Do you remember the TV ad with a blue and green background and lots of cars falling from the sky? Probably not. Anyway, you shouldn’t mention it to our marketing director either. Three years ago however, this was the only image I associated with comparethemarket.com. This and some eccentric Russian meerkat called Aleksandr. I certainly didn’t think of it as a place for a job in IT and I wasn’t going to take a permanent position anyway. Reluctantly I agreed to a conversation over the phone and unexpectedly got hooked up.
Few interviews later I was ready to claim my own desk in the “Travel” team in a plush new building the company had just moved into a few weeks before I joined. Who knows, the old building might have been enough to put me off. After all the “IT” teams were sitting away from “the business” back there but now was the era of an “agile” revolution.
Revolution or not, a lot was changing at compare the market and I have managed to land right in the middle of the kerfuffle. This has given me an abundant opportunity to do what I love the most – an opportunity to learn.
Today is the time for me to move on to pastures new and reflect on the three years of learning that are behind me. I made a list. It’s a long list; a list of thing I got exposed to, things I dabbled with, experiments I run, mistakes I made, mistakes I avoided, mistakes others made. We’d be here all day so I hand-picked a few, just to give you a flavour.
Ever since I joined we had a strong recruitment drive. There simply never seemed to be enough people around, even though there are many great people here, so we were constantly on the lookout. We still are. This is how I got involved in recruitment. I think I must have done close to a hundred interviews and complained about oodles of poorly written CVs. Sooner or later I hope they will disappear as a recruitment tool and perhaps we’ll replace them with an approach like nujob, which we dabbled in.
I’m glad we acknowledged that finding good candidates requires investment in the local community. Taking the long-term view. So we have run events, we engaged with the local university and even local primary schools! You have to start them young you know. This is how I got to lecture at UCP about TDD and about systemic feedback loops and giving personal feedback. It was really encouraging to see the students get the skills they will use in the real world. This is also how I got to run Code Club at the local primary school. Probably one of the most rewarding experiences recently. To watch a bunch of 9 year olds going from shy interactions with their machines to confidently teaching younger children how to tell the heartless machine to do as they imagined – priceless.
Being part of a community means the local community and also the wider software development community. I was lucky enough to visit and present at quite a few conferences and we sponsored a few events too. Sharing what we learn and looking out for what others are up to is a great way to keep yourself honest. Seeing your colleagues pluck up the courage and speak for the first time in another one of those little gems that keeps your face muscles exercising.
At this point I could tell you about all the ideas, tools, techniques and technologies I got an opportunity to explore and use in anger: CQRS, Event Sourcing, node.js, mongo, RabbitMQ, HAETOS, microservices, ruby, rake, slack, you name. But even if I attempt at any such list it will be dwarfed by what pops up out there. Every. Single. Day. That’s technology, I guess that’s why we’re still here. What I have reasserted is that given deep enough understanding of the fundamentals and an unquenched curiosity we can remain unfazed in the face to the constant technological change (I hesitated to use the word “advance”).
They say opportunities are where you create them and indeed often you can create them in the most unexpected circumstances. Just keep your eyes peeled. One thing you don’t always influence though is the people you get to work with. I was really fortunate in who I have managed to engage with over the last three years. People way more experienced and opinionated, patient and forgiving, famous names in the community and only locally recognised experts. I’m grateful for all of them who were willing to challenge my idea, share better solutions and help me become a better person.
Today is my last day at compare the market. Thank you. I’m expecting new adventures to provide no fewer learning opportunities. After all I’m moving countries. This, however, is a story for another day.