Craig Saunders, our Line Lead based in London was recently invited to speak at a Silicon Roundabout meetup. He has over 26 years of commercial software development experience, while Silicon Roundabout is one of the largest tech and innovation Hubs in Europe. Craig works closely with Software Architects and Product Owners within the strategic side of software development, to help steer and mentor the development teams. He spoke about building high-quality software using the best industry practices and principles, while still meeting near-impossible business deadlines.
Craig, what made you choose this topic?
This topic is quite personal to me, as I often see a scenario happen where the balance between market demand and good software practices appear to be polar opposites. In fact, they are like a married couple that needs some counselling.
In addition, I often hear developers say that we can't develop better software because the rest of the business keeps setting unrealistic deadlines. With this presentation, I wanted to show that it's incredible how we can meet the commercial and software objectives with a change of mindset. This change helps drive more innovation, which is proven to bring better revenue results.
How frequent are these scenarios and why?
Sadly, it happens frequently, but I see this more as a challenge we must accept and find ways to work with, rather than try to change it. The commercial landscape doesn't stand still while we try to build the perfect software. There will always be a challenge to meet the commercial demands (which is the goal for any company), without hindering good software practices and principles, as these are the lifeline for building robust, safe and performant systems.
How do you motivate your team when work is constantly busy?
The simple answer is to give everyone a sense of purpose and challenge the team to raise the bar technically. Thought leadership is needed to make people feel supported and fill in the knowledge gaps. I've found that software engineers get excited when they are learning, especially cutting-edge technologies. When the purpose has been achieved, people feel proud to have been part of the experience. This combination of learning and achieving great things helps keep the team motivated and wanting more.
How does Kindred support you to stay motivated in your role as a manager?
Kindred allows you to express yourself and ideas, and that gives you enough latitude to deal with challenges (but not to be a maverick and go rogue).
In addition, Kindred puts its company values at the heart of recruitment, which means that the people you work with are supportive and team-oriented. These factors mean that you can achieve what seems impossible, which inevitably keeps you motivated.
Two very pertinent values are "Dare to Challenge" and "We Seek to Innovate". They allow minds like mine to always strive to do better. They also give freedom within their structure/processes to succeed. This freedom helps drive motivation.
What are the proudest moments or achievements in your career?
The one that springs to mind is the project I mentioned in the middle of my presentation. Changing a system from heavy database reads to an event-driven architecture, whilst maintaining backwards compatibility with the old system, was a challenge in itself. Added to this was the time pressure. Only having 4 ½ months to be ready for the live launch of a new cutting-edge brand gave a lot of pride and a sense of achievement.
Coupled with this, the way the team pulled together in difficult times and embraced a different way to approach a technical solution was very encouraging. To quote Henry Ford: "If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself." This was very true in this case.
Watch Craig's presentation on ‘Software Principles and Project Deadlines Don’t Have to be Polar Opposites’ With top tips for building great software fast: