Oct 14, 2022 9 MIN

Meet José Donato

Little story about how open source and OpenBB changed my life

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In Portugal, a country where financial literacy is not a priority at all (currently the worst in all of Western Europe - ref), people are not usually exposed to this topic if not directly related to it either because of work or a huge financial scandal happening (which unfortunately happens quite frequently and has a negative effect on the interest of investing because of the loss of trust in the financial system).

It was only during my masters in Cybersecurity, in 2020, that my advisor, Professor Nuno Antunes, sparked my interest in finance and investing in general. The months went by and I kept on reading more and more books that explained the basics of investing - “The Richest Man in Babylon”, “Rich Dad Poor Dad”, “Little Book of Common Sense Investing”, to name a few. Alongside with that I joined multiple financial subreddits including /r/stocks and /r/superstonk. On the 15th of March 2021, one interesting post from one of those subreddits popped up in my feed. It was about an open source investment tool that had the goal to help individuals do their investment research analysis for free from one single platform - an interesting approach since, for the average investor, information is spread across a range of different channels and is often not free.

At the time I was doing my master thesis about web applications and I offered my help to make a web frontend for this.

first chat with didier

Little did I know that this simple message would have such a huge impact in my life. Fun fact: I had no clue that Didier was also Portuguese when I first messaged him, which made everything more interesting. It impressed me in particular that it was a Portuguese guy starting the project as, mentioned earlier, Portugal has one of the lowest financial literacy rates.

Even though I was aware about what open source was at that time, I didn’t contribute much and didn’t see the full potential of open source. I didn’t understand how such an amazing project would gain more by being open to everyone (which made it really easy for everyone to copy it) than closed where no one could copy it. But oh boy, I was never so wrong in my life. In the end of the article I have my thoughts about open source.

After the reddit message with Didier, we kept talking and I quickly found how special and knowledgeable he was - I remember in the beginning Didier spending hours and hours teaching me how the terminal was structured and the reasoning behind it. Eventually a discord server was created and I started getting involved with “Apes” from all over the world and I quickly understood how open source can change the life of a person. From learning python with a PhD in physics, or about jupyter and tests with someone from Russia or France to do a quick React workshop to the very same people (the top advantage of open source). The amount of knowledge that can be diffused is incredibly impressive and that’s what I love the most about OpenBB but I will talk about that later.

I started my contributions to Gamestonk (the name of the project at the time) with a simple landing page for the web. I’m very passionate about the web, and, as I said, I was doing my thesis about that topic at that time so it made sense.

gamestonk landing page

But another magic of open source is that you can jump into other areas if you find yourself bored. The terminal (our primary open source product) is all written in python and started by the most knowledgeable people I know (Didier, Artem, James, Colin, Theo, Chavi, etc) so when I started adding features and fixing bugs on the terminal my skills on python grew exponentially just by looking at their code and getting my code reviewed by them (another important advantage of open source).

Even though I made some contributions I was finalising my thesis and thus had to spend time away from the Terminal for the following months. Fast-forward 2 months and I successfully delivered my thesis - a study comparing the performance of native and web applications for mobile devices. Can web applications with all the right vitamins be as reliable as native applications? …TLDR: Yes but if you want to read more in detail you can check my thesis here.

At that time I had accepted some freelancing web jobs, and planned to keep doing that for the following months. However, Didier had different plans. In August, he told me something that would change my life forever. Someone was interested in investing millions to turn a hobby financial project into a company that could change investment research forever. In September 2021, Didier asked me if I wanted to be part of this. Working in open source, in the area of investments, with this community (and values), and getting well paid for it - was impossible to say no. I don’t think I gave more than 5 seconds of thought.

I signed the contract and joined OpenBB in the last week of September which made me the first full time team member (one of the things I am most proud of in my life).

I met Artem, who guided me in the first months at OpenBB. Artem is probably the most knowledgeable person I have met so far (regardless of the topic) and I feel fortunate that he was my first “mentor” in the industry world. During the first months, I worked primarily on the marketing website and the crypto menu of the terminal.

The people who already knew OpenBB were aware of its potential, but we needed a way to explain our vision to everyone else. OpenBB needed a marketing website ready as soon as possible to communicate with our users and possibly future customers. This tool needs to clearly explain what we do, what we offer and what we are planning to do - a “Hello World, this is OpenBB”. We initially thought about outsourcing this job to a company, but I challenged Didier to built it in-house, and that’s what we did. We hired a good friend of mine, Rita, who is the most skilled designer I have ever seen. Rita started part-time working on marketing website mockups but without any surprise, the team quickly understood Rita quality, and she joined full time.

Fast forward 5 months, we announced OpenBB (it was a semi-secret until then) and published openbb.co. I will do a post in the future explaining the marketing website journey. It was my first big task at OpenBB and according to the feedback, it was a success (🤝 Rita). If you don't know the website yet feel free to navigate through it, it is a living document and we are constantly improving it. If you have any feedback, please let us know.

The team quickly grew and we had to organize and I’m now part of probably the most funny team in open source tech companies. I cannot describe how joyful everyday is to me, it’s rare the day I don’t cry from laughing too much with them while we huddle in slack.

team photo

It’s amazing how this job (and team) motivates me to always deliver the best and I think this is traversable to everyone in the team. No matter the hour or day everyone is always ready to help each other.

Working at OpenBB doesn’t feel like a job, it’s more like that hobby that you always want to be grinding.

Also, working at OpenBB made me realize how important Open Source really is - In my view, I now see that building in the open should be the natural choice for the majority of the projects. Normally tech people understand the benefits of Open Source, but other areas are now starting to realize its potential as well. For example, in the health field, because of the principle of sharing knowledge and resources between the community, we were able to design the revolutionary vaccine for coronavirus in just 2 days (ref). Hence, in my opinion, these are the biggest Open source pros:

  1. You get to meet amazing communities from all over the 🌎
  2. You get to learn and improve your skills by reading code by some of the best engineers
  3. The projects get to evolve and transform much faster because of the fast spread of knowledge from the most skilled individuals

My goal for the years to come is to keep learning as much as I learned this previous year - “Can’t stop won’t stop” (ref). Besides that, I also hope that I (or OpenBB) can somehow help Portugal increase its awareness regarding investments (and finances in general).

We are growing quick but we are just getting started. Knowing the OpenBB team I’m sure only the 🌙 is the limit and we will not stop until we reach there. If you want to be a part of this journey, join our discord and follow us on twitter.

If you want to know more about me or want to chat with me, you can check my website.

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