Anthony is a thought leader in technical leadership and organisational processes. He is a regular organiser & presenter at conferences and meetups, a tech blogger, and is active in the open source community – In particular the Umbraco CMS, where he is an Umbraco MVP & Master. Anthony has experience in building high performing remote distributed production teams spanning multiple countries. He is an Agile/Scrum/Kanban enthusiast, a vocal proponent of Behaviour/Test Driven Development, and is always looking for ways to make development more efficient and enjoyable. Originally from Sydney, Australia, he is now based in London.
Anthony generously gave us five minutes of time to share some unique insights from his career so far…
What’s the story of your career so far? Any particular highlights?
I personally hate the word ‘career’. I’ve never had a career, and I don’t want one. I do what interests me, and luckily I have a skill set which means I can earn a good wage. This is something which I am very grateful for. That said, here is my story so far…
I am originally from Sydney, Australia. I was hired for my first ‘real’ job way back in 2007 following a meeting with a friend at a local pub at 2am! This was where I was first exposed to the Umbraco community – a community with which I have been heavily involved ever since.
As a junior in my first company, I was basically working 60 hour weeks for much of the time. It was a trial by endurance, but by 2010 I had almost a similar type of experience as some senior developers. In fact, when I moved to London in 2010, people hired me as a senior developer. Whilst contracting, I had met the owners of The Cogworks at the Umbraco London meetup. They were a famous Umbraco development house turned digital consultancy. Little did I know that this encounter would dictate almost 7.5 years of my life. The Cogworks was one of those companies that basically lets you do whatever you want, as long as you’re delivering the goods. It gave me a chance to blaze my own path, learn what I wanted, and be involved in organising conferences such as The Umbraco UK festival and The Umbraco Poland Festival. I even got the chance to open an office in Krakow, which is a city I really adore. It was truly a special place to work, and I have to admit that at the time I took it for granted.
By 2019 it was time for new challenges. I was originally planning to go contracting again, until I stumbled across the Technical Director role at Radley Yeldar (a 200-person full service agency). This was an opportunity to transform an entire department, and bring the rest of the company along for the ride. I came in like a wrecking ball, tearing down old processes, questioning beliefs, creating new policies, restructuring their infrastructure and billing practices, introducing Scrum and Kanban, forming teams, and generally having a ball. I built the development team from 5 people up to 17 within a matter of weeks. In March 2020, the “bug” hit, and it was time to leave, albeit prematurely. As of now, I am working as Head of Development for ISS LiquidMetrix – a fintech company in London.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned over the course of your career?
Soft skills matter more than technical prowess. We have all heard of that “difficult” person who we put up with because that person is brilliant. Here is a news flash: most of us are not that brilliant person, so learn to get along with people. Be helpful, be friendly, give praise, and don’t take things personally.
What skills are going to be most useful for candidates in your industry over the coming months?
I’m not sure about the coming months. These are very unpredictable times. However, I will tell you things I look for in CVs. If you can show experience in Test Driven Development/Behaviour Driven Development then you go to the top of my list. Add to this SOLID Principles, Hexagonal Architecture, Devops, a pragmatic sensible approach, a load of side projects, and really good people skills. If you tick these boxes, then in my opinion, you are the type of person who will succeed.
What advice would you give to others in a similar position to you at the moment?
At the time of writing this, we’ve all been working remotely since March. For everyone in leadership positions, please check in with your staff as often as possible. People working from home can feel isolated, and it is hard to notice mental health issues when people are remote. Try to be the person that they can trust and believe in. Show your team that you care about their wellbeing with your actions. Be open minded, be flexible. Most importantly, talk to your staff with your webcam turned on so they can see your face.
What’s going to be the biggest challenge in your industry in 2021?
A few things come to mind. Scaling up to meet demand in big data storage and processing, keeping up with technology, staying efficient when there are so many startups trying to get a piece of the pie, and even staff retention (developers get bored easily). The elephant in the room though is Brexit. What cross border regulations will exist, and what time frame to do have to implement them? It is a big unknown!
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