Ahead of the next IM Tech Meetup, we chatted to the mastermind behind this project, our CMS Specialist and Kontent MVP, Ilesh Mistry. In this conversation, we dived into Ilesh’s career in software engineering, what drives his passion for digital and how his monthly IM Tech Meetups are sharing knowledge and supporting new developers across the globe.
FIRST THING FIRST, HOW DID YOU MAKE YOUR WAY IN SOFTWARE ENGINEERING?
As is often the case when you’re growing up, I wanted to follow in the footsteps of someone I looked up to. In this case, it was my cousin, who was a web developer working on building a booking system, which was quite an extraordinary thing at the time. He inspired me to focus on Computing and Mathematics at school and encouraged me to study Computer Science at De Montfort University later on. With such an inspiring role model by my side, it just felt like computing was the way.
After graduation I worked in application support for a software company, which was a great learning experience. Being able to speak to contractors really helped me understand the perspective of the end user. After a while, however, I felt I wanted to work more on my technical skills and I was keen to do more hands-on developing.
IS THAT WHEN YOU MADE THE MOVE TO MMT?
Yes, and it’s worked out brilliantly – I’ve been here 17 years! I’ve really learned my software engineering trade here, getting the crucial on-the-job experience that you can’t replicate in the classroom.
I’d never built a website before I joined the company, and my career here has evolved from web development to consultancy and software architect roles. I’ve now come full circle back into development, so that I can return to the technical side of the job.
That flexibility and opportunity to grow in different areas of your profession is one of the advantages of agency life which really suits me.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE KEY LESSONS YOU'VE LEARNED ALONG THE WAY?
To build an effective website or application, you’ve got to understand the users’ perspective. It’s easy for a developer to get overly focused on coding without thinking about the human at the end of it.
As a CMS Specialist, I want to know how a content editor will use the tool I’m building, or what the digital customer experience will be like. When I speak to junior developers whom I mentor, I always ask if they’ve considered their digital product from the end user point of view.
Building a well-balanced digital experience that will fulfil the needs of the end user is a complex task. For instance, it’s possible to fully automate a service using Chatbots and Artificial Intelligence (AI), but many people still don’t trust the AI and will want to talk to a person. You also need to consider the accessibility of your platform - can all your customers with diverse needs and capabilities use it?
I feel this is what MMT is best at – finding the right balance to make the digital product work for all parties involved.
YOU'VE MENTIONED MENTORING JUNIOR DEVELOPERS. WHAT ELSE DO YOU DO TO SUPPORT THE NEXT GENERATION OF WEB ENGINEERS?
At MMT, I get to talk to new joiners, especially the ones at the start of their career, and share my experience about what it takes to succeed in digital. Either within the workshop or other learning environment, I think it’s especially important to talk openly about the challenges I’ve faced and how I’ve overcome them. As a line manager, I try to put myself in my team’s shoes and understand the support they need to progress.
MMT Digital also sponsors my monthly IM Tech Meetups, where I host sessions focused on topics ranging from programming languages to wellbeing at work. Some meetups are designed to give people an insight into how to make a start in the tech and digital industries, whether they are fresh form the college or switching careers.
WHAT'S YOUR TAKE ON THE FUTURE OF DIGITAL?
The Metaverse, AI and VR are going to transform how we live, giving us the capability to have, for example, real life in-store shopping experiences online. Another area that’s going to become increasingly important is sustainability.
Focus on digital carbon footprints is going to grow and that could impact your business as consumers make more decisions based on environmental concerns. As a company we have teams that will go into clients, assess how much carbon their online platforms and products are producing and suggest how they can reduce it.
FINALLY, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE NEW TO WEB DEVELOPING?
There’s nothing like hands-on experience, so pick up a learning strategy that suits you and get started on a project of your own. Some people might like to learn using YouTube tutorials, others prefer in person bootcamps, some like to read a good old book.
There are lots of resources out there, including my IM Tech Meetups of course!
As you go, build your personal brand on LinkedIn and Twitter by sharing what you’ve learned and your small projects, so you have something to show potential employers. It takes perseverance but it’s an exciting sector to work in so never give up!
Sign up to Ilesh’s next IM Tech Meetup here.
Watch previous meetups on YouTube and subscribe to the IM Tech Meetup YouTube channel.
Visit Careers section on our website to explore the software engineering vacancies at MMT Digital.