Tom is our Frontend Developer and has been working at Ecrubox since April this year. Tom has a vast experience in development, so we wanted to sit down with him and learn all about his career to date, and scoop up advice for someone thinking of pursuing a career in development.

How did you get into Development and why?

I got into development from starting in graphic design. The internet didn’t really exist when I was at school and so I chose to go down this route. Then at university, the internet was starting to roll out, so I got into multimedia graphics. It sounded a bit more interesting at the time, and it was based more around coding. So at that point I had left graphics and found HTML. At that time, it was pushing a system called Flash, which was a JavaScript based coding language, where it would give you the opportunity to put videos and graphics together. From there I ended up building music software in Flash because I was interested in making music and I thought that was really interesting so I just kept going with it. There was, of course, the website side of it, but I thought it was really cool that you could make a keyboard and synthesisers, and you could do this all in coding but it was more visual.

But then I got into the real world and no one wants any of that! So I ended up making websites again and I became a website designer for a long time. I then partnered with a web developer and started my own business. At the beginning, it started out as a web development and design business, just the two of us in a bedroom in Manchester, and then it developed from there.

I found there was more satisfaction in coding than there was in designing. I don’t know if it was because I was working in an SEO agency and the design was more led by marketing results. I think designing became less appealing to me and coding was more my thing. So I shifted over to development after having gone to university and never coded but at the end finding it more fun. I lean towards the front end development because it ties in with my graphics background.

The satisfaction of coding when you put something together and it works out how you wanted it to began to outweigh using photoshop and designing websites, and that's how I ended up here.

Looking back on your career, is there anything you would do differently?

Nothing really. I enjoy my job, I enjoyed my company. The only reason I kept progressing is because I didn’t want to stay in certain industries. But there is nothing I would change, it's been a nice natural progression for me. A lot of jobs end up being industry specific, and that's what I had fallen into and I didn’t like that. But I wouldn’t necessarily change anything. I still like the way development is going, I think it's getting better and better.

Are there any stand out career highlights for you?

At one point, my company was one of the biggest in England outside of London. We were a fully UK based SEO company. I presented to Best Companies and that was cool because I hate standing up in front of people but it was great going to something like that where people actually wanted to listen to you, because we had become such a reputable company. I had never stood up in front of that many people and spoken, it was just short of a thousand people. That was a highlight. Feeling like people were interested in us as a business, because we started out as two guys in a spare room, and to get to that point was great!

What advice would you give to someone who was looking to pursue a career in development?

If it's something you love, it's something you love. Some people click with coding and some people don’t. I found satisfaction in putting all the building blocks together to create something. But it takes a certain type of person.

The one thing I always recommend to people is do things for yourself. For example, if you want to be a web designer, build your own blog or website, even if you never show it to anybody, it's always good to have your own playground. That was one of the things that got me into it. I’m not a writer, but I picked a subject that I liked and I built a website and the functionalities and features I would want to be in it. It was my space where I could dump my ideas in and take them into the real world.

AI is really prominent at the moment, with pretty much every industry sector being affected in some way or another. How do you see AI playing a part in the development landscape?

I think if you want something big, for example a Shopify site with lots of customisation, then development will be ok. A developer might use AI to help them code.

We are increasingly more used to disappointment. We are used to having things which aren’t as good. In the past, we would have our furniture made by hand and we still have them today. Whereas now, we could just go into Ikea and buy a new one. So with websites, in the future are we going to care if they aren’t great if we didn’t pay any money for it and we got AI to build it? Our standards are lower than they used to be - that's the world now.

It's very interesting, and I think AI for developers is really cool. But we are feeding it, we are making it more clever, which is always a slippery slope.

So, what is next for you and Ecrubox?

Everything has a slight set of limitations with design, and if we sync that up with development we can nail down processes which would make design and development so much more efficient.

I’m working with the design team to come up with patterns and systems where we can develop a good looking website which has a bespoke look and feel, but we are streamlining the development and design processes. That would be a great progression for us at Ecrubox, and a really interesting way of working.

I would also like to upskill a lot of the team to React and help with getting the team up to speed on that.