Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I’ve been with Atmos for a year now and I am responsible for.NET product development. This is centered around several of our key products such as Atmos Pipe, Atmos SIM and Atmos HMI. My teams also work closely with Research and Development.

All our products are integrated as a suite, and my first goal has been to look at how we approach the builds and ensure we can be as efficient as possible. I’m going to automate as much as we can to speed up the process of handover to the customers. Feedback is crucial so we’re looking at how to improve the development cycle meaning we will be able to ship more quickly, more frequently and with even more confidence.

I’ve been in development for over 25 years. My first role was in a mainframe team and was very different from modern application development. My last fifteen years have been focused on .NET.

It was when I was at Sorted and turned a 50-day, largely manual, process into a one-hour operation, that I came onto Andy Hoffman’s (Director of Research and Development) radar. Andy knew the CTO there and the CTO recommended me to Andy after I moved on.

I’m focused on two things: building products and the developer experience. My role as I see it is to make the developers’ lives easier, improve their productivity and help shelter them from external pressures, so they focus on the tasks at hand. 

I am still a coder at heart and am working on a UI for an exciting new project.

What do you see as your biggest achievement to date?

I took part in an Iron Man triathlon, the 2015 Iron Man UK in Bolton. The swim and the cycle went quite well but three miles into the marathon I hurt my knee. It was hard as I had got through two parts of the event and had felt quite confident about it. Every time I stopped to take on water, which was often as it was very hot that day, my knee and legs seized up. I was limping by the end of the race. Every step I took I was thinking about how much damage I might be doing to myself. I’d come too far to give up though: I wasn’t prepared to give up and come back to try again another year. It’s an experience I often think of when times get tough.

I’ve no plans to do another one though. I’m not all that keen on spending hours in the pool doing lengths; I’d rather be out on my bike.

What’s a typical day for you?

Every day brings a new challenge! Now we have a larger team in software development I’m on hand to help remove blockages in the teams. I created boundaries for the teams to work within, to help them focus on delivery. My role is to ensure things move smoothly so while I may not get involved in details of a leak detection system, I’m there to ensure the release keeps on track and the developers get the support they need.

My priority when I joined was to improve our release schedule. We’ve got one going out shortly and it’s ahead of schedule which is fantastic. Over the past six months (March to September 2020) there has been a lot of recruitment, so I would often be working on interviews and role specifications.

I’ve been working on boosting skills for the team as well. We’ve launched Work Smarter Wednesdays in the team which is a mix of sessions to introduce learning new ways of building software. We’ve had coding exercises to practice techniques in a virtual workshop environment allowing people to share what they’ve been doing. Alongside that, we have a Book Club and a Film Club where we watch a video and discuss it afterward, ultimately improving our collaborative skills. Fresh thinking, being brilliant together and maximizing our potential: all the Atmos values in each session!

What three words would you use to describe your role?

  • Hectic
  • Dynamic
  • Satisfying

Hectic because there’s always something on and I often have to pivot quickly to help someone. Now we have a solid team of around 25, I try to ensure that everyone knows they have me on hand if they need help.

Dynamic because we’re always looking at those incremental changes. Some days I may spend a lot of time talking to our R&D director about ways to tackle an issue. There’s always something new and he’s passionate about getting the idea into a workable format to test with a client.

Satisfying because we’re seeing some positive effects from the changes I have made since I started. It’s bringing results to the whole development process.

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing now, what do you think you have done?

I wanted to be a journalist – though judging by the industry today it’s probably better that I didn’t! I was all set to go to a journalism school when I left university, but I ended up going traveling. One thing led to another and I didn’t go down that road. I would have liked to have been a features writer on a broadsheet.

What's your wish list for the next five years?

I want to make our Atmos SIM product the best gas and liquid modeling product in the market.

In the next five years, I want to have a perfect build and test process and more frequent releases, have a great tech stack for developers to work in and a really strong learning environment. 

If you could go back and speak to the 16-year-old self, what would you say?

Do a computer science degree, not a BA in psychology!

What do you most like about Atmos?

I think it is the opportunity to have autonomy and freedom to pursue the path which I think will give us the biggest advantage. It’s the freedom I have been entrusted with to do the best for the department.

It’s a warm and engaging place to work with some great and exceptional people.

What advice would you give to recent new hires or those looking to join Atmos?

Be ready to respond when there’s no answer. As we’re continuously improving and developing new products, there’s a high chance you’ll be treading a unique path early on in your time here. So, if you’re somebody to just wants to be told the answer, then you’re probably not going to thrive.

Do you have a favorite blog?

I like the Morning Brew which is a .NET aggregator of relevant stories, articles and useful information.  I also get a weekly digest from Hacker News and The Register. I have other subscriptions to various newsletters, but I’ve also got dogs that need walking and I spend enough time on screen.

I have a list of about 20 podcasts that I’ll dip into. My favorite one is Monocle 24, which is really an online radio station that is affiliated with a print magazine of the same name. My favorite show from them is The Foreign Desk.

What is your favorite country to visit?

Well, my plan to travel after university didn’t work out as well as I planned but I’d say Morocco is one of the best places I’ve visited. The food is great and the weather is brilliant. I’d love to winter in Morocco and summer in Manchester.

By: Will Stone
Date: 23 December 2020