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Interview with Dan Richards - Backend Engineer & co-founder of Golang Bournemouth User Group

Photo of Daniel Richards, GoLang Dorset User Group Founder

Nicole Doughton A Career in IT

Spectrum IT sponsor and host a range of technology user groups across Hampshire, Dorset and the South Coast. The purpose, to bring together IT professionals keen to share best practice and engage in discussion about technology and the future of their profession.

Dan Potepa, Benjamin Cable and Dan Richards started up the user group Golang Bournemouth for people interested in Go programming language and related technologies and methodologies (Kubernetes, Docker, Devops etc). With this vision in mind, Dan Potepa enlisted Spectrum IT as a sponsor in the summer of 2018 and the meetup has been running once a month ever since. Spectrum IT publicises this monthly meetup, provides a £25 Amazon voucher, covers the cost of venue hire and pizza allowing it to be free for attendees.

Here Spectrum IT enters a Q&A session with Dan Richards to find out what makes him tick and his interest in Go.


How did your career start out?

I've had a keen interest in computers since I was a kid and this naturally led to studying computer science at Uni. After I graduated I got myself a Junior Web Developer role at a design agency in Southampton. At the time it was hugely exciting for me to be getting paid to write code! The work may not have been cutting edge but looking back it was a great foot in the door.


What is your current job role? What is a typical workday like?

Currently, I work for Unity Technologies; in the Multiplay division. At Multiplay we specialise in enterprise hybrid cloud hosting for Multiplayer games; hosting huge games like PUBG and Titanfall 2. My role is as a backend engineer on the cloud platform, working to extend streamline our platform for ease of game integration and improve reliability and scalability.


A typical day consists of a morning standup whereby the engineering team will gather to discuss yesterdays progress, today's goals and blockers. It's a great opportunity to knowledge share and keep up to date with progress. After that, the day consists of either planning, coding or reviewing. We try to take a collaborative approach to all stages of the development life cycle and strongly believe in the pair-programming model.


What tech tools/gadgets make your job easier and why?

Honestly, I don't use many gadgets aside from my smartphone and laptop. Having a fast, powerful laptop is really important for a software engineer; we can be impatient sometimes! Tool wise I am a big fan of Jetbrains (https://www.jetbrains.com) IDEs, which I use for Go, PHP and Python. They make coding and debugging so much easier.


What aspects of your role do you enjoy the most and what would you change or improve?

The favourite part of my role has always been the realisation of a solution. I take great pride in taking a problem or set of requirements, architecting a solution and seeing it through to implementation. There is a real satisfaction in seeing your ideas come to life and working as you intended.


How do you stay up to date with industry trends?

Twitter and Reddit. I like to keep involved with industry communities as much as possible, while this is not always possible offline, social media helps a lot. Being able to follow thought leaders and industry pros on Twitter is fascinating and Reddit has user groups for nearly any technology or programming language you can think of.


How did you get involved with Spectrum IT?

I have dealt with Spectrum in the past when looking for roles. In the case of Golang Dorset, my co-founder Dan Potepa was responsible for getting Spectrum involved with us.

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Could you elaborate on what Golang Dorset is and the core purpose of the group?

Golang Dorset is a community for people interested in the Go programming language. We are located in Dorset and have monthly meetups in Bournemouth. Our attendees come from all across the South Coast which is great to see. Our purpose is to provide a friendly regular meetup where we can socialise, share "war stories" and learn more about Go.


How are you involved with the User Group?

Myself, Dan Potepa and Ben Cable all founded the user group in February 2018. At the time we were all working together at Lush Digital, we realise that there was no user group for Go in the south outside of London. We wanted to attend one, so we decided to start one for ourselves!


How do you come up with speakers/topics for your talks? What advice would you give to beginners?

We like to keep the meetup quite informal, it's not a typical semicircle of chairs with someone talking for 45 minutes and we all go home! In the weeks leading up to a meetup, we generally post a message on our Slack group and social accounts asking our attendees if they'd like to so a short lightning talk. We are very lucky in that most of the time we have eager attendees who want to stand up and talk about what they're doing with Go at the moment. Of course, now and again we have more formal talks from myself, Dan P or Ben. We work a lot with Go every day, inside and outside of work, so we draw upon our own experience for ideas.


My advice would be to be curious, try out new ideas and try to learn something different. I find that when you pick up a new challenge you'll find something interesting to talk about.


Who would you recommend in the IT community? Who has influenced you?

We are very lucky in 2018 in that there are so many different ways of keeping up with the community. My personal influencers would be:


1. Kelsey Hightower (Developer Advocate at Google). Kelsey is probably the most charismatic and enthusiastic person I can think of in the technology world. If you ever get the chance to see him at a conference, don't miss it! A live coding demo with Kelsey is something to behold.


2. Dave Cheney

Dave has been a leading figure in the Go community for nearly 10 years. He is a regular contributor to the language itself and more importantly is a beacon of common sense. His blog posts around Go patterns, problems, solutions and future plans are a gold mine.


3. Ashley McNamara

Ashley is a fascinating woman. She is one of the leading figures in the open source charge at Microsoft; a company known for its historic anti-open source position. Of course, it is awesome to see more women in high profile positions in the tech industry. And she does draw some very cute looking Gophers! (https://gopherize.me)


What is your next goal?

My perpetual next goal is to learn. I don't really view my career in terms of milestones that I want to achieve. I just want to have opportunities to work with different technology and learn as much as I can. Even people who've been in the industry for 20+ years can learn new things every day.


What advice would you give to people trying to get into the industry?

Again, be curious and get as much experience as you can. There is so much information out there online that you can teach yourself nearly any technology to a decent standard for free. Then really it's about getting that foot in the door; do some freelance work, attend meetups, work on that side project. You never know where something will lead.


What do you do in your spare time? Hobbies etc?

In my spare time I like to play video games; something again I've been fascinated with since I was a child. I am a massive fan of Formula 1 and watch the races religiously. Now and again I, of course, want to get away from a screen; so I like to go on walks in the country.