In our latest episode of the NewyTechPeople podcast I interview James Newell, Tech Lead at Lendi. we talk about his career in technology, working remotely and his passion for coding and tinkering with tech from a very young age.
Hope you enjoy the episode.
Here you can source all the things we have talked about in the podcast whether that be books, events, meet-up groups and what’s new in the newcastle tech scene.
Welcome James thanks man okay I think there’s a few people special and you have spiced it no of you around Newcastle team worked locally worked away remotely and give for the people who don’t know you what’s what’s your story what’s your background yep so I’m dev yeah came down to Muay for uni from new from uni went to NI bay last Ian and yeah currently at Landy tech lead like you said kind of wearing a few cuts yeah kind of tech lead team lead and product manager Akana as well working in the platform team where we kind of worked to enable the and empower the other developers at Wendy so booting a lot of stuff around deployments front end boiler plates you know working on a big authentication piece at the moment so and how to each of the teams kind of interact with that yeah backend deployments of docker containers Dec yes a bunch of AWS yeah monitoring the learning all sorts of things at the moment so yeah that’s nice that’s pretty cool add a unique and I baked not everyone’s done it by there’s a lot of people and I think it’s really they got a really good grab program looked better than most companies in Newcastle and then grew through there is that that was you first you go I know a grad program no so yeah out of school I started working for a company linked to the school and they’ll called understanding faith the Catholic Church diocese whatever parish important carry their wanting to convert a bunch of the religious education material into I guess computer-based stuff that kids could use on the computer rather than selling books and that kind of thing so they had a heap of content they’d created with Dreamweaver and they had like over 4,000 pages of content plus all the video audio some interactive activities and that kind of stuff and Dreamweaver was kind of just falling apart trying to handle all that so yeah they kind of got me in because I did software design film in that school throughout the HSC kind of got me in like a custom CMS everyone builds a CMS for once right so yeah built that that went to 250 Catholic schools in Australia and I was kind of a dev behind that and support for all the people installing the software I guess at all the schools so yeah that was pretty cool straight out of school failed a lot learnt a lot yeah so that was pretty cool for came to uni was still doing a lot of that stuff did a few small business stuff as well horrible WordPress type stuff I’m David that feeling oh yeah I hope this was an offer that I don’t build a few shots of my time web press Liberation’s and different versions of yeah I think most people have had a crack asylum something like that was for business world right yeah yeah yeah and so the kind of clients I had were kind of just wanted something done that kind of low budget kind of wasn’t happy with the quality and yeah I kind of liked being a sole trader didn’t know where my next business was coming from so I just said yes to everyone which led me to working all-nighters yeah I tried to Chuck some uni students on for a while but they just couldn’t get the right amount of productivity for the low kind of budget projects that I was working on and yeah so I had a friend of a friend and IB he kind of reached out to me to invite me to come apply and so ya jumped into an IP through there which was pretty cool I really enjoyed it because I was kind of I guess full stack before then yeah jumped in and specialized in the front end which I really enjoyed and yeah kind of has had big impact I guess well career is kind of all where I guess had in my career and yeah having an awesome team learned so much particularly in the first year and a half yeah although our job things people process yeah it was really great team yeah we’ll jump to the next step is that but we are back and tech guys have built something had yeah in their own time small business on the side you’ve got me see he said built a life out or learn what I what’s your view on that like he said something care if you’re building it your team are needy you just like people that you look for people that you know Tinka do their own sort of thing and what’s your opinion what’s your take on that as in like when I’m hiring yeah yeah yep so I think that’s definitely something that I look for is someone who’s passionate kind of loves what they do will kind of like is keen and on board with I guess whatever the mission is so we’ve hired at the platform team at Landy and yeah I guess we’re looking for someone who is particularly interested in serving developers as they’re our customers being the platform team yeah so yeah definitely something I look for is someone who’s passionate self-motivated kind of either tinkers with all those things or has had experience working with it all I often find the people who are like really passionate and spent their own time playing those things or often yeah have a lot more skills in those areas and someone who might find yeah you have to find a way to yeah yeah especially small business followed by well I’m going to eat every