Speaker Spotlight: Unveiling the Journey of a Lead Developer, Exploring Insights and Inspirations

Get to know James Camilleri, a Lead Developer at Scott Logic, whose journey through tech has been as dynamic as it is inspiring. From navigating the traditional pathways of the industry to encountering unexpected detours, James has amassed a wealth of experiences that offer profound insights for fellow professionals. Let’s dive in…

Can you share a bit about your background?

I grew up in South Wales and I’ve spent most of my life in Cardiff. I’m lucky enough to be married to an amazing woman and have two wonderful sons. I’ve spent most of my life working in tech one way or another and love gaming in all its forms, from computer and console games to board games.

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

Very techie, but still quite a few “twists and turns” for me. I tried traditional university a couple of times, but didn’t get on with it.

My career started with selling PCs in the late 90s and doing technical support for dial up internet using 56k modems. From there I went onto do technical support for leased lines and then into system administration. During this time I met my (now) wife, she was just finishing a second degree in psychology with the Open University. She inspired and supported me to get my degree which allowed me to get the job I really wanted – software developer. I found self directed learning suited my learning style much more than classroom based learning, but still needed the structure that formal study provides. I’ve been a software dev now for about sixteen years and recently finished studying for a Masters (also with the OU).

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

For me, there are two and they are both related to academia.The first was while I was still in school. I had an idea that I would like to become an architect and was studying art, coordinated science and design and technology. I was, at best, average at all three. And struggled with maths. I was also desperately unhappy and did not get along well with my peers.

I was on my own one lunch time in a room we used to play chess in. There was a rack of leaflets and one for a computer course at a local college caught my eye. I loved playing with my computers (a ZX Spectrum +3 and later a Commodore Amiga 600), so this really appealed to me. It also meant going to a different college to most other people who would be going onto sixth form at our school. I decided to apply and was offered a place. It was one of the best decisions of my life. I entered that college with barely any social skills and knowing no one there. I left with a community of friends, a new found confidence and the skills I needed to kick-start the career I described above.

The second I have already mentioned – meeting my wife and starting my degree. Before that I had a good grasp of procedural programming, but the course helped me get my head around object orientated programming. Just studying it whilst working also opened a lot of doors for me, even before I finished the course. It took a long time to study, but it came up in almost every interview and I became a senior developer about half way through my degree.

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

Be kind. Until you do someone else’s job, you don’t really know how hard they work, or what pressures they are under. It is very easy to assume that someone who’s work is hidden from you does little or adds no value. So, be kind to your colleagues – the testers, product owners, project managers, business analysts and the myriad of other people that you encounter in your professional life. Do your best to make their lives easier and be understanding. Create a community around you – catch them when they fall. Then, if you are lucky, they will be there to catch you too.

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

Everyone is talking about AI and with good reason, but my eye is on sustainable technology. I think that we are at the dawn of one of the most important and pivotal movements in technology. By renegotiating our relationship with technology and the impact it has on our planet, and therefore on us, we have an opportunity to shape the future for both us and our children. That doesn’t mean I want to get out of tech and live off the land – quite the opposite!

What I want is to find ways to keep the advantages and opportunities that technology continues to afford us, in a way that can be sustained for the long term. Being more aware of the carbon we consume and how our actions influence others, upstream and downstream from us to consume carbon, is really important. We need to consider this in the platforms we create and invent the tools needed to make sensible, carbon aware decisions in our designs.

I think this will be critical in keeping IT affordable and protecting ourselves as we use it.

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?

Community to me means forging bonds with other people. Looking after one another and sharing the knowledge and resources that we have at our disposal, in mutually beneficial ways.

The tech industry is built on sharing, from skills and technology to open source software. Community, and the spirit of openness it espouses, will be critical to promoting sustainability within tech.

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 try to follow my passions – it is very hard to learn something that you are not interested in, especially as you get older. I try to keep a good work/life balance and avoid working antisocial hours. Most of all, I rely on the people around me. Most problems are better solved by a team than an individual.

As for learning resources, I think this is a very personal thing – find out what learning style works for you.

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?

Mentorship is wonderful and rewards both the mentor and the mentee. I’ve learned as much from those I have mentored over the years, and they have learned form me. Finding effective ways of fostering talent is critical for any organisation.

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

There is a way through to the career you want. It may be harder for some than others, it may not be direct, but I believe there is almost always a way to reach your destination.

Anything else you would like to promote to our community?

At Scott Logic we have been developing a proposed open source standard for mapping, measuring and mitigating carbon emissions in IT platforms. It is designed to help people map their IT estates to the GHG protocols.

It is still early days, and something of a work in progress. We are open to both feedback and submissions.

You can find out more at https://www.techcarbonstandard.org/

Want to become a Silicon Brighton Speaker? Get in touch with us vis email: contact@siliconbrighton.com