What I love most about baking is the satisfaction when the product comes out of the oven baked just right, so that the texture, flavour, and aroma tickle your senses. I also love baking because it is a family tradition — my parents are big role models and are always happy when my son does baking as well; he sometimes wants to try a new cupcake or cookie recipe or to have a taste of home with classic polvoron. Thus, the tradition is passed on to the next generation.

My name is Rey Vincent Babilonia and I’ve been a Java developer for over 18 years. I was born and raised in Iriga City, one of the seven component cities in the Bicol Region, Philippines. I’ve been married to my wife for 12 years now but we’ve been together for 20 years. We have a 10-year-old kid with mild ADHD who’s also into baking and coding with Scratch and HTML/CSS/JS.

I moved to New Zealand in January 2017. I actually arrived on my birthday, which was five hours shorter due to the time zone difference and daylight savings time. My wife and I decided to migrate to Middle-Earth, where the grass is literally and figuratively greener, and the sheep outnumber people five to one. New Zealand is a very beautiful country. In our free time, we spend our weekends exploring places we’ve never been to, especially beaches on the east coast and shooting locations for The Lord of the Rings.

I have always been interested in Technology. Back in primary school, we were taught to use BASIC (Beginners’ All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) running on Microsoft Disk Operating System. Seeing how a computer does what you want it to do inspired me to pursue a computer science degree when I entered the University of the Philippines in 1999. I fell in love with Java because it enabled me to develop desktop applications with graphical user interfaces thanks to Java Swing. Since the premier university did not spoon-feed us, I had to learn HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and Java Server Pages by myself. These became useful for our thesis and future professional roles.

After graduating in 2004, I started working for a government research and development institute doing research on IPv6 networks, high-performance computing, grid computing, and bioinformatics (for which we had our paper published: https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-1-4419-8014-4_36). I also implemented a laboratory information management system for an international non-governmental organisation back in 2010. After the project ended, I worked on a geospatial information system for an IT outsourcing firm and a risk-management software for a sports betting company.

I completed my Master’s degree in information systems in 2009 — I implemented a missing person’s information system as my special project. In 2013, I took up a master’s degree in technology management, with educational assistance from my employer. I learned about IT project management, financial analysis, research & development management, and total quality management.

From 2012 to 2016, I was a programmer analyst in a multinational semiconductor corporation, which is only a few kilometres from our home in the province of Metro Manila. I spearheaded agile software development methodology and introduced various tools to improve software quality.

After I moved to New Zealand, I landed a role with the flag carrier airline in Auckland in April 2017. After our resident visa got approved, my wife and son joined me here after being apart for six months. When the pandemic struck, the airline industry took a hit. I left to join a FinTech start-up in March 2021 as the only developer, and have since been integrating our products with the open banking API providers and third-party partners.

Outside of work, I love Baking. I first became interested in baking when I was a child — growing up with two younger brothers and parents who are teachers, you learn to bake to help augment the family income. My dad would make cassava cake and my mom would make chiffon cake, leche flan, and cheese puto. I think I was 10 years old when I started to learn the techniques from my mom, but I was much younger when I would taste-test the uncooked batter or scrape off the condensed milk from the cans.

My favourite thing to bake has always been Brazo de Mercedes. Using just egg whites, caster sugar, cream of tartar, and lemon extract for the meringue (and egg yolks, condensed milk, vanilla extract, and butter for the custard filling), it’s really yummy.

I have had a few memorable baking experiences. One time, we were baking leche flan. It had been over an hour already, but they were still runny. My mom was livid. We double-checked if we had all the correct measurements for condensed milk, evaporated milk, vanilla extract, and even caramelised sugar. It turns out we forgot to mix in the egg yolks, all 20 of them, because the bowl got covered by a lid!

In conclusion, I have one future goal with Baking. Back in 2011, I started a bakery side hustle at home, catering to office mates and neighbours. It’s not as lucrative as my day job, and I had to close it eventually as we were migrating anyway. With the right equipment brought in from the Philippines, I might introduce some of the products we’ve perfected here in New Zealand.

I definitely think that my experiences with Baking and Technology have benefited each other. The use of quality ingredients combined with a baker’s skills will result in quality baked goods. It takes the right tools, agile techniques, fit-for-use libraries and platforms, and excellent coding skills to deliver quality software. Other similarities include accurate measurements — temperature and baking time result in consistency in the same way that the application of object-oriented design principles, design patterns, code penmanship, and automated tests leads to reduced code defects.

My advice to anyone interested in baking is to keep practising and expanding your kitchen knowledge, just like attending training and getting certified in IT fields. I was lucky enough to learn baking at a young age, but no one is too old to pick a recipe and perfect it.

Finally, I’d just like to say that there is always more than tech. When developers contribute to open-source software, it makes the code better, innovative, and reliable. In the same way, bakers share their recipes, which leads to improvements, substitutions, and experimentations. Physical or virtual meet-ups are the way to go for sharing our passions. After all, who wouldn’t want to have their cake and eat it too?

Rey’s LinkedIn Profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rvbabilonia/

Rey’s Twitter Profile: https://twitter.com/_r_vincent_

Rey’s Instagram Profile: https://www.instagram.com/_r_vincent_/

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