I’ve been working in the IT industry since I left university in 1986. At the time there were few job vacancies in geology or environmental biology, and I did well in computing aptitude tests, so I was able to get a job at Kodak. This was mainframe batch programming in PL/1 and DL/1 on their IBM mainframe, supporting manufacturing and packaging systems.
After three years I moved northwards to Leeds, to take up a position in the Leeds Permanent Building Society. I started working in their development support centre, writing COBOL utilities to help other programmers be more effective in their work. I also trained people in testing methodologies, helped standards development, risk assessment and so forth. Eventually I was able to move to the IT Research team, looking at new technologies, evaluating them and producing proof of concept applications. During this time I worked with the very early www, java applications, corba, msmq, authorware and a range of other technologies. Exciting times! The Leeds merged with the Halifax and I continued working there for another five years, with a particular focus on usability and user experience.
I then took a career break for a year, and subsequently was taken on by the Royal College of Physicians of London as their webmaster. I told them that I believed that their website could benefit from content, community and commerce and started working to that end. My first redesign of their website took them from an average of 1500 visitors per week to 55,000 visitors per day, particularly with the focus on high quality content which was easier to find. Building a community site for doctors was harder because we didn’t have a compelling reason for them to meet and discuss with us rather than elsewhere. It would have required an investment in priming the pump via regular articles which the RCP wasn’t prepared to pay for. I went on to develop their obituary website, their JCHMT website based upon SharePoint, their conference booking website and publication selling website amongst others. The most significant application was the online CPD diary which allowed physicians to record their annual CPD against a range of approved and self-certified events. It included audit facilities to speed up the annual CPD audit and a submission and review workflow to enable education providers to submit their educational events for review by qualified physicians. A nice piece of work that I was very proud of.
After about 11 years at the RCP interesting work was running low and it looked as though they were moving to outsource more of their development work, and I was able to get a position as a Tech Lead at Tesco.com. Moving from an organisation of 250 people and an IT department of 10 to the largest online grocer in the world was a huge culture shock, but I had the opportunity to work on projects of a scale and complexity that we often only dream of. I was in at the ground floor of their international grocery programme; building a modern platform which would enable the online grocery proposition to be delivered using agile methodologies into many countries around the world. After 12 months we were live in the Czech Republic. three months after that were additional features and also Poland. Three months after that Slovakia. Six months after that Thailand, Malaysia then China and Turkey. The platform was a huge success in terms of its extensibility, although we probably missed some opportunities to clean up back end processing which didn’t get the front end attention but which was vital for actually fulfilling the orders efficiently. After a couple of years I was able to move to a Solution Architect role, and designed solutions for the Customer Services area and worked on the ‘One Grocery’ programme to bring together the best of the UK Grocery capabilities and the International Grocery design.
A year and a half on, I had the opportunity to move to ASOS, the worlds leading online fashion retailer and work as Solution Architect on their Customer Identity programme – moving their customer information out of legacy databases into a new secure location with cloud based web apps and ReSTful API’s. I can’t talk about it much at the moment for obvious reasons, but it is a great opportunity to work with cutting edge technologies and concepts.