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Introduction

I have been working for 16 years in the Software industry, both as an Engineer and a Manager at companies such as Yes Television, Move Networks, Specific Media and Sorenson Media.  We have been at the cutting edge of Digital Video, VOD, IPTV,second screen experiences and innovative Smart TV in-advert targeted overlays and microsites,   part of the Smart TV Alliance.

I am passionate about Agile and Lean processes, and have helped four diverse companies in transitioning to, and starting out with, Agile and modern best practice approaches.  Depending on the company it can take as little as a number of weeks, but equally I have spent many years slowly adjusting entrenched attitudes and getting whole company buy-in that is necessary for modern product development and deployment.  No matter the time and effort involved, the end result is always worth the effort, both for the teams and for the value delivered to the company.

Career History

I describe the roles below, but one factor that has helped me more than any other is exposure to the full software lifecycle from the moment I started my first role in '99.  Having interviewed hundreds of candidates over the years it became very apparent that my experience was atypical and I was in no way restricted to a silo or kept in the dark about the full scope of any given project.  I was also lucky to be able to work with first class Java engineers during the first six years at Yes Television, and at the same time be selected to be a team leader, and eventually the head of Engineering and Product for the UK at a young age.  This taught me responsibility, and brought me into contact with many third parties from the far east, and also got me used to managing staff who were more experienced in years without the typically feeling of fraud that can go with situations like this.  My next step was to be the first Software Engineer to be employed by Sir Terry Matthews' Inuk Networks, which I'll detail in the appropriate section below.

Key Achievements

  • Transitioned successfully and permanently an entrenched, long-term pseudo-waterfall team to best practice Agile, in possibly the hardest scenario to make a successful transformation:
    • Long term institutionalised micro-managed behaviour of all roles, from Product roles to QA, Development and Operations roles.
    • Teams aligned around delivering software components not products, which they have little knowledge of what they will be used for, and little reason to have pride in their work
    • Little to no communication between QA, product, Development and Operations staff, and a distrust engendered by management (for example Product Managers were no allowed to speak to developers at all, and shouting matches were a daily occurrence.
    • Critically, not a single piece of software was delivered on time in 10 years, to spec, to an acceptable level of quality, scalability or ease of deployment and monitoring.
    • Mini-empires were rife and hostile to change. 
  • At Sorenson Media I experienced the opposite - zero employees, and 18 months to build three full teams and three working products, with complete hiring responsibility for the entire UK company.  For more details please see below.
  • I have also helped define and mentor the Product Owners, including the SVP of Product, in adapting to Agile, and hence recommended all his Product Owners, always with rational reasoning and the firm understanding that he, as with all staff, would adapt quickly (I appreciate that some of the points may appear arrogant on page - I would again happily discuss in more detail to provide a wider background or clarify  my management style, which is the opposite of command and control, micromanagement, I believe this is key to successful agile adoption.
    My current role is helping Sorenson Foundry in it's Agile adoption.  During that time I have also volunteered for the Alacrity Foundation/Cardiff University teaching students - please see volunteering experience.
  • I have had 0% employee churn during any period I have been a senior manager or VP.

What I look for in a role

  • A Challenging role that provides me with scope to help the company become more successful:
    I have a lot of experience in helping companies adapt and handle 'change' in a positive fashion at a macro level, if they are looking to do so.  I also look for smaller opportunities to provide advice if I think it could have a positive impact - always backed up with solid experience and reasoning.
  • A role that allows me to learn from the company and the individuals within:
    I delight in learning new practices, solutions and technologies, as it allows me to grow and I actively seek out these opportunities.  I am also just as happy in realising that I am incorrect in an approach, as this gives me an opportunity to learn.  Whilst I hold strong beliefs, I am never a fundamentalist who can't be brought around by reasoned argument;  something I look for in those I work with as well.

Work experience

Jan 2015Present

Director of Product Development

Sorenson Foundry

Sorenson Foundry is a novel cross between an incubator and an R&D department, where ideas for products are quickly validated, pivoted or discarded. The ideas can come from anyone in the company and they provide an outlet for potentially-good ideas that don't fit within the main Sorenson Media Strategy, although they will likely be thematically similar. The goal for a successful product idea is‘ graduation', with criteria set for the product to graduate. I am currently attached to the Foundry group to help with their product development and provide my Agile coaching and mentoring skills to help them discover more efficient ways to develop their products.

