Inside the Head of a... Web Developer
July 10, 2013
Raymond Davies is Lead Developer at Lettingweb, one of the UK’s leading property portals. Here Raymond gives us some insight into working as a developer, as well as tips and advice for those working in the industry.
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Tell us about your job. What does a Lead Developer do exactly?
As Lead Developer I wear a few different hats. First and foremost I’m a software developer so I’m actively involved in developing our products and architecting our solutions.
I also oversee two other developers and a designer in a manager role to make sure everyone is singing from the same song sheet and that we’re getting things done.
Finally I’m in charge of all the IT systems that the company uses. In a larger organisation this part of the job would likely be someone else’s responsibility, however in an SME people have to take on more roles and I quite enjoy it anyway.
Where do you sit within the organisation? Do you work with other people/teams?
One of the great things about working in an SME is that you aren’t lost in the corporate structure. My bosses are the CEO and Managing Director of the company, you can’t get much closer to the top of the decision tree than that. Working closely with them is great as I can have a real impact on the company direction.
I also work closely with the heads of the marketing and sales teams to make sure we’re meeting customer expectations and delivering products that they are happy with. Incorporating feedback from these guys is really important to having happy customers.
Describe a typical working day for us – what do you get up to?
Like everyone else I typically start by checking my emails, boring I know, but the contents of these can sometime shape the day ahead. If a customer has a problem for example we’ll need look into that with some urgency.
I’ll then make sure the guys in my team are happy with what they’re up to. If they’re moving to a new job we might have a quick catch up to plan the road ahead, but a lot of the time they can just get on with the task.
The majority of the rest of the day will normally be taken up by working on our products which is the part of the job I enjoy the most. I really enjoy putting on my head phones and getting stuck into a coding task.
After that the rest of my time will be taken up planning out the road map for our products, either on my own or by meeting with the other departments, to make sure we’ve scheduled in all the appropriate peoples time to complete whatever projects lie ahead.
What are your objectives? How do you know if you’re doing a good job?
My objectives are mainly measured by the output of my department and if we’re hitting the deadlines we’ve committed to.
If we’re delivering the features that we, as a company, have decided are important on time, then my team and I are doing a good job.
We also need to make sure that as well as delivering on time we’re delivering a quality product. Sometime when timelines get squeezed and testing time gets shortened this can be a challenge but we always seem to manage!
Why did you become a web developer and how did you get into your industry?
I’ve always been very interested in technology since I was very young. I had a Commodore 64 at a very early age which I loved. My house has also always had computers in it and my Dad was more than happy for my brother and I to learn about them by using (and sometimes abusing) them.
More formally however – I did well in computing at standard grade and higher in school which made me interested in the possibility of taking my learning in the IT area further. After school I went to Dundee University to study Applied Computing, where I achieved a 1st, which I was pretty chuffed about as you can imagine.
The route into industry from there was really a no brainer.
What software/tools do you use to do your job? What do you find most useful?
I use the standard .NET development tools – Visual Studio and SQL Server Management Studio. Recently we got Resharper, which is a productivity tool for Visual Studio. It’s amazing and a massive time saver when writing code, I couldn’t recommend it enough. We also use quite a number of SQL related products from Red Gate, again these are amazing and I couldn’t imagine life without them anymore.
What’s the best thing about being a developer? What isn’t so good?
The two things I like the most are: Playing with new technologies, especially in my current position where I can use them in our live products. Second would be finding a solution to a difficult or complicated problem, I think people think it’s weird when I celebrate in the office.
The only thing I really don’t like about being a developer is tedious configuration. I’m seeing it less and less as I think software vendors are realising that everyone hates a tedious setup, but it still happens occasionally. There’s nothing worse than wasting half a day messing with endless configuration values to get a bit of software or an API to work properly.
What do you think makes a great leader?
The more like Stalin the better…
Na only joking, the best leaders I’ve worked with have been the ones that listen and understand your role. I think it helps to have come through the ranks of a job so you can relate to the people that you’re leading. There’s nothing worse than a manager that doesn’t listen and doesn’t understand the fundamentals of what they are asking you to do.
Take me back.