15 Sep 14 The Startup Diaries
Welcome to the first in a series of interviews with talented technologists in the startup world.
Meet Daniele Esposti. He’s a Python Developer working for Plentific, who are based just off the ‘Silicon Roundabout’ in Old Street.
Hi Daniele, tell me more about your role at Plentific and how has the company grown since its inception in 2012?
Hi Chris, I joined Plentific (https://plentific.com/) as a full-stack developer in February 2014 just before the company launched the product. Now I wear two hats. Whilst I still spend most of my time writing code, I also lead our team of developers working closely with one of our co-founders, Emre Kazan, who is responsible for product and technology at Plentific.
Part of my job requires me to break down high level user stories into bite size and actionable tasks and distribute among the team. I also help the company make technology choices and work with our developers to solve problems and meet deadlines.
The company has done a great job in developing a team of skilled engineers which can be seen by what we have accomplished in a short amount of time.
In a market flushed with career opportunities for Python Developers, why did you decide to join Plentific and what excites you about working for a Start-up?
I joined Plentific because I thought the company is trying to solve a real problem and there are various development challenges that would keep any engineer challenged. There are no legacy issues and we have the privilege of making technology choices freely, meaning we can use the right tool for the right job. Plentific is a young startup but one with a great vision and being a part of the journey from its early days adds additional meaning to the job.
In the six months you’ve been there, what have been the major successes?
In the last six months we managed to continue to push new features all the while building a continuous integration and testing framework, and setting up coding best practices. We also optimised the code achieving better load speeds. Speaking of new features, one of the big additions was our Find a Pro section, which is a marketplace bringing property consumers and professionals in the real estate together. Plentific users can get quotes and hire mortgage brokers, conveyancers, surveyor and architects via the platform.
What have been the biggest challenges?
In a startup environment, sometimes you’re trying to hit a moving target. Priorities might change rapidly requiring you switch focus in no time. On other occasions, you’re trying to solve a not so well defined problem, so you need to prototype, test, learn and adapt. Meanwhile, you need to think about how the product might evolve in the future in order to develop the code in a scalable manner. We try to avoid getting into technical debt.
Can you give me an idea of the exciting projects in the pipeline?
We are in the conceptualisation stage of a new tool to further streamline the management of property transactions. It’ll be a significant undertaking requiring complex back-end and mobile architectures.
Tell me more about the technology stack at Plentific and how has it matured since you joined?
We are using a classic combination of Python/Django and AngularJS deployed in an AWS box. We make use of both relational and non-relational databases. Where possible, we use third-party packages to implement our features and in some cases we contribute in the development of the original library. We use also Jenkins for continuous integration and periodic tasks.
Why is Python your development language of choice?
Python is a language that is not limited to web services but is also widely used in complex data processing and scientific/mathematical computing. There is also a large and active community of Python developers which makes it easy to find solutions to common problems.
Open Source technology is constantly evolving and new development languages and frameworks are constantly being adopted. How do you keep your skills up-to-date? Are you learning any bleeding-edge languages and/or frameworks?
If I found myself in a situation where I need to choose the correct technology stack or algorithm to solve a problem or to build a product I spend a good amount of time researching on internet which set of solutions meets my needs and what pros and cons they provide. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you chose the wrong stack and you need to restart from scratch.
On the other hand, if I’m already using some technology I tend to follow mailing lists or blogs to keep myself up to date with any changes, bugs or ways of solving problems. The tutorials and documentations about a technology stack are for me the first and mandatory step but nothing compares to the experience of thousand of developers in the community.
And of course talking with the members of your team is another really valuable source of knowledge.
Do you attend any technology meet-ups? Would you recommend any?
I’ve been to a couple of Barcamp (http://barcampcanterbury.com/) events in Canterbury, a non-conference where the attendees are giving spontaneous talks, and I was attending to Digibury (http://deeson-online.co.uk/digibury), a meet-up for digital and creative people. I’m new about the London meet-ups scene so I cannot recommend any at the moment but I’ll catch up soon.
By the way if you like the countryside and geek stuff you cannot miss the EMF Camp (https://www.emfcamp.org/) at the end of August: a 3-days camping where geeks will talk from technology to blacksmithing. I’m proud to have one member of my team Sam Cook (http://samlr.com/) as one of the volunteers which organise the event this year.
Lastly, the job market is as healthy as it’s been for years and lots of companies are trying to attract Software Engineers to their business. That said, demand outstrips supply and candidates have several options to choose from when they do decide to look for an exciting new challenge. Do you have any ideas/suggestions about how companies can better attract talent to their business?
A good candidate is not only attracted by the economic aspects, but also interested in the team, the product and his long-term development objectives. So from my point of view a company which provides some fancy bonuses (like for example free meals or day off on your birthday) are less attractive compared to companies that provide the candidates a challenging but rewarding environment. Such companies are winners in the long term because they have people which really enjoy their jobs and see themselves as part of something bigger than just a job.
By the way this doesn’t mean that you cannot have fun, on the contrary you’ll end up going to the pub more often than you think!
Chris challenging Daniele at table football at the Plentific office!
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