Panna Zsámba, Web Developer on Ship Modelling

Hi, my name is Panna Zsámba, and I am a front-end developer at a Dublin based tech company called Kitman Labs. I am working on a web application that helps coaches make decisions in training to avoid injuries of athletes. I am from Budapest, Hungary, and moved to Dublin only last year. Dublin offered a lot from the tech industry without a language barrier. Plus, I actually enjoy the weather!

I started out as a web designer because I liked drawing and always had an artistic side. I tried to get freelance jobs during my college years, but soon I realised I have better chances to find a job if I extend my knowledge to other parts of web development instead of relying solely on graphic design. I learnt HTML and CSS first, and once I started working full time, being introduced to JavaScript was a side effect. I enjoy how fast it is evolving and every task is like a puzzle to be solved, so I ended up concentrating more on development than design.

One thing I do for fun is ship modelling. I usually spend time on my hobbies (I have quite a few!) in waves. When building a ship has its wave (no pun intended), I work for some hours on it during the weekend, when I have the time. But it may happen that I do not touch it for weeks because I would rather be drawing, painting, knitting or even cross-stitching.

I first got a plastic ship model for my birthday when I was about 13. It was a very basic ship; even the sails were made of plastic, which gave it a cheap look. I completed it all the same and had it on my shelf for a long time (until the neighbour’s little kid gave it a punch). After that I did not think of ship modelling much, until about a year and a half ago when I walked past a model shop and saw the boxes of these beautiful wooden ships. I thought of how amazing it would be to build one again, and had to buy one.

I have always had a thing for sailing; my home is full of sailing and beach-related decoration. I used to sail when I was a kid, although Hungary is not connected to any oceans, so I never sailed on really big boats. I do see something romantic and adventurous when I look at a sailing ship. That idea of hopping into a vessel and seeing where the wind takes you… that is simply gorgeous to me.

Working on a model requires a completely different skillset from working with software. Different parts of my mind are at work, so it gives me a break from the parts needed for software engineering. There are some similarities, though. Many times the manual of the model is missing pieces, so I have to rely on creativity to achieve the final look that I want. This problem is also the same in web development: you have a given obstacle and a given set of resources, and you have to come up with a solution using what you have available. For example, sometimes there are technical limitations in web development that are given for a project, so I am restricted in the tools I can use. Similarly, with ship models, I cannot bend a piece of metal over a certain point or it breaks, or I cannot use the prefabricated piece I got with the kit because it just does not fit. Creativity is needed to figure out all of the details.

All of my models are based on real ships. For example, the one I am working on is a fishing boat from the early 20th century. It is necessary to have some knowledge of how a “real” ship works, especially when it comes to knots or sewing the sails. These things work exactly as with the real ones, just in miniature. Also, as I have mentioned before, the manual is often missing important details, but once you know roughly how a ship is built you can figure it out. I regularly need to use photos of real ships as a reference.

I keep all the ships I make. I am not producing them with such a speed that I have to think about getting extra shelves any time soon! The one I am working on right now is quite difficult – I have been building it for a year now. My goal is to just to have fun while making something nice. It feels good looking at the product at the end thinking I made it, even though after you complete it is not really useful for anything but decoration.

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