Hey, Dan 👋 Nice to meet you! Do you want to give us a quick introduction to yourself and what it is you do in your current role at Cloudsoft?

Hello! I’m originally from Canada. I moved to the UK in 2005, originally intending to be here a year or two and ended up staying. I’ve been working in software development for over 15 years in various roles and industries. I’ve been fortunate to have the experience of working with public and private organisations, as well as with consulting and product development companies. In my current role at Cloudsoft I help our clients with cloud adoption or use the cloud better. My particular passion is Serverless on AWS.

I can see that you studied at University for a Computer Science degree. If you were to rewind the clock, would you still stick with this route or do you think self-taught/Bootcamps are the way forward?

I started university in 1998 and graduated 2003. I didn’t even hear about bootcamps till much later. I don’t think you can directly compare them. I think you’d get more depth from a degree where the bootcamp is more focussed on being productive. Regardless of the route I think all need a solid grasp of fundamentals and an ability to learn as things constantly change. I see both as a first step on a much larger journey.

What has your journey been like? Do you have any advice or tips and tricks for the more junior developers?

My journey has had a couple of twists. I didn’t get a job direct from university. I was actually a delivery driver for a couple of years! After moving to the UK and working in a couple of pubs, I then started doing IT support with the BBC. I met a person there who told me about some software development roles coming up at Accenture so I applied and ended up getting hired! I then spent the next 5-ish years with them on a few different projects then moved to a other places doing product development, and consulting roles. I’ve been fortunate to have worked with some very good people that have shaped how I think about software development and my practices.

So my tips (based on my journey) are:

  • Networking: I have met some some amazing people and they have helped my career immensely. Try and work with more good people (see tip 3)
  • Ask questions: I would rather be the person asking a question to get unstuck and move forward than be stuck for days because someone might think it's a foolish question. Just because I’m a *Principal* doesn’t mean anything. I’ll ask anyone anything. I also want to hear other people's opinions. When doing mobbing I want people to feel comfortable asking questions and expressing ideas so the environment has to be right.
  • Be nice: People want to work with nice people. I find good people will gravitate towards other good people. Being nice and helpful now could mean good things later in your career.

In your spare time, you’ve co-founded ‘Tech for Kids’. Would you mind telling us a little bit about this?

I volunteer at my kids school as part of Code Club UK. I wanted to make that bigger so whilst I was at Opencast (along with a couple of amazing friends) I got help from the company to put on a tech event for kids on a Saturday. We used the space in Hoults Yard that is now Ghetto Golf. We had 20 kids turn up and we did Robotics, AR development, Scratch programming and made a banana piano! Since that first event we’ve had several more, the last one had 150 kids and we also had the support of several more local businesses and a couple of universities! Unfortunately COVID then struck and we haven’t organised one since but we’re hoping to be back next year.

There are a lot of grads/junior developers in the tech space but it seems that most companies seem to favour the more senior developers. Why do you think it’s important to nurture young tech talent? 

This is hugely important! We want to be encouraging any kind of tech talent whether it's young or people switching careers. My advice would be to try and start with a bigger company. They usually have a graduate program (or apprenticeship) and can accommodate less experienced people. There is a massive skills gap and this is why I started Tech For Kids - to get them interested in technology at a young age. It’s up to employers to have that culture of learning where people can grow.

How do you stay motivated/focused when you’re faced with big challenges? 

I try not to get too stressed about stuff. I’m Canadian, we’re fairly laid back. If I find myself not really making progress I’ll take the dogs out for a walk and try not to think about it.

Lastly, are you working on any other projects that you want to shout about? We’d love to hear about them!

I run 2 meetups that usually meet on alternating months - AWS user Group NE and Serverless NE. I’m also working on a side project that we’re hoping to launch soon next year.  Watch out for it!

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