In August, my girlfriend and I went to New York City for 10 days. Ever since I grew up as a kid, New York seemed like this far away place that I only ever see in movies and TV shows. It never really occurred to me that I could actually just go there. So when I finally woke up for the first time in New York, I felt pretty psyched.
This is the city where people flee to in an attempt to make their dreams come true. It’s such a fantastic and -dare I say it- magical place. There’s this vibe of happiness, enjoyment… This energy. It’s electric. As soon as you talk to anyone, you can actually feel it.
When we were walking through this immense maze of architectural insanity that is New York, we saw a lot of buildings under construction. Whenever I looked up, I saw these construction workers up there, building the next beautiful skyscraper. I thought to myself that I loved my job but in the end, what I do is I build some website. However badass I feel about what I do, these guys up there are building actual skyscrapers. SKY. SCRAPERS. That word in its own is pretty cool. What they do goes into eternity as part of the historical, legendary and magical New York City skyline. Pictures of their work will travel around the world on postcards, movie shots, posters, etc.
Meanwhile, the sites I built last year have already been replaced with upgraded themes, pivoted their business, changed their brand-scheme or whatever. The only proof that I have that I once built something for these companies is in my project-archives on my backup server at home.
Then on our last day in New York, we walked through a street where some people were selling their paintings. I walked past this guy -Gary Tedder- who was selling these NYC bike maps with spray painted graphics on them. I loved how they looked. I decided to buy a few of them. I realized I didn’t have any cash on me, so I told him I would go find an ATM. He told me not to worry; I could pay with credit card if I wanted. “Oh, that’s cool!” I said. He took out his mobile phone, opened an app, typed in some data, swiped my credit card through the credit-card-swipe-device attached to his phone and handed me the phone while saying: “Please sign here”.
The screen I was presented with reminded me of a prototype I built for Sign2Pay while at Metropoly. At first it made me chuckle. I signed using my finger on the screen and kept staring at the UI for a second. This looked so much like the prototype I built, I started wondering if this was in fact not the real deal… It had been more than a year since that prototype had been presented at The Next Web… With each second, I became more fascinated.
I asked him about his life in New York and how his business as an artist was going. He told me he lived in Brooklyn and that things used to be fairly hard but as time moved on and technology like this became more ubiquitous, it really enabled him to start selling more and make his life easier to live.
I was stunned: Here I was, in New York City buying something from a street artist while paying with the very tool I helped build only a year earlier. As if my work had come full circle. That moment in the streets of New York city kept playing back in my mind during my flight home.
Later I realized, it couldn’t have been Sign2Pay as I was paying with credit card (Sign2Pay focusses on paying with chip & pin cards. Gary used Square). But the message stuck: I might not build skyscrapers. The things I code might not be tangible in the real world but they do create real opportunities. To some people, the things I build are not just a website. To them, it’s a tool that enables them to build a business, broadcast a message, express their priorities, share their perspectives on life; whatever is important to them.
It was the perfect memory to wrap up our trip to New York. It was the first time it dawned on me that what I do for a living matters. Not so much from a pride-point-of-view but from user point-of-view.
I build digital things that create real opportunities.