day that’s for sure but I think yeah you get involved there’s no other way but small business like you guys some uni students like you said but if there’s a bigger problem to solve you’ve you’ve gotta solve it out yeah yeah I mean there’s been something to be said for people that I’ve got but I haven’t had the chance to just go I’ve gotta sort this out of this on will ask I could do my own research and some hassle you solve the problem right no as a things look powering that especially like hiring people into your teams like this is person problem solvers it’s gonna be able to find a way to get it done if it’s not perfect yeah and I bay from ni bay you went to a blessing yeah how did that come back so voila and I be yeah like first year and a half a grew heaps bit later a bunch of the front end developers left and I be and so I was kind of the only friend developer there was also another kind of thing happening at the time where the back-end developers were switching language and yeah so with no front-end developers heap of back-end developers they were struggling to work on the front end yeah so I got to lead a bunch of decisions there around jumping onto reactors that kind of development framework at ni B I’ve got to I convinced all back-end developers to jump onto no js’ because I wanted to do universal rendering in my team and so yeah kind of spent yeah a great a lot of I guess a fair bit of my time I’m gonna be supporting other developers through design system through moving migrating to react through yet migrating to merge is as well and I think that’s something that I really enjoy either I was on holidays sort of tweet from who was my boss at a lesson I was kind of like this this would never happen I’ll just go for it anyway see see what happens so yeah replied to his tweet and he was like yeah sorry no remote jobs going last scene but yeah then they got back to me like half an hour later and like we’ve talked to HR talked to the team yeah we’re happy to have you on board kind of thing so yeah kind of went from there so yeah I was pretty excited to be working on good design system that was cute so yeah I was pretty stoked about that being able to yeah support developers through that so our last thing was pretty amazing magnum fridge was a big highlight for me yeah like the views in the office were pretty spectacular although I was working from Charlestown so didn’t get to enjoy it every day but when I was down there yeah it was pretty sweet huh yeah I would say obviously a blessing yeah my successful tech company coming out of Australia I think at bay and absolute highlight sure a lot of people would say that as they are little place away thank you what more insights into what it was like there we say you magnitude you’re a big nice you probably didn’t get that day-in day-out experience it was I was young I let key highlights or learning points you got from that that environment is just amazing in the culture that kind of thing yeah my daughter three and a half year old daughter still talks about the fair day that we had so once a year they run like a family friends fair day rides and everything in Centennial Park and and you later well yeah daughters still talking about it so that’s had a pretty big impact on her yeah as well as like all the parties that they throw her every month pretty cool team events that they have and whole office events that they have yearly as well they’re all pretty cool know about family I guess a tech perspective or the way the teams work on your honor how the Senate was there anything sort of knew that he hadn’t seen before and then you able to have around this there a definite role that out of your team’s the future and hang from yeah liking methodology of working style yes and one thing I really loved was innovation days and time all weeks I guess um so I think we had around six innovation weeks a year as well as the four shipit days yeah so they were that was awesome I really loved that time to kind of have that idea or or that problem for the user that you wanted to solve or that bug that had been bugging you or someone else or kind of trying to attack that tech debt that was that’s been bugging you so yeah I really enjoyed that yeah I guess maybe one of my learnings was maybe everyone’s not like we put people on the or companies on these pedestals and maybe not everyone is quite I guess as good on the outside as they look on the outside kind of thing and so yeah I guess this this dual people just like everyone else inside the company and there were times the processes and stuff broke down and inefficient at times and yeah so there are a few not beat challenges but yeah well I guess Sanga challenges you have yes yeah yeah so we’re working through yeah I guess the team process and that kind of thing trying to improve your relationship with designers and I guess work handed over between teams and that kind of thing yeah so ni be have a very cross-functional kind of team particularly this start when I was there and I really enjoyed that a blessing was a little bit more separated it was a little bit more at least my experience there was a little bit more throwing over defense kinda thing yeah yeah that was first my tralala yeah Charlestown yeah for a company in Sydney must attend Sydney yeah up for a sec house how’d you find that to start with yeah so that was a big change kids particularly my daughter was used to me either been