Life in tech – Stephen Pammenter, Developer

Whether you’re at the start of your career in tech or a seasoned professional, knowing you’re on the right path and making progress is something we all think about.

We asked our developer Stephen Pammenter about his life in tech – how he got in, what keeps him busy, what inspires him and what makes him proud. Here’s what he had to say:

Stephen Pammenter - Developer - The Lead Agency

How did you break into the tech industry?

I first did computing at A-level, then went through a four-year sandwich degree in Computer Science – where I did one year placement with a petrochemical company. I was able to find a job before I left university, and went to work for a family run automotive business where I leant the majority of the modern skill I use The Lead Agency. This was a good step for my career, but the company was small and not focussed on software; so was unable to keep up with my growth. Which is where I discovered TLA!

What do you day-to-day at TLA?

Being on the sites squad of our development teams means my days vary quite a lot. We frequently flick between front and server side, which means keeping up with a much wider array of tech. Here it isn’t a matter of head down and work, but importantly, helping other to learn and succeed too. Some of my day will therefore be spent conducting code reviews – ensuring we deliver work to a high standard – and mentoring our juniors (and learning a thing or too doing it!), so that they have better opportunities to progress.

As a developer, my role extends to managing work across the team, so some of my day is spent triaging incoming work and ensuring we work to best interests of everyone. When on projects, we work with agile methodologies, aiming to deliver new features within a one or two-week timebox. My mornings will typically have a stand-up meeting with the rest of my squad, keeping the whole team up to date.

How do you hone and improve your skills and knowledge?

Improving is easy at The Lead Agency. We have free access to Pluralsight, which is a very strong tool to get you started on almost any topic. The company is more than happy to purchase books which will help further your knowledge – I have ‘JavaScript – The Good Parts’ sat on my desk right now. Just this year, I was honoured to be invited to go to the Google I/O conference in Dublin, where we were impressed to see our sites are at the forefront of web technology. If, like me, you learn from doing things – there are plenty of new projects lined up to get your hands on. On any new endeavour, we spend a lot of time designing new architecture – which naturally means lots of research.

VR Google I/O
Stephen experiences Google I/O in Dublin.
What is your proudest professional achievement?

My proudest achievement has been the recently released CarKeys.co.uk site. This is for two reasons: one, I was able to architect the front-end from scratch. This brought about change across the wider team, and we’re now using the best practices I founded. We’re already seeing our frontend process is making work much more maintainable.

The second reason I say Car Keys, is this was the first major project I have been able to lead. It was a bumpy road in places, but I’ve learnt lot and we delivered a great product.

What change would you like to see in your profession?

The Software industry is far too consistent in the typical personalities of its professionals. We are fortunate that the people working in our team are great to work with but all too often we find candidates who either lack soft skills, or are arrogant to an unbearable point. I would place the blame with our primary & secondary education. I recall from my education, computing was never portrayed in an exciting or desirable light or educators had fundamental misunderstandings about what the industry was. The result is often sheltered individuals who have practiced their craft away from others, and haven’t developed any soft skills.

For me, the solution to this is making education more akin to real life. For example, a module could be cross curriculum, where students are grouped together across courses and aim to deliver a given task. You will never work with people just in your field, so why should that be the case in school/university?

What was the last thing that inspired you?

The last thing that inspired me was the BBC website. As boring as it might sound, the BBC are the forerunners in delivering highly optimised web technology to millions of people. The power or development tools today means I can inspect the BBC website and piece together some of their great ideas which we can then imitate to deliver either faster or better experience to our users.

What are you passionate about?

My job. Seriously. Ask anyone I’ve taught programming to, and they will tell you just how passionate I am… or how every lesson is a full of tangents to something else. I envy anyone who gets to learn programming from scratch; the wealth of knowledge that is freely available to the tools that provide the playgrounds to tweak and learn new things is eye watering.

Learning web development never ends, the tech field is constantly changing and adapting to new challenges – and so should we. Knowing that I have provided a service in which over half a million people might use every month is astonishing. They can never tell you if something isn’t right, we can only guess – and that’s all part of the fun! Every job here is a challenge; how quick can we make this? Is there any way we can make this action simpler? Can we make this smaller for mobiles? How will I approach this problem? It never ends, and that is what I love about my job!

We’re recruiting across all departments within the agency. Check out the latest TLA vacancies.