At CodeMonk we have a community of 2000+ skilled developers, engineers and other profiles in the tech industry. We like to uncover the people behind the keyboards, and what better than to ask them some tricky questions about the life as a talent in tech. Today, I am talking to Ashley about guitars, creativeness and how to become a tech team superstar!
I’m logging on to Zoom. The calling platform reports that it hosts about 3.3 trillion meeting minutes every year, and now 45 of those have been dedicated to me and Ashley. The first thing I see is Ashley, in a home office environment with a line of guitars on the wall behind him. “Are you a guitar-man?” Ashley takes a short pause. “Well. I have more than I can play. The problem is that when you learn how to play the guitar, you also learn how to buy them.”
We start our conversation by talking about the importance of staying creative in your work. “When you are being creative, you take lots of different possible ideas and try them and see which ones fit. I take this across to my professional life. For me - it’s the same thing. You shouldn't only have one idea and just go with that. There’s no such thing as a best choice of one. For me, writing a song and writing software seem to use many of the same processes, but with very different tools.”
Ashley tells me that he worked as a permanent member of staff for most of his career. I am curious as to what made him do the switch to contracting? “At some point, I realized that I'm at my best when I keep professional distance from the company and see my work as providing a service. I really enjoy making software. I really enjoy helping teams to make software, and it's nice to do that as a guest of the organization.”
We know that more and more people are choosing to work freelance, but I want to understand what makes people shy away from permanent employment, and Ashley has some thoughts on the matter. “When you're in a company, you feel that the politics and whatever else happens to the company is happening to you personally. You feel that to be successful you're supposed to have a career. These don’t have to be true. I can do what I do best as a freelancer. I have the variety of going into different settings, doing the best I can for my clients, and giving them good results. Then, at the end of it, I can say thank you and move on”. Ashley started freelancing a few years back, and once he found the rhythm of it, he found it to be a lot more satisfying than full time employment and feeling that he was supposed to be part of the company forever. He seems pretty happy with his choice and the flexibility that a freelance role gives him.
“As a contractor I give the best advice I can. If a company decides to go with it, Then I say: okay, that’s great. If they want to do something different, I say: it will be my pleasure to give you the services you’re paying me for!”
A great challenge with contractors from a management perspective can be to manage a team of both internal developers and external contractors. How do you keep a good structure?“My particular form of engagement is to go and connect with the team that is already with the client and help them deliver a product. What I do is partly about the technical side, and partly about developing the people. I have also learned that if a company treats its contract team as outsiders, the contractors can put a wall up and they stop delivering because they're too busy concentrating on the boundary. So in terms of the day to day work, one of the things that I try to do,whether I'm a participant or leader, is to make the team function as a team.” I realize that Ashley and I also share similar ideology on hiring for the best possible team. We also agree it can be difficult, which is where many companies might struggle and need assistance for their hiring.
“A good person in one team is not necessarily a good person to work in another. Teams are not made of one homogeneous personality type.They're made of a mix of different strengths and weaknesses. Some body who would fail miserably in one team could be a superstar in another. You have to find a good match.”
A challenge for freelancers is to set aside time to find a new job,ideally before the current job runs out to avoid too much downtime.So how does Ashley cope with this and also find the right channels to find good and relevant jobs?“I am registered on a few platforms where you get connected with client sand jobs, CodeMonk being one of them. I receive quite a few emails every day about jobs from recruiters, some are irrelevant and others are so far off the mark, they feel almost offensive, which is why I rather prefer to receive offers that are tailored to my skill set. Some platforms require a ridiculous amount of time to do job tests before you’re enrolled, and I’ve found I do not need those in order to find interesting jobs.”
It’s been great and interesting to talk to Ashley and I am thinking about the fact that so many are building networks and co working relations this way – 100% online. Does it get lonely sometimes?“Well, I haven't yet worked as a solo engineer on a project, so professionally I don’t feel lonely. I mean, that is also one of the reasons I enjoy contracting – that I can step away from a team activity and say I'm terribly sorry, I don't work here. And then go grab a beer with friends instead!