My road from a hillbilly to a professional developer

Dario Trbovic
7 min readDec 30, 2017


This is my “diary”. I’m gonna tell you my road from a village boy to a professional cold-hearted developer. Don’t worry, it won’t take too long, I’ll try to keep it short, but be aware, this road is 10 years long.

For security reasons I won’t name any company here. I don’t want to get sued :/

My first ride

Yeah, it all started there when I got my first laptop for 8000 HRK, around $1000. It was back in 1995. I was born and raised in, I guess the smallest village in Croatia, with a population of 100 people, even a bus had to turn around because this village was a dead end…

Fast forward 10 years

I moved to a city, actual city where I was attending a high school. Big thanks to my sister who was the first one in our family to go to college and for teaching me some intellectual stuff so I can move away from that sh**thole. Thanks to my mom for making it all a reality.

This is where my career started, in 2006, I was 15 years old then. I started programming in PHP, I wanted to create my own website. After a year of teaching myself PHP and MySQL, I got a first job.

Actually it was a freelance job for a guy from America. Back then I was workingin Joomla and Wordpress and I was developing some plugins and features for him and his company. I did that for 3 years while I was in high school. Mostly working at summer time. Every summer I saved around $1000 just for me, which was awesome. Do you know how much $1000 is in Croatia? :O

That was the time when I learned how to think like a programmer, predict some things before they happen, how to communicate with foreign client… I created my LinkedIn profile back then. Knowledge was just raining down on my head.

During high school time I was constantly working on some side projects, I was working on my own startups without even realizing it. During those 4 years of high school I made around 10–15 projects of my own. I forgot what they were about, I remember some of them: Croatian diaspora community, various forum projects, place where community will write one big book, copy of, Digg clone, CroTube (like YouTube)… and many others. It all failed.

Lesson learned: It’s good to start early.

College time

S**t, Miley Cyrus helping me during college years

This is where I learned more about PHP frameworks and failed with my first serious startup. College was a bittersweet experience for me, reading so much but learning so little. They were bombarding us with so many useless things. I learned to code in C#, C, C++, some VHDL I think, but I stick to my PHP.

Freelance/Local companies

I wanted to try working for some local companies and I did. I was freelancing for some local companies. Sometimes I got paid sometimes I didn’t, but they all offered me a job after college. After all, I always did what they asked from me.

Lesson learned: Work with local companies, build a reputation and see which one is the best for you.

Startup #1 — Pippion

I realized I wanted to try with my own serious project/company. Together with my friends we started with Pippion — pigeon breeding management system and auction website. We worked on it for 2 years. First C# version, then we moves to web, this is where I learned more about Yii framework.

We won a competition (one of many articles about us We went through 4-month acceleration program. We applied for Bulgarian accelerator Eleven, we went to with Pippion, to Budapest. There was a lot of ups and downs. At the end, we failed.

Thanks to Pippion companies in my hometown heard a lot about me. This was the first time I led a team and I was a “CEO”.

Lesson learned: Startup is hard. Listen what people say and listen to their advice but filter them out. Take only those you think are good for you.

Company #1

The only thing left to do is to graduate. Few months before graduation I got a job as a lead web developer in foreign startup who set its base in my hometown. That was the first time I professionally led a team of 4 developers, coordinating everything, speaking with clients, designing architecture, planning everything, educating other employees about our product, worrying about servers… I was the bridge between developers and everybody else in the company. I fully took a responsibility of a CTO, even though I wasn’t one.

I was working like crazy there. I worked overtime, worked at home, went with a boss on meetings all over neighboring countries. I really wanted this to succeed. At the end it failed, startup failed. We all got fired.

Lesson learned: People are not what they say they are, be careful about what you do and who you trust.

Startup #2 — Blitzer/Hucklbrry

During that time I started working on my own project, once again. It was called Blitzer, later on we change its name to Hucklbrry. Blitzer is an app where people can meet each other in real life within an hour. Currently, it’s dead but alive:

We created iOS version and API all by ourselves. We had developers, marketers and we even found some US partners from L.A., then from Atlanta and then from Houston. We gathered around $7000 for launch that never happened.

I had an experience from previous project about accelerators so I refused to apply to one again, I just wanted us to get some traction and bootstrap.

At least I learned how to work with a remote team. It’s extremely hard, possible but hard. If not necessary, better don’t do it.

At the end we failed.

Lesson learned: Working with a remote team is hard. Trying to launch in foreign country without being there is even harder. Think 10x before creating an app.


Pranking and making co-workers laugh…

Company #2

It was a time to find another job in another company. It was a young company, 3 years old. It was a good company, at the beginning, until I realized what they were doing and how they were leading the company.

I worked overtime, I tried hard, but they never gave me any recognition. I had previous experience and that’s why I wanted to help them, lead, change some things, improve some things, build a career. We didn’t get along. I was losing my mind, I was nervous most of the time, I didn’t like how they managed the company and there was nothing I could do about it.

They didn’t fail, but our cooperation did fail. We agreed to go separate ways.

Lesson learned: Be cool, be chill. If there’s nothing you can do, work what you are told and quietly look for other solutions. Don’t stress!

Company #3

This was one of the best companies. Very professional, 8 years old company. I worked in a 6-men team, everything was super organized. You know what to do when, how, why… This is where I learned how to communicate with clients, bill per hour, work in a team of senior developers and so on. You know, some basic real professionalism.

Unfortunately I had some private problems. I didn’t know how to separate that from my work life and this is where things got complicated and I just couldn’t fit in. That problem was in my head. I failed and I got fired.

There’s no bad blood, they even helped me find a new job.

Lesson learned: No matter what problems you have, you have to do your job professionally, you have to adjust.

Company #4

A small company, very small. Six of us working on startup projects. We work with remote teams. I learned a lot about Laravel framework. We build our own on top of Laravel. I learned Angular JS, Blockchain, Angular 2, Ionic. Wrote dozens articles for the company, educating people about PHP, holding presentations... I help my teammates a lot. I become a team leader and a mentor. Moving toward CTO position.

Lesson learned: Man, you can do it, if you organize yourself correctly you can do it all. Learn new technologies but focus on the one you really like. As I like to say: “Jack of all trades, master of none”.

Startup #3 — Mimic

I wouldn’t say it’s a startup but an idea I like a lot. Mimic is a split screen app where people can copy each other’s moves.

I’m doing it on my own, when I have time. I built hybrid iOS version and I’m playing around with it.

Lesson learned: I just started with this. There is no lesson yet :)

It’s dark outside! But I keep working, waiting for a light

What did I learn?

A lot, believe me… Here are some key lessons I learned:

  • Be professional
  • Be careful who you trust
  • Don’t mix business with friendship
  • Just relax and solve a problem
  • Don’t expect much
  • Be careful with your promises
  • Don’t plan ahead too much, you never know what might happen

If you look closely you can often find a word “fail”. Yeah, I failed a lot, but…

I’m still here, standing, fighting!