out of work or being home to play with her and so that took her along six months getting used to daddy being home but not able to come in and play so that was pretty cool but yeah well my work yeah everyone jumps to highlight I guess the awesome things about it working from home working your underwear I don’t usually do that there’s occasions as long as you don’t have to get up well with video cameras on yeah these are some pretty awesome things like no can you that kind of thing lunch times I can go out and have it with the family but yeah I missed the social side of of remote work and I think there’s also a kind of a guilt that you get for being remote work you know in the office people can see you working and so you kind of feel like you have to work harder to prove to everyone that you are actually working as well so probably do more hours as well as on the top of in the office everyone and every half hour every hour people turn around and chat to you or go for a coffee break or that kind of thing so it’s track she’s in an office yeah yeah any works from home yeah especially like that yep yeah I’m pretty motivated it’s kind of harder for me to stop working and to start working so yeah I guess the boundaries that kind of set in place was having a door to close not using the office for anything other than work purposes and kind of not getting tempted to go in there and weekends and that kind of thing not instilling slack on my phone and all those kind of things yeah it’s hard it’s hard like that’s a young family two or three young kids and you know there’s people there’s a few people that would call me when I’m at home I might not pretty face it with hey you’re probably gonna hear a kid yelling screaming talking asking daddy questions in the background it’s hard it’s hard to sort of draw that boundary right special fan you know running gear in small businesses it’s hard control in a sense I keep you put some pretty solid yeah rules in place but yeah I said it’s a challenge right and as he said it’s something everyone wants to do it until you don’t have any like but this definitely surprised but yeah there’s some other aspects to it all right yeah so the two teams have been part of Atlassian and now Lindy that being I guess in an office and up being my personal a scene we we had one or two other people who go home to London or to Spain as well and they do a month from over there so that’s even harder remote with different time zones yes it’s harder and Europe I guess comes over with the work hours as well is harder than America as well can be challenging from social perspective feeling part of the team and for those guys who are about different time zones it was really hard from like getting approvals done on PRS he had to wait 24 hours rather than an hour or two kind of thing so what was slower getting kind of approvals on decisions that you’re making that kind of thing yeah I was very lucky the team that I went to a black yeah that a blessing had already started putting I guess a lot of the culture or a lot of the I guess basics for my work in place so they already had a good camera a license got awesome video conferencing systems the team had already been working on kind of async communication using slack that kind of thing and kind of all their decisions were already using the RFC process kind of the dasie playbook that lesson have on their website so yeah it was really easy as a remote worker kind of any discussion or what a meaningful work discussion was either done over slack or reported as a document that you could go look at contribute to otherwise even if it wasn’t someone would kind of write up some minute notes or that kind of thing to make sure I guess the used there weren’t those hallway conversations that you weren’t part of kind of thing you know yeah yeah that’s a very real challenge it’s better get summers like apply sealant money putting those things in place there’s probably other companies still coming up to speed with that right put the right frameworks in place to make remote work still work for people because it’s it that’s what oh well I’m gonna say on that you know they work on their own and they you know they’re working solo but we can talk yeah I can communicate about putting the right frameworks in place to make people feel included it’s it’s a very real challenge right yeah anyway well there’s obviously paper to do now that but it’s a work in progress right and it’s harder than a little bit much think about yeah yeah like what’s the different companies seem to have kind of different ideas how to do it so I’d laxing just introduced their first remote team recently and so the idea with remote is remote but geographically kind of located where as someone like automatic so WordPress creators they’re like distributed total distributed team so yeah every totally different time zone for every member in the team and so yeah both I guess have different challenges and yeah it’s kind of it’ll be interesting to see does the industry kind of standardize down one or do they do both models work or yeah it would be really interesting to see where stuff goes but yeah great and then you’ve got Lindy next right provide again yep how’s the experience baby Lindy had that coming back yeah what’s your experience that yeah like I was really start to get a glass in that environment was awesome yeah so pre fair question why’d you leave a blessing yes I think yeah