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From Snail Genetics to App Code: Olivio Mutaquiha’s Path to Shape

Olivio Mutaquiha and wife Bianca
Olivio Mutaquiha with his wife

How does a biologist end up as an android developer? Let’s ask Olivio Mutaquiha, android developer at Shape. Olivio is a cemented part of the OK team, and he’s not going anywhere any time soon. In fact, he’s even ready to put down roots in Copenhagen despite the slightly colder weather than his usual stomping grounds. Watch this introduction and read more about him below.

A Global Journey: Olivio's Path from Mozambique to Brazil and Denmark

Olivio moved to Denmark in March 2021 from Brazil, but this is not where he’s originally from. He was born and grew up in Mozambique, where he eventually went to university to study biology. 

“I eventually started working at the University of Mozambique as an assistant professor, but the university is fairly new, and the opportunities in Mozambique were pretty limited, so I decided I needed to go somewhere else to pursue my studies.”

That ended up being Brazil, since it wouldn’t create a language barrier. 

“Brazil was an easy choice. First because of the language, and secondly because the country was in a very good place at the time unlike the crisis going on in Europe.” 

And what kind of biology was he studying then? 

“Population genetics. More specifically an invasive species African giant snail. I was trying to understand where the initial source was by comparing the genetic profiles from different places.” 

Discovering a New Passion: How Olivio Made the Shift from Science to Software

It’s a radical change from studying snails to developing apps, right? Or is it?

“When I was doing my master’s I was using python and other programming languages, and I noticed I liked doing that more than my research. But that wasn’t the only reason why I decided to switch careers.” 

Back in 2013/2014 Brazil entered a crisis, and it was difficult for researchers to get funding and do a PhD. 

“So I looked at opportunities that fit my skill set, and software development was the obvious choice.”

But why android then?

“I didn’t choose android, android chose me. A lot of my friends suggested that if I wanted to get a job quickly, I needed to do something with Java.”

So, Olivio did the only natural thing and taught himself Java in 4 months. Thankfully, he found an internship at a company asking for raw, basic Java skills. 

“They asked if I wanted to learn android, and I was just excited to learn anything and to work in the field.”

Was he happy with that path?

“Yes, it was the best choice of my life.”

From Rio's Chaos to Copenhagen's Tranquillity

Another good choice was making the move from Rio to Copenhagen. Granted the weather was not a huge selling point for Olivio, but the calmness made up for it. 

“I wasn’t supposed to stay in Brazil for 10 years, but I met my lovely wife there, and that’s just what happened. But we were both ready to leave the stress of the big city and find somewhere to settle down and have a family.” 

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So, how do you hear about a small country like Denmark?

“My friend applied for a job at Shape and recommended that I apply there. So I did a little research, and decided it looked like a place for me.” 

How so, you may wonder?

“They have a lot of internationals and even Brazilians, so culturally and language wise, it seemed like I would fit in. Also they work with some premium products, so it was very intriguing to be a part of that.”

Excellent products and an international environment sold him on Shape, but what sold him on Copenhagen? 

“Rio is a wonderful place, but it’s also very violent, and the work-life balance doesn’t exist. Copenhagen is nice and calm, and things happen as you’d expect them to. The politics are really boring here.” 

Olivio also did arrive in Copenhagen during Corona times, where there wasn’t much happening, but even now, it’s still a lot calmer than carnival capitol. 

“Shape got me an apartment in the city centre, which was really nice. I could go jogging in the King’s Garden and enjoy the beautiful city.”

And maybe he could enjoy a little too much of the Danish people too. 

“One thing I found really strange when I got here was as soon as the sun was out, the Danish people lay around half naked outside. Then I experience the colder seasons and now I understand that they cherish the sun, because they don’t get as much of it. In Brazil we have too much.”

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A Passion for Green Energy: Olivio's Role in the OK Project

Olivio started at Shape by working on the OK project, which is where he still is today. 

“And I’m not leaving.” 

Safe to say, he found a project he really loves. 

“OK is making the transition from fossil fuels to green energy, and as a trained biologist, the environment is something I’m very passionate about.”

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And while he has stayed on the same project since the beginning, Olivio has worked on many different parts of the project.

“I get to work on both the home app and the transportation app, and they are both really cool and have cool designs. The project is just growing and growing, so I get to tackle new and exciting challenges all the time.” 

And when asked about what challenges stand out the most, he was quick to answer two different ones. 

“A year ago OK wanted to display a chart showing user consumption, and this was challenging for me, but we learned a lot and have implemented this for both of the apps today. The other one was a bug that took quite a bit of time to figure out, and the solution was so simple. Just one line of code that needed to be changed.”

But even though Olivio switched careers, he didn’t leave the teaching behind completely. Recently he started doing lectures for Shape at Denmark’s Technical University (DTU). Here they are teaching an entire 13-week course called ‘User Experience and Mobile Application Development 2023’.

“It’s an amazing experience. And challenging. English is not my first language, but it’s really fun to be a part of.”

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Fulfilment Through Meaningful Work

Olivio makes a difference for the minds of future developers, which is something that’s really important to him, to keep him motivated in his job. 

“Doing work that makes a difference is very fulfilling. And that’s both solving a problem for a customer or app user, doing work that makes a difference in the climate crisis, or doing community work, which is also a big part of who I am.”

Because Olivio spends much of his free time teaching software development to refugees and spouses of immigrants, who need jobs, through the non-profit organisation HackYourFuture.

“We teach software technology mainly focusing on the web. We teach them how to think as programmers, and the last two months of the course they learn how to work collaboratively in a company. It’s a very comprehensive course that takes them from almost zero to be able to get their first internship in the industry.”

Beyond the Classroom: Getting to Know Olivio at Shape

Olivio’s without a doubt the fun teacher, but who is he around the Shape office? 

“I’m a very social person. Maybe too social? It’s the Brazilian in me. We like to talk to everyone.”

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Thankfully, everyone in the office wants to either listen or talk back, which is not always a given in Denmark, or at least Copenhagen. 

“People are maybe a little more private here, which was a big change for me when I first arrived. However, it’s also nice that I get to ride the bus in peace sometimes.”

While Olivio spends a lot of time with his lovely wife, he also enjoys the activities at the Shape office. 

“I’m really nerdy about chess, so I love participating in the tournaments we have at the office.”

And if you ask him, he’s of course the best player in the office. But chess isn’t the only thing OIivio is nerdy about. 

“I love reading books.”

Only reading?

“Actually I’ve also written my own novel. It was never published though.”

And as a true Brazilian, of course football is also a great interest, but actually the NBA takes up more of his time. 

“I just really enjoy the game. I grew up rooting for the Bulls, but now it’s the LA Lakers.”

Come Join Olivio at Shape

“I am so happy here. It’s a perfect work-life balance, and I get to work on an amazing project. We are by far the leaders in the industry in Denmark – maybe even in Scandinavia. Any professional wants to work on cool projects and have time for personal interests. We get that here. And because there are so many internationals, it makes the work environment so much more interesting.”

Could Shape be your next place of work? We’re always looking for great talent to join our teams, so take a look at open positions right here. 👇

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