HeadBox Life: An interview with our Lead Front End Engineer, Tom

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Find out why our Lead Front End Engineer loves his field, what his role is here at HeadBox and top tips for how you can get into engineering.

Tom, tell us a bit more about yourself…

What I’m listening to:
Hello Nasty by the Beastie Boys
Doolittle by the Pixies

What I’m reading:
The Dark Forest – Liu Cixin
Managing Chaos: Digital Governance by Design – Lisa Welchman

My favourite city:
London (it’s why I live here) but Barcelona to visit

A man stood in front of a scree with arms up


1. What is a lead front end engineer?

My role at HeadBox is to support the tech and product team through technical guidance and mentoring. Engineering at a startup is a balance between moving rapidly and building quality software, as a lead it is important to align teams and ensure a pragmatic approach to this, which is where I come in.
I spend time with our project teams to help them define and validate technical solutions to user problems — helping them take an idea from scrappy experimentation through to a well crafted, production-ready piece of technology.
I look after our client-side software architecture, security, accessibility and performance. I also write a bit of software myself every now and again.

A man on his computer

2. How did you become an engineer?

As a child I was interested in computers and dabbled with a bit of programming; however, I actually began my career as a designer. I taught myself to code as it helped me get better paid and more interesting web design contracts.
While working for one company their developer left and they asked me if I would fill in for the role. I accepted and continued to learn code and upgrade my skills — the rest is history.

3. What do you love most about being a developer?

I get to use technology to help solve human problems — there are a lot of worse things to do.

4. What tools do you find helpful for your job?

Bash scripts can be really helpful to automate repetitive or laborious tasks — I keep my entire laptop configuration (settings, programs, etc…) in a file on Dropbox, which I can just run whenever I get a new machine.

Every engineer needs somewhere to write code — right now I am loving VSCodium , which is basically Microsoft’s Visual Studio Code, minus all their nosey corporate user tracking.

5. Do you have any advice for where to start, if someone wants to become a software engineer?

  • Teach yourself — there are loads of great resources available online for those who are interested and motivated to learn. Laurence Bradford has a great website about her self-teaching journey, and her list of learning tools & resources is excellent Recommended Beginner Coding Resources and Tools
  • Take a conversion course — Flat Iron School, General Assembly and Makers Academy all provide quality engineering tuition and will help you in your job search once you graduate from them.
  • Go to tech events near you — network with professionals and companies in the tech industry and learn about how to apply the skills you are learning in the real world (it’s very different from the classroom).

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