there’s so many amazing people at Atlassian as well I was working with the front-end lead from Yandex alongside me as another senior developer and yeah so there’s some really great people there what I was kind of just missing was Becca and Ivy I had all this kind of input into some of the direction and the strategy of the department and where the technology was going yeah I bless in it was it just felt I guess like I had less of an impact and wasn’t using my skills in my experience as as fully as I was and I be so I still learn a lot particularly around like collaboration between teams and yeah yeah particularly observing how the teams were consuming Atlas give the design system and the pain points that they kind of went through and so yeah like to learn a lot but yeah just not really feeling like I was using my skills and experience to its full potential I guess that sounds like a positive experience sort of late the door I panned the other have something you know arises in the future where yeah it’s a better use of your skills that’s where you are in your career but and that’s that’s sort of one of the the problems but when you’re dealing with a big base like that I mean it sounds like an get not get a loss pot eight nine the full experience because that is a big day and you deal with a bunch of really really talented people right yeah yeah so it sounds like a man yeah there’s obviously an opportunity to write like it presented itself wait Landy yeah that’s been a good experience as well what are sold jumping into Andy was yeah we’ve got this massive monolith when we kind of need people to come and help us split off than my life yeah it’s been pretty amazing experience what do I need a few people to do that’s a really good question said a mortgage broker I guess the difference to most mortgage brokers out there is that we try and automate a lot of process so our key differentiator is user experience and automation rather than filling out a paper form that you might receive from the broker and then have to hand back to the broker with all the asset kind of information on there yeah I guess we’ve got online form so we can automate the collection of the data and and slowly we can try and automate the back-end process between us and the bank as well as – yeah I guess give the user faster turnaround more confidence that they will get the loan yeah and I think we have quite a large offering of banks that kind of support us as well yeah yeah continue to change yeah yeah for sure the Royal Commission last year and yeah just technology itself it’s definitely a lot of change going on in that industry at the moment so you’ve gone for night sounds like that’s definitely you know you pop yep you’ve stated me constant the whole time like why why these remote Roz why Newcastle for you yeah yeah so absolutely love Newcastle came down when starting new from popcorn yeah yeah and so mom and dad lived on five acres out there and so I kind of loved all the bush around Newcastle I loved that it was so chilled particularly the traffic compared to Sydney so really loved it yeah I’ve got a wife and family now as well and yes I friends family pass around so yeah going somewhere else is kind of a non-starter but yeah I guess around Newcastle we love that we’re like kind of benefits of the small city but still eight minutes to redhead I admit it’s the like kind of from where we are and I like mountain biking so there’s a bunch of good spots to drop into around Glenrock and yeah white bridge and all that kind of stuff so nothing I was gonna take that you obviously you’ve worked the big companies remotely as well what’s your take on the current taxi in Newcastle yeah I think it’s pretty cool like it feels like the last five years you probably are in more of a position than me to kind of I guess know the numbers more but yeah it feels like it’s kind of taken off heaps in terms of so many more jobs kind of going around at the moment so many more startups it’s really cool to see some more interesting work starting up around Newcastle yeah I think it’s still kind of got a long way to grow when I talk to my workmates try and encourage them to move up or try and I guess highlight how cool Newcastle is because of all the stuff going on yeah they’re kind of like what really yeah are you serious yeah I think there’s probably a fair bit I guess yeah lots of opportunity to grow still yeah I completely passed right yeah do try to you know try to highlight a little bit of that because it’s still people we need consul to take to know that it’s growing Tech same these were thriving maybe no it’s on that path anyway it’s on but there’s a very real challenge to try to educate people outside of Newcastle what actually it’s going on yeah and then there’s also a very real challenge for someone like yourself I’d like more senior in the town still for I guess a lack of opportunity like that in the dead space right there is a heap of opportunity other moment we’re significantly candidate short you know around that need to maybe senior number out and HEPA jobs around that but once you get over that that’s sort of number over that you know 100 120 kaemark once you go over there the opportunities are definitely fewer and farther between right I’m sure you’ve experienced that yeah yeah so I think there’s a few different challenges I guess so there’s a lot of senior roles even in Newcastle but yeah I haven’t really seen