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Interviews with 'the people behind the technology'. Bringing you weekly insight from tech experts, on everything from the latest trends in tech to diversity matters and the impact on our industry today and in the future.
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An Interview with Alexander Reekie, Head of UX & Design at Satago
"Innovation becomes increasingly vital for the survival of any technology business. As ever with technology, one our greatest challenges continues to be dealing with legacy".
Tell me about the company you work for and the work they do?
Satago was founded to tackle the increasingly significant issue of late payment on invoices between businesses. A Satago user can connect their accounting software to our service to fully automate their credit control, as well as gain access to credit reporting and invoice finance, all for free. We aim to make cashflow issues a thing of the past.
How did you get into the Technology industry?
At 18, with an awful and oversized suit, I went for my first interview and was very lucky. I joined a small but successful company that was just about to enter a rapid growth phase that the sector hasn't seen since. As the only Web Designer at an e-commerce company with few technical staff, I was heavily involved with every aspect of running the business, from sales and marketing to site performance optimisation. I had to build a team and work with agencies to handle the work load. I was overworked, but fell in love with the variety and constant learning of being a generalist.
Do you think the perception of the technology industry is accurate?
Given the rate of change in the industry at the moment, probably not. I personally feel that I've observed a polarisation that's formed with the rise in agile development methodology, between a more modern small-batch ideology and an industrial revolution era large-batch approach. Corporate development teams tend to be built around reducing personal investment and creating a specification driven factory-like work stream. Conversely, there has been a recent rise in start-ups and small companies adopting the lean production methodology, wherein development involves regular data analysis and some understanding of both the customer and business needs. I know which side of the fence I sit on, especially as innovation becomes increasingly vital for the survival of any technology business. As ever with technology, one our greatest challenges continues to be dealing with legacy.
Do you have any tips for people starting a career in technology?
I can only fairly speak for those looking to begin a career in design or user-experience. Of course it is important to keep up to date with the latest tools, technologies and languages, and to have the ability to prove this. However, having interviewed many candidates for these sorts of roles, I personally only have to look as far as their portfolio to make an opinion. The portfolio is worth incalculably more to me than anything on a CV. So if you're unsure where to start, start there as it's impossible to quantify someone's eye for design without it.
What keeps you and people you work with happy and productive at work?
I'm asked this frequently as I now work remotely most of the time. People often struggle to imagine me getting much done with the temptations involved with working from home, but it's never been an issue for any of us. We love our company and we all have a stake in our success. We've all invested our heart and souls into what we've built and so we're driven to see it succeed. We don't watch clocks and we focus on output rather than input. Learning is just as important, if not more important, than building. And learning is always fun.
18-24 Year Olds: Full Time Education OR Full time works, what for you is more valuable?
Given my background, I'm heavily biased in my opinion on this, but I'd always champion the concept of learning on the job over the traditional educational route. This might not be as applicable for different disciplines, but given the variety of hurdles and compromises that need to be made to have any success in the corporate world, I feel that learning to navigate these as soon as possible is invaluable. You'll learn to balance user needs with business needs sooner, you might just work on some amazing projects for your portfolio, and your bank account will be infinitely more grateful!
In a start-up environment what is the perfect interview process for you?
Joining a start-up is like joining a family. As they say, choosing a Co-Founder can be a bigger commitment than getting married, so it's incredibly important to get to know the individual both professionally and personally. For that reason, the perfect interview process requires all the traditional stages, such as code or design challenges and perhaps one of those cheesy but fun Google-style interview questions, but it's more important than ever to make sure that the candidate fits the team, loves their work and shares your vision. I always bear in mind Simon Sinek's quote: "Great companies don't hire skilled people and motivate them, they hire already motivated people and inspire them."
Why do you think that more people are choosing start-ups as their destination of choice?
If you look at the most successful technology businesses taking over the world right now, many are still start-ups by traditional definitions. The disparity between the security of a corporate versus a start-up has disappeared as large companies have either struggled to keep up with constant innovation, or couldn't adapt to changes in the economic climate. Start-ups remain nimble, and in the wake of so many recent success stories they can be inspiring. They're definitely harder work and longer hours, but if you love what you do, it's not really work, is it?
Interview conducted in 2016 for our Women in Technology Survey, 2016 campaign.