Speaker Spotlight: Olly Chadwick’s Tech Career Journey & Key Insights for Aspiring Developers

In a digital era where innovation is important, the voices of seasoned professionals like Olly Chadwick, Lead Developer at R2U, provide invaluable insight into the ever-evolving landscape of technology.

In a recent conversation, we delved into Olly’s career journey exploring the paths he has travelled, the challenges he has faced, and the wisdom he has gained along the way. From his reflections on the importance of community and mentorship to his bold predictions for the technological future of 2024. Olly shares a compelling narrative that resonates with both aspiring developers and seasoned professionals. Read on…

Can you share a bit about your background?

I grew up in Brighton! Spent 10 years in London, then moved back to Brighton when I was 30 to have kids and buy a house in the suburbs. I have 2 kids and I play the ukulele (badly) and the piano (very badly).

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

There was definitely some twists and turns. I studied English Literature at university, and then joined the civil service graduate scheme as my first job. I spent 10 years working in Whitehall as a government policy advisor, mainly working on climate policy. After a while, I got a little bored and decided to retrain: first as an economist, then as a software developer.

I’ve inadvertently done a slalom run across academia from the arts to the sciences. This means I’m equally at home analysing poetry and writing C code. No-one has ever asked me to do both of these things at the same time.

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

Probably the decision to take a year out to do a Masters degree in Economics in 2014. This was the first time I started learning to code seriously (for data analysis). You can draw a straight line from there to me getting my first job as a developer 5 years later.

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

Mine Bitcoin.

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

It’s a predictable prediction, but the continued progress and impact of Large-Language Models (LLMs). Despite the hype, I still think most people are underestimating the impact this technology is going to have. In the web development world, I think there’s going to be a bit of a shift away from front-end frameworks as the primary tool and towards more server-side rendering of HTML (which was the subject of my recent talk at Async).

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 a world dominated by remote technology, it’s tempting to think that a community of humans who live near to us is completely irrelevant…but I don’t think we can escape from our evolutionary origins that easily. Our brains are obsessed with what other humans think, and even more so when those humans are present in the same room as us. There is a real power to meeting up in real life.

I’ve found the web development community in Brighton to be a great way of meeting and learning from people outside of the companies I’ve worked at. I started going to Async in 2018, and gave my first talk earlier this year (so it’s only taken me 6 years to get up on stage!)

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?

I’m a podcast fan, and I listen to a lot of tech podcasts. When it comes to expanding your knowledge of a subject, it’s hard to beat listening to an hour long in-depth conversation with two experts.

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?

I’ve loved the relationships I’ve had with mentors and mentees over the years. It’s great to have a “work older brother/sister”, who you can learn from and look up to. It’s also a great way to break out of (or work across) traditional corporate hierarchies, and see the company you work for from a different perspective. In my experience, people are generally so flattered when you ask them to be your mentor, that almost no-one ever says no. So go for it!

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

I think “Follow your envy” is a good bit of advice. My approach to developing in my career has generally been to look at the people who seem super cool and impactful, and try to be as much like them as possible.

Anything else you would like to promote to our community?

I’m working on a project at the moment called devboost (devboost.co.uk). The aim is to provide support and guidance to new developers looking to build portfolio projects. If you know anyone who is looking to land their first job in tech and needs some help building out a portfolio, let me know!


Want to hear more from Olly? Watch his previous talk here: