From chef to "softie"

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Christian Hefti on cooking and programming

At the age of just 32, Christian Hefti is already a team and project manager at Hamilton Medical AG in Bonaduz. What at first glance might seem like a straightforward career path was actually one marked by a series of twist and turns.

It’s difficult to bring together the two worlds of cooking and programming. When we think of software developers, we might think of young men whose idea of preparing a meal is opening the wrapper of a chocolate bar. A stereotypical chef, on the other hand, appreciates the simple, real things in life like fire, water, freshly harvested vegetables – even an electric stove is akin to sacrilege for them. Christian Hefti has lived in both worlds. He is a software developer, a former chef and, before that, he was a school dropout.


Getting into IT through gaming

When asked about his unusual career, he laughs: “Let’s put it this way, it took me a relatively long time to find the right path.” His story should serve to reassure any parents who are concerned about their children’s lack of focus and purpose. Christian gives us the short version: “I lost interest in learning at school and dropped out. Then I began an apprenticeship to become a surveyor, but didn’t want to sit in an office all day and abandoned it. Then I trained to become a chef. It was fun at work, it was a kind of stress I really enjoyed, but I knew that I didn’t want to do it for the rest of my life, and I quit. Then I went to vocational school. I didn’t really have a plan.

“While I was at vocational school, it slowly dawned on me that computer science is a professional field that I should probably take a look at,” Christian smiles.

“It was an obvious choice in hindsight. I was glued to the PC from the day my dad brought it home. I was really into online gaming, and part of the first generation of counterstrike players. That’s how I learned a bit of programming – in gaming, you always have to fix minor technical problems.”

Now, after a bachelor’s degree and various further education courses, at the age of 32, Christian is a project and team leader in the software development department at Hamilton Medical in Bonaduz – a “softie”, as they call each other. His career is not as unlikely as it may seem. “Cooking and programming certainly have similarities,” says Christian. “You can make a tomato soup out of ketchup and water, for example, but it’s better with fresh tomatoes. In the same way, you can program cheap, quick solutions or high-quality ones. And developing software is actually a very creative process as well. Some of our programmers are real virtuosos – they have their own style, like a Michelin-starred chef.”


Programming like a star chef

Programming now only takes up about 20 to 30 per cent of Christian’s time. His main job is to coordinate the various tasks. “If, for instance, we are dealing with a ventilator that also collects data and thus has to find the ‘sweet spot’ of the air pressure for the lungs to expand best, then the sensors have to act as logical units ...” The sentences that follow sound fascinating but mean nothing to anyone who doesn’t work in computer science. This is something Christian is very familiar with. Even more than other professions, programmers live in a world of their own, and speak a language nobody else understands.


Connecting specialists

It was for precisely this reason that he got together with some of his fellow students two years ago to found GRIT, short for Graubünden IT, an association that aims to offer the IT community in Graubünden a platform and help create a network of specialists. “The number of IT specialists in the region is constantly growing. The industry is booming here,” he explains. His department at Hamilton alone has grown from 12 to over 40 employees in the five years since he has been there. Always in development, always growing, always new challenges to overcome – at Hamilton, Christian has found a place where he never gets bored. There is one more important point he wants to add: “The food in the canteen is also quite good. It’s amazing what they can do with the facilities they have at such a price.” Once a chef, always a chef.

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