Here at Degree 53, half of our team are developers and they make up a great pool of skills and programming languages that enable us to build so many varied projects. The developers all come from different backgrounds - self-taught or with formal qualifications, and we hire from junior to senior level, depending on our needs. We cover frontend, middleware and backend development, plus we have DevOps and technical architecture roles, so there’s a lot of fantastic technical knowledge within the company!
We have quite a big number of developers who joined as a junior. Some have started just recently and some have built their skills and knowledge over the years and are now a part of our senior team. They’ve been creating amazing work and have fully immersed themselves in client projects. It’s great to see their progress and how they learn and develop their skills at the same time. We thought it would be great to find out how they got here and what they think about their roles so far.
What’s your role and what projects have you been involved in since joining D53?
Vlad: I’m a junior iOS developer, and I’m working mostly on betting projects. But I’ve done some internal work as well, like library improvements
Noemi: Junior Front End Developer on our platform project.
John: I am a Junior Developer, working in the Degree 53 web team. I have been involved in projects like gaming and betting websites, and of course the Degree 53 websites!
Leon: Since joining Degree 53, I’ve worked on numerous features from CashOut to building a whole new real-time sports data system.
Jen: I’m a Junior Frontend Developer. I have been involved in a Lottery redesign project. Other than just, I work on numerous bug fixes and other features.
Kenny: I’m a developer on the native team, working on Android apps. The two main projects I’ve been involved in are for a fintech company and an integration SDK. But I’ve been involved in other projects too, like working on a field engineer app, as well as sports and betting apps.
Paul: Senior Developer. I started as a junior on the Betfred team (the only team at the time!) after graduating uni way back in 2011. I’ve been involved in getting the Betfred mobile site from its initial release when it was just a registration form up to where it is today. I’ve also worked heavily on Totesport and on a digital screen project for Betfred Retail about five years back. These days, I work on gaming platform development.
Where did you learn to code – do you have any specific training/qualifications?
Vlad: I’m a self-taught developer. I’ve learned to code from online courses, such as https://www.letsbuildthatapp.com, ebooks from https://www.hackingwithswift.com and lots of trial and error on small projects.
Noemi: Not really, at least not computer science related. I learnt at home with the help of my boyfriend and loads of tutorials online.
John: I learned to code just before I started uni. I also did a placement year as a web developer and have a degree in Web Development.
Leon: I’ve been coding from a young age – taught myself through trial and error, never had any training.
Jen: I learned it with the Free Code Camp Manchester study group and Northcoders.
Kenny: I studied Computing A-Level in college and graduated from Manchester Metropolitan with a degree in Computer Science.
What inspired you to become a developer?
Vlad: I started learning to code to break the boredom of my last job as a warehouse operative. But once I had a better understanding of coding, I was hooked on the fact that you can build pretty much anything if you have an idea.
Noemi: My background is in foreign languages and translation. I liked it but I quickly realised it wasn’t for me and when I decided I wanted to look for something else to do, my boyfriend proposed development. He is a software developer and at the time he needed some retraining too so I thought, why not. He had been telling me for years how good of a job development is and that was a great motivation for me.
John: I wanted to learn how to code to see what makes sites tick, as well as what makes them look and work well.
Leon: I’ve wanted to be a developer since I was about 9 years old. I’m not really sure what inspired me, I guess I just love a challenge and those are pretty common when it comes to programming!
Jen: I always had the curiosity to learn to code form when I was younger. Also in recent years, I’ve met lots of cool people who were developers. Once, I went to a really good drum n bass night and the DJ was cool, and I found out he was a frontend developer. After that gig, I bought a DJ controller and started to learn to code...
Kenny: I kind of fell into development by accident. I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I left school, but ended up picking Computing as one of my A-Levels. I found that I quite enjoyed it so I decided to carry that on into uni.
Paul: It was my hobby. I didn’t really have a plan for what to do after leaving uni. After I stuck my CV on a few recruitment sites, I started getting calls about junior developers jobs and thought it sounded fun. The rest is history.
What do you enjoy about your job the most?
Vlad: Free snacks.
Noemi: I consider coding as a craft, you can build all kind of different things with it and it’s rewarding to see the final product. You tell the machine what to do and it does it, which is both good and bad because most of the times you’re telling it wrong the first couple of rounds. I also enjoy the office life and working in a team.
John: It’s an all-around laugh daily. I really enjoy the autonomy and variety of work I do when tackling projects, from tweaking the appearance on a banner to building middleware.
Leon: I love the atmosphere here and I love the type of work I do. It’s never a dull moment at Degree 53 and never a boring project! Everything I’ve worked on has been challenging, forcing me to think outside the box and learn new things.
Jen: Having to solve problems, being able to create something new!
Kenny: Being on the agency side, I get to work across a range of different projects, which keeps things fresh and gives a lot of opportunities to learn new things. Everyone at the company is very supportive of one another and I sit on a table with four of the funniest people I’ve ever met – so we laugh a lot every day!
Paul: It’s still my hobby! I still write code on my own personal projects at home. I still experiment with new tech. It’s easy to enjoy your job if what you do is based around your interests.
How has your work helped you learn and improve your skills?
Vlad: By working on big projects, with different teams, like designers and QAs is totally different than building an app in my bedroom. It requires a set of tools and communication skills to get the job done quickly and efficiently. Plus the advice from senior developers drastically improved my developer skills.
Noemi: Here, I learn something new every day. The project is quite challenging but also very gratifying; the stack of technologies we use is cutting edge and it’s always nice to know that the effort you’re putting into learning what we do is worth it.
John: I have become more confident in my frontend skills, following my work on a restyling project. Learning Umbraco has also been helpful in my work on the Degree 53 sites.
Leon: I joined Degree 53 as a Junior C# developer but recently I’ve had the chance to learn TypeScript and have built a real-time sports data system using Node.JS. This has been a fantastic learning opportunity for me and I’ve had a chance to work on an extremely technically complex system.
Jen: Practising is what makes you better and obviously working with it improve your skills. Having feedback from colleagues or just checking other people’s code is a great way to learn.
Kenny: I get to apply my skills to real products and often run into problems that I haven’t come across before which helps with learning and improving coding skills. Also, I get to interact with clients from time to time (sometimes in person, sometimes over a call), which has helped me improve my people skills.
Paul: My skills have come a long way over the years. From the early days where I was the most junior member of the team and made frequent mistakes to today where I’m architecting and building complex web apps like sportsbooks.
What are your top sites to keep up with the latest tech news/updates?
Vlad: I follow Sean on Youtube, which releases a weekly video of Swift news –https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbTw29mcP12YlTt1EpUaVJw. Other than that I use Twitter.
John: I read a variety of sites, but articles are usually provided to me through an automated RSS bot that link stuff surrounding web and software development.
Leon: Mainly, I just lurk on HackerNews and Twitter. LinkedIn can be a decent source of tech news too. Though HackerNews is my go-to.
Jen: I like online courses that you find at Udemy, WesBos courses, Frontend masters, being part of groups such as Free Code Camp.
Kenny: Medium, LinkedIn, Reddit.
Paul: Reddit is great for first hearing the chatter of other developers around the world. YouTube is great for detailed explanations and tutorials. Sites like Medium are great for reading the thoughts of some of the biggest names in the industry, but it can be easy to get a biased opinion so I’d always try to do more research.
Our junior developers have different stories that led them here. It’s great to see how varied their work is and what they learn on our projects. All our team members help each other out and we try to make it as collaborative as possible.
We encourage everyone to get a bit of experience in development with so many free resources and various initiatives available, and this skill has become increasingly valuable. You never know if you like it until you try!