Careers rarely develop the way we plan them. Our career path often takes many twists and turns, with particular events, choices and people influencing our direction.

We asked James Stewart from Smart Futures to give some advice for people considering this job:

 

James Stewart

Science Communicator

Smart Futures

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  James Stewart
Get some experience even if it is voluntary work so that you have an idea if you like the sector and you will have something to talk about at interview.
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Realist?
Realist 
Realists are usually interested in 'things' - such as buildings, mechanics, equipment, tools, electronics etc. Their primary focus is dealing with these - as in building, fixing, operating or designing them. Involvement in these areas leads to high manual skills, or a fine aptitude for practical design - as found in the various forms of engineering.

Realists like to find practical solutions to problems using tools, technology and skilled work. Realists usually prefer to be active in their work environment, often do most of their work alone, and enjoy taking decisive action with a minimum amount of discussion and paperwork.
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1 Karl Stanley, Software Engineer
 Full Interview with Karl Stanley here Go to Full Interview
   

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Karl Stanley, Education Profile 

How did you go about getting your current job?
I got my current job through my personal network. The CTO (Chief technical officer) of ticket-text is in a relationship with a friend of my wife. We had some conversations about technology and building web applications.

A few months later a vacancy came up and he asked me to apply, which I did. The interview process was quite informal as I was reasonably familiar with what they were doing and they had a fairly good idea of my skills and where I would fit in the organisation.

I had an interview with the CTO (which was mostly a brainstorming session about where we could go with the technology) and then I had a meeting with the CEO to discuss my goals and how they fit with the goals of the ticket-text in general.

A few hours after the meeting with the CEO he sent me a text letting me know the position was mine if I wanted it. 


Describe a typical day?
A typical day in work starts around 9:30. I check my email and try to get my correspondence out of the way in the first hour or so. My job mostly entails writing python and javascript.

I will typically spend some of the morning writing automated tests for the code I am about to write. I then spend the rest of the day trying to get the code I'm working on to pass the tests I have written.

I make sure I spend up to an hour every day reading articles on technology (usually blogs and mailing lists) to keep up with new developments. This is important as software is a constantly changing field and web development in particular changes all the time.

Every few weeks the software team presents its work-to-date to the rest of the company in a "show and tell" session. This takes a couple of hours and involves demonstrating new features to the rest of the business and then having a discussion to see what can be improved.

This makes sure the work we are doing is well aligned with the needs of our business. The working day usually finishes for me around 6:30pm. 


What are the main tasks and responsibilities?
My main task is to write software that makes running the business simpler and more efficient. The purpose of technology is to automate the things that people are bad at, so they can spend more time doing things they are good at.

People are not so good at repetitive tasks involving attention to detail. Computers are great at this sort of work. For instance, in our business the operations team need to enter the details for lots of live performances, set up ticket pricing structures, upload media to the web site etc.

This is quite error prone and tedious to do by hand, so the technology team helps by writing tools that take care of the details automatically. This allows the operations team to devote more of their time to developing relationships with promoters and venue owners, which adds value to the business. 


What are the main challenges?
The main challenge is keeping up with the pace of change in business priorities. In any business there are multiple, often conflicting, goals.

Depending on various factors, the priorities at a given point in time can shift rapidly. It is important to respond to change without getting into a situation where you are constantly reacting to things (or 'fire-fighting') instead of being pro-active.

Being pro-active is easier said than done and has as much to do with soft skills (communication, persuasion, listening) as it does with technical ability. 


What's cool?
I don't have to wear a suit, which is nice. We have an informal but focused culture - in many ways it feels more like being on a sports team than in a business in that everyone has different but equally important roles to play.

We are also quite democratic - everyone from the CEO to the receptionist gets a say in how things should be run (although of course the CEO gets the final word!).

As a music fan I really enjoy working in this industry. The way things are going, the recorded music industry is on the wane and the live music experience is becoming more prominent, so it's great to be part of that. I can also get tickets to shows that might otherwise be sold out :) 


What's not so cool?
The complete lack of physical activity in work is something I'm not crazy about. The job is sedentary, which means I have to make more of an effort to get exercise outside work.

The hours can feel a bit long at times. I always work at least 40-45 hours a week and usually take lunch at my desk, which can become a bit draining at times.

Other than that I'm very happy in my current job! 


What particular skills do you bring to your workplace?
I have been a software engineer for over a decade now and have worked in several industries, so I have quite wide experience. This is useful in a new company where there is a "blank slate", as I can make recommendations as to which technologies are the best fit for a given problem.

I have technical skills in programming, web technologies, database schema design and a bit of unix systems administration. Over the years I've programmed in C, C++, C#, perl, php, python and javascript. Just through putting in the hours I have a solid feel for how software problems should be approached.

On a personal level I think I am quite easy to work with: I can take direction or lead others if necessary. I have a can-do attitude which I think is critical in this industry: if you expect to only have to do the things it says on your job description you're in the wrong game!