bachelor’s degree followed by a master’s degree.

I didn’t really know what to do, so I did a MIAGE degree, to learn how to manage a company and develop. But after two years of a very technical degree, this license was too theoretical, so at the end of the year, I didn’t enroll for the master’s degree. I looked for a job and came across IDOL.

On the other hand, as a developer, you have to train, otherwise you can’t progress. In our line of work, there’s a lot of technical monitoring, studying new technologies like ChatGPT, AI, etc. From there, we think about what problem could be solved using one of these functionalities. You have to be a bit curious, play with it a bit, to stay in the race.

That’s the kind of innovation that IDOL values. One of the ways of being innovative is to offer users tools to help them get on with their work faster.

What do you like about your job?

What I like is that I’m never bored. It’s a bit linked to the spirit of the company and also to the fact that we work in the music industry. For a back-end developer, music is an exciting field to play in, because it’s changed tremendously in the past 15 years. When Youtube and streaming dethroned paid downloading, we were faced with new data management issues. Then TikTok came along and raised new issues again. It can be very frustrating at times, but it’s also very interesting, and means we don’t always have to do the same thing everyday.

Platforms often change the rules too. For example, we used to make our API deliveries to YouTube, which is handy because the response is straightforward: you know whether it worked or not and why. But YouTube told us that no one else was using the API, and that we now had to use DDEX. For us, this is less practical, because when you send an XML file, you have to go and check whether it worked.

Why did you choose to work for IDOL?

I’d been interviewing for IT services companies, where you end up as a service provider on a temporary assignment for a customer. That was the image we’d been given of the job in undergraduate school, so I was a bit resigned to it.

And when I arrived at IDOL for the interview, the offices were comfortable, there was music playing, and we talked for I don’t know how long. Pascal Bittard told me all about his job, why he did it… You could tell he was passionate. Besides, it was the very first developer position, so it was a challenge, both for me and for the company. I wanted to give it a try and then I stayed. That was 15 years ago.

What makes you stay at IDOL?

I like the company, I like working in music. I also like the management, which gives us time to innovate. We don’t have the pressure to come up with results, we have the time to do our job properly. It’s very comfortable, and above all very important.

I’m also proud of the fact that we’re able to do great things with a team a third the size of our competitors. I know that we’re able to implement a feature requested by a platform much more rapidly than some of our competitors, because we’re much more agile.

And I also know that IDOL still has a lot of projects, and here’s still plenty to do before I leave.

Julien's playlist

The playlist is a mix of stuff I listen to, but also of events or fun we’ve had with the team. It’s part of my history at IDOL.

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