Chris Winfield started his career at PCA Predict in 2010 as a Software Developer, and has been moving on up ever since. Now currently Head of Development, Winfield leads the development of their address search engine and form. A firm believer in working in a no-nonsense, Lean, Agile environment, he shared with us his outlook on technical interviews and his favorite part of being a programmer.
When I was 11, I had a Nintendo 64 and enjoyed playing games like Super Mario 64, Banjo Kazooie, and Zelda. I enjoy drawing, and before I had a computer, I used to design game levels and characters on paper (inspired by the games that I enjoyed). My parents managed to save up and buy a PC from a catalogue, and I then converted my designs into a Myst-style slide show game on Corel Presentations.
I wanted to convert this into a full 3D game, and learning to code was the solution. When I was 13, I designed and programmed a 3D adventure game, ‘Multiman,’ using DirectX, burnt it to a CD, and sold it to my school friends for £5. I've been interested in programming ever since, and went on to study Computer Science at the University of Birmingham.
After graduating in 2010, I landed my first development job at a technology company, PCA Predict.
Before work, I get up early every day and work for 2 hours on personal projects to experiment with new technologies and keep learning new skills in different areas.
At PCA Predict, I manage the team responsible for the development and delivery of our core product, Capture+, a smart address validation service used by thousands of online businesses around the world. We have our daily standup at 9:30, and our team runs Kanban with #NoEstimates to maximise productivity. After the standup, I spend most of my time designing and implementing the search algorithms that power our address lookup tool. A couple of times a week we’ll have a team pub lunch -- it’s a great place to be a developer.
I love that it's possible to program anything that you can think of -- the only limit is your own ability. It's a fascinating, creative role, and there's more to know than you could ever learn. Resources to improve your skills are readily available.
I’ve been on both sides, the interviewee and the interviewer, and it can be a stressful experience. I prefer the technical interviewing approach of an open conversation, where we discuss career history, completed projects, and future ambition, rather than the Apprentice-style grilling. Ultimately, in an interview, the company is willing you to succeed, not fail.
Most developers that I have worked with are creative, self-motivated problem solvers who wish to be left alone as much as possible while working on a task. I think it’s really important to avoid micromanagement and to create a working environment of independence and trust, where developers can innovate freely.
I think we’ll see an abstraction of technologies and specialist domain-knowledge in areas such as Artificial Intelligence into ‘black boxes,’ which speeds up development and opens opportunities for startup businesses. It’ll no longer be necessary to understand how things work in detail but to understand how larger building blocks fit together to solve problems. It will be increasingly important to maintain an understanding of underlying technologies to allow us to continue to innovate in the future.