Nov 2013Present

VP of Software Engineering

Sorenson Media

Responsibilities


  • Responsible for building and managing a fully Agile best practice scrum team starting from scratch to three Product-based feature teams with self organisation and full responsibility for their product. The teams included all the specialist knowledge necessary to be able to build the product they were responsible for- typically engineers, testers, designers, a Scrum Master role and an embedded product owner.
  • Responsible for working with the VP of Product and the CEO to define the new lineup of products for Sorenson Media, which became the Spark products you can see via the following link.  
  • Responsible for the UK team's output which was exclusively the new Spark products.


Achievements

  • Through Lean and Agile prioritised development and a YAGNI approach we were able to deliver our MVP initial release of the Spark Ad Suite to our initial CEM partner Toshiba in ¼ of the time they allotted us.  We included full automated testing, deployment, scaling and global redundancy despite having an incomplete team at this point as it becomes a needless challenge to retrofit these practices, especially against a code base that hasn't been designed with testability or scalability in mind.
  • Comparative Agility Test - WIthin 15 months the team had scored in the top 99.7% of the 15255 other companies that have taken the test, which is known for being wide-ranging in scope and challenging.  If you have a half-baked approach to agile it will show, but those then tell you the areas you focus on improving so you win whatever score you get.
  • Implementation of the successful Junior Developer Accelerator Plan, which, after much analysis of the flaws inherent in similar schemes, whilst acknowledging that our best Agile, flexible developer intake had come from Junior developers, I devised a scheme open to clever but inexperienced people, and provided them with a stepped salary, a structured learning programme, Mentoring and an emphasis on getting stuck in with the team and learning both inside and outside of work. The 'syllabus' was tough, and the intention was that if they completed the two years they wuold be equivalent in relevant skills and salary to a typical developer of 4 + years from come from a less rigorous background.  After nearly two years and excellent results it's safe to say that the plan achieved all the goals I knew it would if we implemented it as intended.
Nov 2010May 2013

VP of Software Engineering

Specific Media
  • Managed a team of 30 developers who worked closely with the Product team to design and produce software intended for millions of Smart TVs globally. Championed and implemented agile practices and Scrum methodology at a company-wide level, with focus on working features. Worked with the team to define and create the Myspace TV platform for delivery of music video content to Smart TVs (we were the company that bought MySpace off Rupert Murdoch for a song, with Justin TImberlake revisiting his role from The Social Network in real life.  THat made for an unexpected morning!).

    The platform was demonstrated at CES in 2012 and 2013; in 2013 it was demonstrated by Justin Timberlake as part of the Panasonic Keynote Speech
  • Took over from previous VP of Engineering and implemented changes to the software development process that increased productivity and employee satisfaction. Recruited and rapidly grew the software engineering team from 10 developers to 30.
Mar 2009Nov 2010

Senior Engineering Manager

Move Networks

Handled day-to-day running of the software engineering department of approximately 30 developers Recruited, built and day-to-day managed the team that delivered the Move Networks IPTV solution. Mentored developers of varied experience in best practice development processes

Oct 2006Mar 2009

Product Manager/senior Software Engineer

Inuk Networks

Worked as a senior developer on a Java-based IPTV platform for clients such as NTL and Freewire.

The popular Freewire service was deployed in most Universities in the UK, providing free Television access to students via their laptops - trouble gaining access to an aerial feed or having space for a TV made it popular, and then student accommodation would use it as a feature to differentiate and compete against others.

Oct 2005Oct 2006

Senior Software Engineer

Nemisys Ltd

Working on content management systems and websites for charities and government web portals. This had the benefit of giving me a strong grounding in producing accessible websites.

Oct 1999Oct 2005

Senior Software Engineer

Yes Television

Worked on developing Yes Television's pioneering IPTV and Video On Demand service, successfully deployed in London with British Telecom and in Hull with Kingston Communications.

Blog

Volunteering

THE ALACRITY FOUNDATION UK
APRIL - JUNE 2015

Providing Scrum training and coaching for a team of University Students learning Agile