Speaker Spotlight: Benjamin Smith’s Perspectives on Community, Continuous Building, and Mentorship

In this insightful interview, Benjamin offers an unconventional take on mentorship in the tech industry. With decades of experience contributing to the Brighton community, he provides a unique viewpoint on how professionals can support each other’s growth. Benjamin also shares the importance of continuous learning and building, as well as how to stay motivated on a project you’re not passionate about.

Can you share a bit about your background?

I’m from London originally, moved to Brighton to attend the University of Sussex. In 2006, graduated with a 1st Class in Multimedia and Digital Systems. I met some awesome people there, who I still hold as close friends. After uni I followed my passion for the mountains, and worked and travelled around the world for a number of years before finally settling back in Brighton (Hove actually).

Did you come up through a “traditional” techie route or has your career taken twists and turns along the way?

I started as a videographer for a heliski company in Alaska, later working as a ski instructor in Japan. Alongside, I delved into Web Development during my spare time, leveraging my degree in Multimedia and Digital Systems from Sussex University.

When my visa situation changed, I returned to the UK, transitioning my career toward technology. I began in the tech community of Brighton and later moved to London. Five years ago, I joined Amazon. This journey reflects my versatility, blending adventure with the dynamic world of technology.

Reflecting on your career, is there a specific moment that stands out as pivotal or defining?

A defining chapter in my professional journey unfolded when I made the pivotal decision to transition from the vibrant tech community of Brighton to the bustling landscape of London. Stepping into the heart of a global tech hub marked not only a geographical shift but a profound leap in my career trajectory.

What piece of advice would you give your younger self as you embarked on your professional journey?

Above all, learn how to get things done.

Looking ahead, what’s your big prediction for the tech landscape in 2024?

In the technological landscape of 2024, the integration of Artificial Intelligence with Serverless architecture emerges as a powerful duo, promising groundbreaking advancements. Serverless computing, characterised by its on-demand scalability, is set to redefine how applications handle varying workloads efficiently.

Simultaneously, the infusion of AI into Serverless environments elevates the intelligence of applications, enabling real-time data processing and decision-making. This synergy not only enhances user experiences through personalised interactions but also democratises AI development, making sophisticated AI capabilities accessible to a broader spectrum of developers. The result is a dynamic ecosystem where Serverless and AI harmonise, ushering in an era of intelligent, scalable, and accessible applications.

Considering your involvement in Silicon Brighton and community-building, what does the concept of ‘community’ mean to you personally? How important is it in the tech industry?

In the tech industry, community is not just important—it’s indispensable. It serves as the catalyst for innovation, offering a platform where ideas are born, refined, and brought to fruition. The synergy within a community accelerates learning, fosters creativity, and forms the backbone of industry progression.

Tech communities, such as Silicon Brighton, are hubs where professionals, enthusiasts, and newcomers alike converge to not only stay updated on the latest trends but also to forge connections that transcend individual achievements. It’s the breeding ground for collaboration that propels the industry forward, shaping the future of technology.

How do you balance staying updated with the latest industry trends while ensuring continuous personal and professional growth? Any specific resources or practices you find particularly valuable?

For me, the key to staying abreast of the ever-evolving tech landscape lies in a simple mantra: keep building. Actively engaging in hands-on projects, whether personal or professional, serves as a dual-purpose strategy. It not only sharpens my skills but also keeps me in tune with the latest trends. I also value the wealth of knowledge shared within online tech communities. Platforms like GitHub and Stack Overflow have become virtual classrooms, offering insights into real-world challenges and collaborative solutions.

Continuous learning isn’t just a checkbox; it’s an ongoing process embedded in the fabric of my professional journey. By immersing myself in a culture of perpetual improvement, I ensure that my personal and professional growth align with the dynamic rhythm of the tech industry.

As someone who has contributed significantly to the community, how do you see mentorship playing a role in the development of the next generation of tech professionals?

Actually, I’m not a fan of mentorship. I hold a somewhat unconventional perspective. While mentorship is often touted as a cornerstone of professional development, I am cautious about its widespread application. The tech industry, like any other, sees its fair share of self-proclaimed mentors who may prioritise personal gain over genuine guidance. True mentorship, in my view, transcends mere titles. It’s about organic connections and the sincere desire to contribute to someone else’s growth.

Rather than conforming to a conventional mentorship model, I advocate for a collective approach where knowledge flows freely, and individuals seek guidance based on shared goals and interests. In this collaborative paradigm, mentorship becomes an authentic exchange rather than a one-sided hierarchy. It’s about fostering a culture where learning is reciprocal and everyone, regardless of experience, contributes to the collective wisdom of the community.

Is there any additional wisdom, experience, or anecdotes you’d like to share with our audience?

Don’t worry if you’re not passionate about what you do, from my experience most people make this claim but don’t believe it themselves. If you enjoy it, and are good at it you can build your “passions” around it.

Anything else you would like to promote to our community?

If you’re interested in building with Serverless technologies, check out https://serverlessland.com
Want to hear more from Ben? Watch his previous talk on our YouTube channel.