In conversation with... Lokulus, Alderley Park

From apps and softwares to online services, websites and digital devices, ‘Code’ is the language that sits behind the design and functionality of our digital world. 

Located at Alderley Park, Lokulus is a technology business that has spent the last 19 years creating innovative technology to develop a leading customer interaction (CIM) platform and associated products. We caught up with Ciaran Jessup, Head of Engineering at Lokulus to ask about the world of coding, why it’s a great skill to have and why the North West is a great place to do it...

 1. What does Lokulus use coding for?

At Lokulus we deliver a range of software products and solutions to our clients that supercharge customer interactions. All of these products are the result of coding.  

Whether that's someone in our engineering team using coding to create a new feature or improve an aspect of our existing functionality… or a member of our customer success team working closely with a client to deliver a bespoke integration to improve their customer experience.  

We use a variety of languages and platforms that you might be familiar with such as Java, C# and Javascript.  One thing is clear though – coding helps us to deliver value to our clients and solve real problems that affect us all as customers in our daily interactions. (P.S. We're hiring! https://lokulus.com/careers)

 2. What are the most important things to consider when thinking about a career in coding?

One of the most important qualities in a coder is an enquiring mind. It's not enough to accept that something is broken, you need to have a burning desire to find out why something is broken (or how to create something from a blank page) and a want to make it work better. 

At times coding can be a frustrating profession where you're challenging your mind against the unknown, but if you've got the determination to succeed, when success comes (and it always does) the feeling of achieving something with your team-mates is unrivalled. Taking an idea from someone's imagination and making it real is a truly empowering experience.

 3. What are your top 3 tips to get into coding?

  1. Get involved with an Open Source community on a project that you are personally interested in, this will let you build a demonstrable portfolio you can show to prospective employers (and get you used to working in a team with other people's opinions!). 'Coding' is a broad term and covers many specialised disciplines that you can learn more about through this approach (disciplines such as testing or technical documentation are great ways to get started with a project!)
  2. Try and learn with someone else, or even better with a group of people. There are lots of free programming courses you can find with a simple google search these days. Several universities even offer online versions of their courses for free.
  3. Once you’ve learned the basics of a coding language, online tools such as https://projecteuler.net/ or https://www.codewars.com/ can really sharpen your skill set and if you like puzzles, they can be a great way to flex those coding muscles!

4. What does the North West and Alderley Park offer for those in a tech career? Why is it a great place to work?

The North West practically invented general-purpose computing. The Small-Scale Experimental Machine (SSEM) first ran a program on 21st of June 1948 at Manchester University, and has a long and vibrant history of innovation, experimentation and invention within Computer Science.

As a result of this history, the region is full of talent and opportunity. Notable for its many technology meetups and start-ups the area is a melting pot for ideas as people move between jobs.  Alderley Park is set up brilliantly to facilitate these serendipitous contacts between the tech (and non-tech) businesses on the site and further foster that north west spirit of 'doing things differently' (– Tony Wilson).

5. Covid19 has shone a light on the importance of the tech sector but also more people are working from home – do you think it's important for teams to be together physically to share ideas and accelerate innovation in this area?

This is a great question and one that I've personally struggled with over the last 6 months or so. 

Historically I've always been of the view that you can't beat getting a group of people together in a room and really fleshing out an idea. However what 2020 has demonstrated to me is that if you've a well-motivated team, a clear vision and you've invested in the right tooling to allow your team to collaborate effectively, any obstacles can be overcome. 

Our new offices at Alderley Park offer the perfect blend of both in-office presence and tele-presence allowing our teams to mix and match whatever collaboration style is most appropriate to themselves and the problems that they're working on.

6. What's one thing you wish you'd known about the tech industry and coding at the start of your career? 

The importance of team work; Coding as a career is now very accessible, however when you learn the relevant disciplines it is very easy to learn them in a vacuum. 

The best results come out of working as a team and it's very important to ensure that whilst you're working on the technical skills of coding you don't forget the softer skills of teamwork, sometimes the solutions to a problem come from just having a friendly chat over a cup of coffee! 

In addition, one aspect of coding that is perhaps misunderstood by non-coders is that coding is as much art as it is science, there's rarely one correct way to solve a problem! This means that when working in a team you're often coming at problems from different angles and with different opinions on how to solve it, so being able to negotiate and clearly articulate your position are highly valuable skills to hone! 

Bruntwood SciTech

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