Randall Quinn joined the Dynamic Signal team in April of 2019 and is based in Belfast. He’s part of our fast-growing software engineering team. In the latest post about the people at DySi, he outlines his role and his work as a developer.
Can you chat us through your career?
I have spent most of my career working in local government, starting in clerical work. I’ve always been into computers – although mostly on the hardware and building side. I gravitated toward jobs with a more technical computer element. I moved from a clerical position to a technical administrator, and eventually to the council’s IT department in system administration and tech support. I decided to pursue a degree, part-time, in Computing and IT with The Open University. And as luck would have it, just a couple of months after beginning, I was able to move to the development team. I was introduced to software development, and I loved it. I stayed there for five years, learning and building my skill set. I really enjoyed it. But my main aim was to work on bigger systems with newer technologies. I moved to Dynamic Signal, where I’ve been building new services, learning new skills, and thinking of ways we can improve our product.
What is your biggest achievement?
The system I was most proud of was built for local government. It was an automated system for the collation, processing, charting, and publishing of annual rates information. I had been tasked with building a system to ease the annual load at year-end. The existing process contained a lot of manual steps. What I loved most about this project was the opportunity to do it all, end-to-end. From meeting with the clients, gathering requirements, analysing the current business process, designing and building the system, and demonstrating it to the users and providing training. Gaining insight into every step of the process was exciting. It has always stuck with me how appreciative the clients were for the solution, too.
At Dynamic Signal, I am growing as an engineer and working on a huge platform with lots of new and exciting technologies. I’ve only been here nine months and learned a lot so far. I have so many smaller things that I’m proud of from my time here, too. For instance, standing up and configuring Identity Server was both a new challenge and very rewarding to accomplish. Building and rolling out our Community Admin Service (both front-end react app and backend C# micro-service) entirely from the Belfast team also was a nice landmark. It was a contribution to the company with our name on it.
What does a typical day at Dynamic Signal look like for you?
On any given day I might be:
- Meeting with the team to discuss the current workload
- Building or adding functionality to a micro-service
- Writing unit tests for any code solutions
- Development testing: Testing code solutions to ensure they meet the design requirements before passing for code review
- Configuring a service’s build and deploy pipeline
- Working with QA to discuss solutions and how they should be tested
- Upskilling time: taking some time out to review documentation, watch technical videos, or practice a new discipline
- Debugging: Fixing bugs found in the system
- Hackathon days: Taking time out from your bread-and-butter dev time to explore an idea you would like to implement, just for the fun of it – and prizes, too! It could even be in another language or framework.
What attracted you to Dynamic Signal?
When I had decided to move on from local government, there were lots of opportunities in Belfast. What initially drew my attention toward Dynamic Signal was the excitement of a Silicon Valley company setting up a new office in Belfast. Dynamic Signal is 10 years old, so there was the perfect mix of excitement, stability, and potential for a contributor in a brand-new European head-office.
How did you feel when you were successful in the interview?
I was over the moon! It all happened so fast. From my first telephone chat with Sam (Samantha Kirk, VP of Engineering and Site Lead in Belfast), I knew I wanted to come here. I had some more technical interviews and finally a face-to-face with Sam, and then I received an offer the very next day. I had a couple of other applications ongoing at the time, but I knew as soon as I got the offer from DySi, this was where I would choose.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to pursue a career in Software Engineering?
- Just start. There are so many good online resources for any level. My daughter is currently learning to code using code.org and coding blocks, at 10 years old! Have a look around at the resources and use whichever ones you think are at your current level.
- You can start with something small and as basic as a web page showing “Hello World!” and build from there. But trying to build something that you’re personally excited about is very helpful. The job involves a lot of problem-solving and can be difficult at times. So, if you’re trying to teach yourself, you may need that excitement and belief in your project as motivation to keep going.
- Use meetups or other social groups to find like-minded people aiming to learn. Working in groups can be more exciting. And learning from each other as you go will be hugely beneficial.
- Research some theory on good coding practices. This can be as casual as watching some YouTube videos. But it will help you build good practices that will save you time and make your code better, more stable, and more efficient.