Hey, Aden 👋 Great to chat with you - do you want to introduce yourself and give a quick overview of what you do in your role at Clicks and Mortar and what your responsibilities are?

I’m Aden, co-founder and CTO at Clicks and Mortar. My responsibilities vary dramatically from day to day. Some days I’ll be working closely with the team as an IC (Individual Contributor), architecting and building our first piece of product. On other days you’ll find me undertaking product discovery, in the restaurants of our first customer. 

As a small team and an early-stage startup, there’s a real culture for everyone to chip in wherever necessary — we don’t yet have functions like HR or a people team — so I’m juggling various aspects of the business as well as the tech.

I can see that you started out as a freelance developer - what interested you about freelance work as opposed to working at a company early in your career?

That’s a great question! I actually started freelancing whilst I was still at school. I’d picked up design and development skills from running online communities (web forums) and realised I could use my skills to solve other individuals' and businesses' problems. I started doing this and found it extremely rewarding, I was learning new things on every project, received a great deal of praise for the work I was doing and it paid better than a Saturday job!

I’d always wanted to start my own business, and was always enamoured by the stories of tech startup founders who had dropped out of University, whether that be the well-known examples like Bill Gates or the ‘web 2.0’ ilk such as Kevin Rose. 

So, by the time I was due to start applying for University — or to start considering a job post-education — I had already built up a good network of clients who were providing semi-regular work. It felt like a no-brainer to get out there into the world, push forward with my freelancing, and learn by doing rather than being in a classroom. The goal was to grow my freelance into a larger business. That never happened, but it did teach me loads!

What one piece of advice were you given in your more junior tech career that has stuck with you on your journey?

Not one piece of advice or moment stands out. Probably because I was a bit more pig-headed when I was junior, so I had to hear things multiple times before they sunk in. 

The one thing it took me a long time to learn — and I wish I’d learnt earlier — is that it is ok not to know something. And it’s ok to ask an obvious question if you are unsure. 

When I was more junior I had greater imposter syndrome (than I have now) and I think that leads to overcompensation. Being someone who thinks they don’t need help, advice, support, or mentorship or can’t ask questions due to pride does nothing except hinder personal and professional growth. I wish I’d realised that sooner!

Do you have any tips/tricks for progressing up the tech career ladder?

This one is easy to answer:

  • Consistency over intensity. Bursts of energy followed by periods of coasting are not conducive to climbing the ladder in an ever-competitive field — the industry evolves too fast. Consistently turning up, taking pride in what you do, and being highly accountable goes a really long way.
  • Learn every day. If you can get addicted to finding new challenges, solving new problems and finding new experiences, every single day, it doesn’t take long for all of these experiences to compound into great results. 
  • Be deliberate. This one is probably the hardest of the three but is probably the most important. If you don’t know where you are going or what you’d like to achieve or accomplish, it’s hard to be deliberate about what you need to learn, and it’s hard to consistently level up in the right areas. Periods of introspection, reflection and personal goal-setting are invaluable to ensuring time is being invested in areas that help one grow.

How do you manage your time during your week to allow for upskilling/training time?

This varies a lot from week to week. My preferred approach for upskilling/training is ‘active’ rather than ‘passive’, in that I prefer to be doing something rather than watching, listening or reading something. It’s much easier to find opportunities to learn by doing engineering, than say, leadership or management though. 

As alluded to above, I try to ensure I’m learning something new daily. That might be by picking up a thorny problem in our codebase, putting together a scrappy prototype with some new technology I’ve not used before, watching Youtube videos, listening to podcasts, reading blog posts and — typically reserved for when I’m on holiday — reading books. 

I don’t really carve out specific time but I have a couple of habits like listening to podcasts whilst I walk for coffee that really helps ensure my mind gets an opportunity to grow each day. 

Thanks for chatting with us Aden! You can discover Clicks and Mortar and their current opportunities on the Haystack app 📲

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