Episode 144 – Work Collaboratively and Be Constantly Challenging Yourself with Richard Warburton
Phil’s guest on today’s show is Richard Warburton. He is best known for his book “Java 8 Lambdas”, which was published by O’Reilly Media. Over the years, he has also spoken and numerous big tech conferences and sat on several conference committees.
He is the co-founder of Opsian.com and maintainer of the Artio FIX Engine. His mainly freelance career has led to him working with numerous companies, in various roles. Richard has worked on HFT, Developer Tools and Network Protocols.
(1.03) – So Richard, can you expand on that brief introduction and tell us a little bit more about yourself? Richard starts by explaining that unlike most IT professionals he has always worked for himself or as a contractor.
He enjoys the fact that working this way gives him more control over what he does and usually the direction of the projects he works on. For example, it has enabled him to run a company called Opsian with a friend. Their company helps people to understand and solve their performance problems by showing them what their software is actually doing. At the same time, he continues to work on various consulting engagements. Right now, a lot of his work is related to financial trading systems.
(2.45) – Phil asks Richard what drew him to that particular area. Richard said that he had always been interested in working in sectors where he could push the technology envelope. That is certainly necessary for the financial trading sector.
(3.48) – Can you please share a unique career tip with the I.T. career audience? Richard’s advice is to always try to work with people who you can learn from. He has always tried to do that and has been lucky enough to work with and learn a lot from people like Martin Thompson, Martin Burgberg and Kirk Pepperdine.
If you can’t work with great people you can learn from in your day job, just do it in the open source community instead. There are plenty of opportunities there. Richard has worked on a bunch of open source projects, which have really helped his career.
Collaborating with others improves your habits, develops your philosophy and enables you to pick up new ways of working. You really grow as a professional when you work collaboratively. Phil agrees surrounding yourself with people who offer something different from you can be leveraged to move your career forward.
(6.07) – Can you tell us about your worst career moment? And what you learned from that experience. For Richard, that happened on the first day he started working for j.clarity.
He wrote a piece of code, which looked fine and worked. But, when the CTO pulled it down and ran it on his laptop he got the blue screen of death, or at least the Mac OS equivalent. Not the first impression Richard had wanted to make.
Fortunately, his CTO was very understanding about the situation. It was laughed off, solved and soon forgotten. That incident taught Richard how important it is to be working with supportive colleagues when things go wrong. They make sure that you are not overwhelmed by the problem, help you to resolve it, learn from it and move on to the next challenge.
It also reminded him to bear in mind that code that works in one environment can easily fail in another one. You have to fully consider the other environments it may be run in before releasing it. Try to think about what can go wrong. Doing this enables you to produce a more robust piece of code.
(10.56) – What was your best career moment? For Richard, getting his book published was definitely a highlight. Writing a book is a long-term project especially when you do it while working full-time as he did. At points, you lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel. So, when you finally get it done it feels fantastic.
(12.20) – Do people contact you a lot about your book? Richard says that when it was first published he did receive a fair amount of feedback both positive and negative. It always felt good when he heard from someone who had been able to use what they learned to solve a problem.
(13.25) – Can you tell us what excites you about the future of the IT industry and careers? The fact that there are so many opportunities in the IT sector is something Richard enjoys. Someone once said “software is eating the world”, and they were right. In one way it is a scary time to be living in. But, if you are working in the IT industry, it is also an amazing time to live through.
Things change fast, often without us realizing it. For example, recently he visited Vienna with his family. Just 10 years ago, a trip like that would have had to have been planned in detail, well in advance. You would have needed a guide book, reservations and a stack of maps.
Today, all you need is your Smartphone. Plus, GPS means you can’t really get lost. The fact that everything you do in IT potentially has a huge impact on people’s lives is part of the reason it is so interesting.
(15.36) – What drew you to a career in IT? Since Richard was a kid, he has been interested in the way things work. His theory is that a lot of people who are working in software development played with Lego bricks as kids.
Richard was attracted to the fact that coding allows you to create things while tinkering around, playing and experimenting. Of course, this is true of other fields too, for example, engineering. But, computers had always fascinated him. Partly because what you can do with them is so varied, almost unlimited. So, that is the career path he followed.
(17.00) – What is the best career advice you have ever received? Richard says for him it was not advice, as such, that helped him the most. He found that encouragement was what moved him forward. For example, a guy called Ben Evans encouraged him to speak at software conferences. Public speaking has played a big role in moving his career forward.
For a long time, he regularly ran training to help people to code better using Java. He was heavily involved in meetups and workshops. Doing all of this has really helped to open doors for him. But, to do it, he needed a bit of encouragement.
(18.45) – If you were to begin your IT career again, right now, what would you do? Right now, artificial intelligence is hot, so he would probably get involved with that. It is certainly an interesting and challenging field.
(19.41) – What are you currently focusing on in your career? Right now, it is a business objective that Richard is focusing on. He wants to really grow his company and hire more people. So, he is currently honing some of the skills he already has and learning new ones. Including marketing skills, so he can better engage with the market place and share and explain what Opsian.com has to offer.
(21.22) – What is the number one non-technical skill that has helped you the most in your IT career? Richard says public speaking has proved to be a very useful non-technical skill. It has put him in contact with a lot of people and helped him when he wanted to write, publish and market his book.
(21.55) – Phil asks Richard to share a final piece of career advice with the audience. Richard’s advice is to practice your writing skills. Written communication is still very important.
You can’t achieve much on your own. So, you need to be able to communicate effectively. Written communication is still the main way we share complex information, so you need to be good at it.
(3.32) RICHARD– “I’ve always been really keen on trying to find areas where you do get to push the envelope, technology wise”
(3.52) RICHARD– “Try and work with people who you can learn things from.”
(13.59) RICHARD– “It’s a scary time to be living through. But it’s an amazing time to be living through if you’re working in the IT industry.”
(15.58) RICHARD– “I have a big theory that a lot of people who are working in software played with Lego bricks when they were a kid.”
(23.01) RICHARD– “In order to achieve things with other people, you always need to be able to communicate with them. Written communication is such an underrated part of that skill”