Insight Into – Gareth Lancaster, CTO @ Hello Soda and key speaker at our upcoming digital event

GarethAs we continue to countdown to our digital & tech focused event – Insight IntoAttracting & Retaining The best digital talent in the North, we are pleased to introduce another of our key speakers, Gareth Lancaster, CTO at Hello Soda.

Gareth will be joining an exciting panel made up of some of the key players in digital for this event and will be sharing some of his insight gained over 20 years working in the industry.

For free tickets register here or get in touch with insight for more information

Tell us more about yourself – your current role and background?

My background has always revolved around software development, having begun in the 90’s at a small firm in Dunstable, Bedfordshire, writing their new systems and managing their IT infrastructure as they moved from their old mainframe setup, whilst I did my GCSEs and A-Levels. Since then it’s been a mix of small companies, some self-employment as a freelance software developer, and a long period from the late 90’s where I ran a web agency from Manchester Science Park, specialising in the development of one of the first ‘off the shelf’ e-commerce packages available in the UK. In recent years my career has continued to include startups and early stage companies, first from 2013 with a company based in California and Dublin, Ireland, called Scredible at which I served as founding CTO and lead developer, and for the last 12 months as the CTO of Hello Soda. My role at Hello Soda has been a step fully away from hands-on development, managing a team of 18 developers, data scientists, data analysts, infrastructure engineers, and also having responsibility for client delivery.

What’s your relationship/experience with Insight?

Insight are one of our recruitment partners. Having met Adam early on after joining Hello Soda, it was clear that they would be a very trusted partner in a marketplace that, for one reason or another, is generally treated with a certain amount of scepticism. We recruit for very niche skills sets, or very in-demand experience, and Insight have the industry knowledge to ensure high quality candidates are put in front of us.

What do you enjoy about the Technology and how have you seen the industry evolve?

The whole concept of working in a technology field now is a million miles away from what it was when I began my career, which is what keeps it interesting and challenging. The rise of open source has led to a huge range of opportunities, giving developers access to the tools to build ever more complex systems. Mixed with fundamental changes to the way development and deployment is done, the opportunities available for everybody to push the boundaries has been fairly comprehensively democratised in a way never seen before, fuelling innovation.

What are some of the challenges you have experienced in building software team and/or products?

Having always worked in start-ups/early stage businesses and smaller companies, one challenge has remained throughout – that of matching what needs to do done with the resource available to do it. It’s challenging, not just on a sheer velocity basis, but also on how you keep your biggest assets, the individuals themselves, motivated and not feeling like they’re on a treadmill of production. Ownership of solutions, the space to investigate, the opportunity to have their voice heard when decisions are being made – these are all imperative to keeping hard-working, and often stretched, teams engaged.

What advice would you give to anybody trying to get into/get ahead in the Industry?

Working with highly talented technical staff, be that developers or data scientists, there is one thing that I generally always have to encourage them to do – try to understand what you’re building from the end-user’s point of view. Some of the very best developers I have ever worked with fail to see it from the other side, leading to their elegant solution being undermined by the realities of production use. They’re not alone, this was Google’s failing for a very long time – solutions designed by engineers that missed the end-user reality. So that would be my advice – use the product or service you’re building, be inquisitive about how what you’re working on is actually used. It’s invaluable insight and helps talented developers ensure their work is relevant and on-track with the wider business. I also find the context can also help to spark new ideas in the developers and give them satisfaction in the end result.

What are you hoping to get out of the event?

I’m always interested in listening and talking to people with different experiences, as the opportunity to learn something new is ever present – especially in digital businesses, and particularly from different perspectives on the same industry. Hopefully I’ll be able to give some little snippet of insight that somebody else finds useful from my experience as well.

When you’re not working, what do you enjoy doing?

Walking is something I enjoy a lot and as I live in the Peak District I get plenty of opportunities to stretch my legs. I used to draw and paint a lot although simply haven’t had the time in recent years – I get the urge to pick up my brushes again from time to time, but haven’t so far. I do carry a sketch book around with me again though. Apart from that it’s normal family activities with my wife and two teenage kids.