In our first Sector Spotlight on the IT and Communications industry we hear from AJ Smith, who is a UX/UI Developer at Kyloe in Kirkwall.
AJ graduated from Portsmouth University and worked in a local IT company before working freelance while he travelled around Australia. He then moved back to the UK and worked for another company before moving to Orkney in 2017 and started working at Kyloe.
Can you describe a typical day in your role as UX/UI developer?
My job is very much a team effort and so each morning we start with a short meeting, where the team catches up on how we got on the day before and what we each hope to achieve that day. It gives us a chance to discuss any issues we’ve come across, where others might have ideas on how to tackle them.
After that, I focus on tasks: fixing bugs, coding new features, prototyping new ideas/producing mock-ups of how new ideas could work.
How did you end up in this role?
After graduating from Portsmouth University, I found a job working for a local IT company (The Really Helpful IT Company) as their Web Developer. This was a great start, as, even though I was the only one in the department, it gave me an opportunity to both gain confidence in building client websites, as well as gain many client facing skills. I was required to meet and understand clients’ requirements, before designing and building a website which could then be easily passed over to them to maintain independently. Back then, it was a fairly big deal for clients to be able to edit their own content and create new pages.
After gaining more confidence and new skills, I bought a laptop and managed to combine my interest in web development with my hunger for travel and was able to work freelance in Australia. Through some local and online advertising, I picked up a few clients; some for one-off sites, others with ongoing work, then a small Web Design company came across my ad and were able to offer me regular jobs while I worked remotely. This was often from hostels and parks across Australia, as I travelled – I may have once ended up with a large snake alongside me while on a call with a client!
When my visa expired, I returned to the UK, just as Food Network in London were seeking a Front End Developer. I went for the job and spent the next seven years there as part of a large team – this was a new experience for me. Working with other Developers was exciting as we got to share knowledge, while working in London was handy as there were many courses and talks I was able to attend.
My wife and I had been thinking about moving out of the city, somewhere more rural. In 2017, she started travelling to Orkney with work and fell in love with the place and it’s people. We were very excited to hear that there were job opportunities available for both of us. I wasn’t expecting there to be a global tech company in Orkney. Luckily, Kyloe works in line with my skills, so I got in touch and a few months later we moved up here!
What is the best thing about your job?
Creating. Building something that thousands of people use every day and writing software that’s user friendly, maybe even enjoyable. I find this very rewarding.
What is the worst thing about your job?
In theory, there are infinite ways of improving the interface of a product, tweaking it and making it easier to use, spotting improvements/alternative ideas and making it more aesthetically pleasing. Perhaps unfortunately though, there’s always another task that needs moving onto. This doesn’t always give you the chance to refine software as much as I’d like.
What skills do you need to undertake your role?
Technical skills: TypeScript (with Angular), CSS, GIT (version control), AWS etc.
Attention to detail and ability to maintain concentration for a long period of time is a must, you’d be surprised how much of a mess a misplaced comma can make!
What qualifications do you have?
BSc. Creative Computing.
You also need to be willing to keep up with the constantly evolving tools and frameworks available – it sure helps to be a geek!
Would you recommend this job to young people, if so why?
I would definitely recommend it, I love my job. I see a lot of young people entering the Web/Software Development industry, extremely enthused by it. It’s great for anyone who’s grown up tinkering with computers, loves working with a fun team and enjoys being creative.
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