Our lead UI Architect and Official Kentico Cloud Contributor, Richard, sat down with us to discuss life at NetConstruct. An integral member of the business, Rich uses his expertise to help develop and support the role of User Interface in our service offering.
Tell us a little about you…
I’ve been here for 8 years now coming straight into the business from university as my first job! I originally studied Game Design as I was keen to go into the games industry. My course was focused around this but in the end, it wasn’t really what I wanted it to be. I didn’t really feel like I had the right skills to go into that industry, so I ended up pushing my CV out to other areas to see where I got noticed. Prior to that, I had some experience and training in web development which got picked up. It was a very fortunate situation really; it was more of a happy accident that I ended up in web development but I’m glad it happened!
On a more personal level, I enjoy the usual things of hanging out with friends, having a couple of drinks, watching movies and TV, video games…a very stereotypical developer set of interests to be honest.
What is your role at NetConstruct?
I originally started in the support desk team before working my way through the core development team and ending up in a position where I was essentially in charge of our tech stacks. This included what kind of technology we use, what frameworks we use, figuring out what worked and what didn’t work.
These days my role focuses around being the UI team lead. This involves supporting everyone on the UI team, ultimately taking ownership of the work they complete and making sure the work is up to our high level of quality. I also spend a lot of my time mentoring the team, getting them the necessary training, supporting them along the way and dealing with any concerns they have.
In addition to that, I do the actual development work too. I’m still more of a full stack developer so I regularly do work on the server-side which I don’t think I’ll ever be able to let go of. My role involves a lot of Kentico development still but mixed with more of a focus on visual development work. I’m also still the main person in terms of any React work and complex UI development from a technical point of view.
What value does your team offer clients?
In the UI team, the biggest value we add is from the collaborative relationship we have with our creative team. We work closely with them throughout the entire design and development process to make sure everything that comes out of our creative team is achievable from a UI development perspective. From there we can look at how we can refine and enhance it in the build and testing phase to create the best experience for the end-user.
On top of that, the performance of the website is very much in the UI team’s hands. This is usually the most important part for the client in terms of how their website functions and interacts. We’re probably the least customer facing team at the moment, but this may change as we rework how we position our offering. It’s likely that the team will become more involved in workshops and client meetings so there will be a growth in terms of client interaction.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I particularly love the culture of the company. The laid-back, friendly approach and company ethics make it an enjoyable place to work along with the people. It’s always been a bit cliché but working here feels more like a family. It’s the reason why I’ve been here for so long and even though the company has grown a lot since I started, it’s retained this feeling along the way.
In terms of my job role itself, it’s the fact that you’re never ahead of where you should be. The UI space moves the fastest within the web development industry. Anything that’s happening within the browser is always happening lightyears faster than what happens in the server side. With UI, browsers are updating all the time and new features are constantly being added. We’re expected to work with new devices, new screen sizes, new technology and the numerous ways of delivering content. This space as a whole is what I love most as you’re always having to learn more, facing new challenges to stay one step ahead.
What have you found challenging and how have you adapted how you work to overcome this?
For me, the biggest challenge I have is scheduling and how my time is managed. In my position where people rely on me for support and input, you don’t want to let them down. It’s finding the balance between project work and supporting my team. However, I think scheduling will always be a challenge that everyone deals with to some extent within this industry. In an ideal world, I’d say yes to everybody but then I wouldn’t have a work-life balance!
What is the number one piece of advice you would give a client starting a new web project?
Start with your content. From the factors that the client can control and provide input in, this is the one that often delays projects. It also has a massive bearing on other areas of the business, particularly UX and design. If we know what the content is, we can design for it. If you don’t know about the content until near the end of the project then the design won’t take it into account, the delivery slips, there are more amends and the level of product quality decrease. So, before you even think about beginning a web project, think about your content.
What is your favourite project you’ve worked on and why?
Marshalls. It was an extremely challenging project and it pushed me past where I thought I could go in terms of work and my skills, but the results were really good from both our point of view and a commercial point of view for the client.
We were working with a very knowledgeable in-house development team; they knew what they wanted, and they had a way of working which we had to adapt to. From this, I think both teams were able to learn a lot from each other – I definitely did!