many lead or beyond but also I think particularly for me like a lot of the work that I’m quite interested in so kind of supporting and enabling and caring developers yeah often usually larger companies I guess that can justify having a person or a team whole team kind of backing those kind of things yeah so say yeah there’s probably a few challenges there yeah I think my I think I’m just I think it’s it’s a well good for us to sit here on the podcast and you know obviously it’s freaking Newcastle and the opportunities around because I met it’s very light you know that this absolutely no lies in there that’s it’s more opportunity other than it was here all time last year and then certainly more than a couple of years ago but the challenge still is that yeah that more senior into town for people like yourself to have opportunity you just saw that you called now then you need it a really decent sized engineering team for you know to hire those senior yeah I was like you’re looking for at yeah some of the the problems don’t necessarily present themselves and then yeah I guess the leadership as well yeah actually I don’t really know what’s happening there I guess there’s a lot of senior people let’s senior roles I suppose the senior roles are expected to be doing the management side of things as well the leadership’s type of stuff as well yeah as well as yeah yeah that kind of thing which happened try it happens in smaller team they don’t mean a thief if you’re a startup in you’re a startup yeah probably writing code as well as everything else right doesn’t as we build out you can invite people to take some of those responsibilities so I and then when you’re talking about bigger sized companies same scenario the bigger the company and the more people you can have even more defined roles right yeah buddy really decent size engineering team I guess – yeah to be able to have the improperly to other hands up yeah but yeah I think I’m wondering our path and hopefully there will be opportunities for people like yourself in the future I’d love to say seeing the bigger kind of businesses starting to open up shop kind of around Newcastle and yeah so I’ve had some friends from yeah companies in Sydney who would love to move up here but the kind of the company going removal or crippling the satellite office up here is kind of being a bit of a barrier and yeah yeah so it feels to me my uneducated position it feels like a captain metal chicken and egg kind of situation meet people up here but you also need the work up here as well so be interesting to see how that plays out great I think it’s one of two ways I think it’s other big tech company I think a satellite office and building a team that or one of the startup see you know growing significantly you don’t build a TV I think that you sort of the two options right to to really create a more significantly more opportunity put Newcastle on the map know a little bit but yeah there’s a there’s enough happening and they’re all all pointing in the right direction yeah that’s really exciting else to see how much has changed in the last five years other result I’ll be saying more about opportunity to put me up for something you know for people like yourself to say hey I can remain here I’m sure that you’ve had enough conversations to them you know companies Newcastle nothing you can sell to them but you know there is that talent in Newcastle to say hey we’ve got some not serious knowledge here and I’ll see you continue to work remotely least you know you are based is do yep how have you found where my work is in more companies out there yeah yeah I think it’s even in the last like three years it’s massively increased yeah more and more kind of open to it very slowly more officially open to it for like a company in what policy yeah there definitely seems to be the more senior end of things which is I guess self-explanatory to an extent they know how to more trusted I guess to manage their own time and that kind of thing yeah but yeah it’s really exciting to say that there’s more my opportunities opening up way back you mentioned he came from local courts Newcastle University yeah I was your university experience like that Kathleen Newcastle universities really good selling point for tech and Newcastle right hey we’ve got a university here we can we can turn out people I’m sure people are wrong terminology but anyway you can help educate people yeah man tech field I always your expertise what I kind of started coding around you 3 E 4 kind of thing and yeah so I was already doing a fair bit of stuff on the web yet so maybe three or four in school yeah 31 seven and you’re coding then yeah yeah yeah so key basic you can back in the day on old DOSBox at that bought home yeah it was kind of loud two hours a day and the computer one hour gaming and one our educational backed by gaming I mean like the old games where you’re typing a number the angle for the banana to be thrown by the gorilla gorilla that kind of thing yeah so pretty old-school but yeah kind of to maximize my time on the computer I was like I want to play games for two hours not one hour so I’m gonna program for the rest of the time so I can make games and that kind of flies under the radar as educational so yeah it kind of did that was even outside of the two hours I was like writing code on paper and syntax checking it by hand and then making the most of my two hours actually on the computer so educated yes a dad kind of taught himself when he got the computer he modified a few games to be maths questions rather before you can do something so dad helped a bit plus the Internet I guess to torus and that kind of thing so I point back in the day in high school years for all the PHP MySQL all that kind of stuff but it’s really cool kind of seeing I guess how much how many resources are available now for learning and all that kind of thing like Stack Overflow and like the yeah it used to take hours of kind of debugging something or trying to reverse engineer something and how easy it is to find answers to problems these days is it’s pretty cool but yeah you seeing people start even though we’re no yeah I can
