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A Day in the Life of: a Bespoke Python Developer

2023-06-20

A graphic with a headshot of Connor Adamson who has short dark hair and glasses and is wearing a suit and smiling, with the text "a day in the life"

In the first of our "A Day in the Life at Catalyst" series, we hear from Connor Adamson, a Python Developer in our Bespoke team.

Connor Adamson has short dark hair and is wearing glasses and a suit and smiling.

What does your role involve?

In the Bespoke team here at Catalyst we focus on unique projects catered to clients rather than providing an existing product. We therefore work closely with clients throughout the development process to establish requirements, test, and iterate on the prototypes using their feedback to ultimately provide a solution that meets their needs and is robust. Even though I am a developer, the nature of our work means I have visibility of the many different areas of the project, not just the source code. I find this interesting because I am able to learn secondary skills that help me become a better developer. The skills I have learned from my Project Manager for example help me better understand the client’s perspective on things and I am able to adjust my mindset to help the client achieve their goals.

What does your typical day look like?

I start my day by catching up on emails or messages from other developers. Once my inbox is tidy and everything is squared away I normally continue working on a feature for a client. What I’m doing depends on where I’m at in the development process. I could have just started and need to estimate how long a feature will take and break it down into key tasks. I could be in the middle of developing the feature and writing the code, tweaking the code based on client feedback, or writing release notes in preparation for a release later in the day, it all depends.

After a couple of hours I like to stretch my legs and go down to Level 3 with the Tech Lead and Project Manager for a coffee and to do the daily quiz in The Post. Level 3 is the common area in our Wellington office, where people often go when they want to step away from their desk so there is always someone interesting to talk to and the conversations are always varied. One day you could talk with someone about 3D printing, the next a particularly difficult problem they are trying to solve, the next their cat. It’s varied but never boring (unless you’re not a cat person).

In the afternoon I will normally catch up with the project Tech Lead regarding the feature I am working on. This is a chance for me to get feedback on how I have implemented something or an aspect I am unsure on. Likewise it is a chance for the Tech Lead to ask me any questions they have. This normally clears a few roadblocks and it’s full steam ahead with feature development. If feature development can’t continue for whatever reason then I will normally spend my time learning about a new framework or contributing to open source projects.

Tell us about a recent problem you helped solve?

One of the projects I was recently on involved expanding a project that was previously managed by an internal development team under the client. The main challenge on this project was the documentation, it was perfect for the internal team as they knew the background but posed quite a challenge for the team here at Catalyst. I spent quite a lot of time reading the documentation, making connections and forming a picture of what the current project did and where the client wanted to go. The next step was sharing my understanding with the rest of the team. It’s one thing to understand something yourself but trying to convey that same information to others can be challenging because everybody has a different thought process and some information is always lost in translation. This was another exercise about shifting my mindset. I had to understand what someone’s current understanding was and what I had said that led them to that conclusion before I could try and correct it. Sometimes my point of view was wrong and they helped me understand what the situation was.

Once everybody was on the same page it was time to start development. This was rewarding because we had done the leg work to get on the same page and when someone asked a question during code review we had that shared understanding to fall back on and we could refer back to the documentation which we understood now.

What do you enjoy about working at Catalyst?

Catalyst is a very open and supportive place to work. I believe it is the diversity amongst the people who work here which makes conversations on Level 3 so interesting. If you have a question about something, chances are you can put a question in one of the chat channels and someone will have an answer.

Various events are hosted as well, from board games to yoga to kapa haka, there is bound to be something that interests you. People are free to participate as much or as little as they like, Catalyst understands that at the end of the day attending events might simply not be your thing.

There are two events that come to mind for me personally. In May 2023 I spoke at the monthly Pizza Thursday Talks about my experiences drawing art. Pizza Thursday is hosted every month and people are free to do a 10-15 minute presentation on whatever they like. I chose to do a Pizza Thursday Talk because I wanted to push myself to overcome my fear of public speaking, plus I thought the progress I was documenting after each session was interesting and thought others might think so too.

The second highlight is hosting a Dungeons and Dragons campaign with a few co-workers every second Friday. I’ve enjoyed this because is a very social event where everybody is collaborating on a shared narrative and I as the Dungeon Master have to navigate the flow of events and keep the story going. At the end of the day I’m there to tell stories and have a laugh at the end of the work week, it’s a really nice transition to the weekend.

I was new to Python when I first started so there was a bit of a learning curve. Catalyst had a lot of resources I could use to get up to speed. The Tech Lead took their time to explain the project to me and made sure I understood how something worked before moving on. I’m glad they didn’t hand me a 150 page technical document and tell me to read it and come back with any questions. There is also a Python Channel where I could ask questions and someone would answer when they had a moment, even if they weren’t part of my team.

I've worked at Catalyst for awhile now and I still have fortnightly catchups with my manager. We sit down and discuss how things are going on the current project, what skills I am interested in developing and where I would like to be in a year’s time. I appreciate these meetings because it allows my manager and I to be on the same page with where things are at. If I’m stressed about a particular issue on a project we can talk through the situation and find a way to manage it.

I have learned a lot working at Catalyst and will continue to do so as time goes on. I’m incredibly grateful for the support that people have shown me since I started and I hope to show that same support to people joining the company in the future.