yeah Google meet for videoconferencing so that’s pretty important for stand-up every day as well as often a heap of other meetings confluence is pretty central as well so we do a lot of our documentation for for example team retros or RFC’s for new process changing I guess changing our team process or changing something to do with technology introducing new technology looking at a new API gateway vendor or that kind of thing so confluence yeah that probably the big one so I think that’s when today I mean if you are if you’re one of the back meet get yourself some advice you know you can get version yeah what would you say and you change massively in advising people I was trying to think about that hey so I think like I feel like we’re of where I am today is kind of being from I guess all the either experiments that went wrong or the things that I’ve learned along the way yeah I don’t know I feel like if I went back in time and kind of taught myself how to skip these things maybe I wouldn’t have those learnings and yeah wouldn’t necessarily yeah I probably would be making a whole heap of different decisions which yeah I guess don’t know if that if I’d be where I am today so yeah I think I’d say I don’t really have anything just just keep keep at it I guess all right some common things being to use just like breaking things and just building right knee straight for its goal then you’ve said it continuous like you land boy and pulling things apart I read about build it from it it did a through the media straight WordPress and things like that it sounds like pretty common theme there right yeah yeah yeah maybe don’t be afraid but I feel like I’ve hopefully already know I don’t have to be afraid to pull stuff apart yeah yeah yeah yeah I guess yeah anyone else who’s interested in develop and all that kind of thing yeah just start doing it don’t ya nothing nothing to stop you the barb of entry I guess the yeah barb entry in the industry is pretty low at the moment so yeah it’s really cool that you can learn those skills really easily you pick it up get a job somewhere and just I guess be building on your experience from there which is pretty cool yes you can through all the resources on the internet you can continually be upskilling yourself and yeah so I think it’s pretty cool it’s time to be a developer or at least wanting to get into development as well right and that’s a very very quick path – yeah you can go from teaching yourself to let’s call it six figures you definitely have two years yeah definitely yeah if you’re willing to put the time and effort in peshawar down there’s many other crazy day you know every six figures not in two years or less yeah yeah as a Legarda it’s not too many fields like that I don’t think yeah and that’s that’s pretty unique yeah that’s good opportunity huh if I if people want to get to know you a little bit more value Twitter sounds like it might be the guy yeah yep show us James oh yeah on Twitter anywhere else people should reach out to you LinkedIn I’m they recruit as he’s that at times yes as as people make life a little bit more difficult really I just I think there’s I I just do everything on Twitter well I think recruiters I don’t know what to say Bruin LinkedIn but there’s a lot of poor experiences people have with recruiters on link being being spammed with non relevant opportunities or yeah looks like that just expand in general I was just like hey look I don’t know any person just reaching out with something that’s completely rulling and I think recruiters in general they don’t get it so cottage for the same crashes that oh yeah it’s just another of creative message so there’s a definite challenge for recruiters to cut through the noise yeah very cute a set and it’s really clear when I guess the recruiter is different as well this is pretty cool yeah I bet sit down I think this yeah I think it’s not it’s easy to stand out being different correct correct correct I think once again we’re very very very very low barrier to entry but yeah that’s one of those things I over time you can you can stay down and sort of differentiate yourself and that’s what gets better recruiters trying to do or people that are in there for so long the game but it does I’ve spoken to a number of people especially text by special in the development space that just get they get common by recruiters on it a daily basis or multiple times a day and I just like how they’ve been logging our dining right then for that reason yeah yeah anyway that’s a challenge a very creative nah thanks for your time today hopefully we’ll continue to own with some more of you around the because you know texting Indonesia oh geez man sounds good thanks man.