I'm a highly experienced senior developer with 20 years of investment banking experience (and 25 years in the IT industry) working for various Tier 1 banks in both the City and Canary Wharf. I've been coding Java since about 2001 and have contributed to a variety of projects including low latency high volume trade processing, core technology, regulatory reporting, timeseries analysis, credit submission and workflow.

I'm highly delivery focused and a natural problem solver, and I bring both a deep technical understanding of the technologies I use and also an enthusiasm to get the job done. I'm also an experienced technical mentor and greatly enjoy helping others understand how best to use technology.

I have a degree in Computer Science (2.1) from Portsmouth University and sat the very first Object Oriented Design course as part of that degree. I passed that with a 1st.

Quality software design is absolutely vital to producing applications that fulfil business objectives and I'm a firm believer in quality architectural and technical design being the key to becoming a successful software engineer. I'm also passionate about code being well designed, maintainable and fit for purpose and put great emphasis on best practice design, readability and comprehensive testing.

Outside of work I have varied interests. I'm a keen runner, competing in ultra distance races which demonstrate my focus and commitment to achieve a goal. My long team goal being to run 100 miles in under 24 hours. Some would say insane and I would struggle to disagree at times. To balance all that running I also enjoy playing computer games and building PCs. I always have some kind of side-project going on which is usually focused on learning some new technology. The rest of my time is filled with all the things that a married man with 3 gorgeous young children demand.

My job as a contract developer is usually to join established teams, integrate as quickly as possible and get up to speed with the systems and environments. The goal is to get productive as quickly as possible and start to return value for the client. Projects generally last between 1 and 3 years. I've worked for plenty of clients over the years. Here's the full list:

Nomura - Core Risk Systems
Morgan Stanley - Prime Brokerage
UBS - Neo eCommerce Platform
Nomura - Fixed Income Trade Processing
Nomura - Core Technology
Citigroup - Market Risk
Credit Suisse - Credit Risk
RBS - Credit Risk
Credit Suisse - Market Risk
UBS - Human Resources IT
WestLB - Reference Data
Panmure Gordon - Asset Management
Schroders - Portfolio Management
ING Barings - Reference Data

As you can see I've worked for quite a few clients over the years, some more than once.

I've always enjoyed gaming and although I'm rather time limited I do try to make time to play. I built a decent gaming rig a couple of years ago, which was great fun in itself, and have played lots of games since. I've settled on a game called EVE Online which is basically internet spaceships. It's a highly complicated game though to the extent that it has its own University to help teach new players. My favourite part of the game is that its highly sociable and you play with hundreds of other players in a sandbox universe. If you have the time I highly recommend it - click here for a free trial

Over the past 14 years I've been a very active runner and event organiser. I train hard and like to keep very fit. Weekly mileage often exceeds 50 miles and somehow I manage to fit that in given my busy schedule. Luckily I don't need a great deal of sleep so getting up early and running is my normal plan. The point of the training is to allow me to race ultra-distance events; my current favourite distance is 100km which seems an awfully long way to most people. On top of my training and racing I'm also an event organiser. For many years I was the Entries Secretary for the Halstead & Essex Marathon and although I've stepped down from that role now I still help out where I can. I've seen that event grow over the past 10 years to be one of the top-rated marathons in the country.

Since it's inception I've been really interested in node.js. Javascript is a departure from the Java that I write at work and it makes a nice change. I've done a lot of Javascript on websites for different banks so I've been familiar with the language for a long time. When node.js was conceived it intrigued me and I've been a bit of a fan ever since. I've written an awful lot of little projects in node.js, some of which I've open-sourced on GitHub. I'd love the opportunity to write node.js commercially but at the moment Java pays the bills.

Testing

Having tests and ensuring they run and pass is important. Very important. Whilst you're pushing new features in you have to know that existing functionality works. Testing, and in particular testing first is an obsession of mine and one I encourage in others.

My default workflow when adding features to a system is as follows:

Understand the change
First and foremost I have to be able to describe what change is going to be made and where it will be made. That requires asking lots of questions of whoever I think might be able to help; other devs, project sponsor, business representative.
Find the code
Now that I know what needs to change I need to know what areas of the code are going to need to be changed. Code analysis skills are vital and debugging through existing code can help. Not only do I have to find the code where the change will need to be implemented, I also have to find the tests that cover that code. Run them, make sure they pass.
Define the new test cases
So now I know roughly what areas of code will need to change and what test coverage exists already. Now I need to define some new tests to cover the changes that are going to be made. These tests will all fail because the change hasn't been made yet.
Code until the new test cases pass
Now it's just a simple matter of coding until all those tests pass. At this point I'm happy to move quickly to get those tests passing. I know I'm going to refactor next so I'm focusing on making the right change. I might defer writing some unit tests until I refactor also as I don't want to spend time writing tests for classes that I end up not keeping.
Refactor until beautiful
So now I've made the change, I have the right tests in place and they all pass. Final step is to refactor until I'm totally happy with how that change looks. I continuously run all the tests to ensure the refactor isn't breaking anything.

Continuous Integration

It's no good having great test coverage and not run those tests. You can't leave it up to the devs to run every test before checking in, the most I think you can require is that the devs run the tests that they believe will be affected by their change. Continuous integration is the act of running all those tests automatically on every code in. It's also the process of building those changes into a working deployable artifact.

I see continuous integration as a phased process that occurs every time a dev checks in a change:

  • Compile the code
  • Run all the unit tests
  • Build an artifact that can be deployed
  • Run the artifact
  • Run all the integration tests

Should any of those stages fail then that change has broken the build and the dev responsible should get informed of that and should prioritise fixing it. Having a working build is critical to ensuring that incremental changes all result in a working system.

Business Knowledge

After 20 years of working in investment banks I've worked in plenty of business areas; Prime Brokerage, E-Commerce, Trade Processing, Fixed Income, Flow, Credit & Market Risk, Reference Data. I'm not going to profess to be an expert in any of these areas but I am generally familiar with them. I'm primarily a technologist and I've focused less of the acquisition of business knowledge but rather on honing my skills as a software engineer. I do enjoy working in finance though and welcome the opportunity to learn new business areas.

RESTful APIs

Designing RESTful APIs is an art and not a science, there is simply no "right" way to do it. There are plenty of wrong ways though. I've spent many years studying the pragmatic ways to design these APIs may the job of the developers who use them a more joyful experience.

Microservices

Microservices are a subset of SOA (Service Oriented Architectures) and are gaining an awful lot of traction at the moment. Monolothic systems are being re-envisioned and a set of coordinated services that provide a scalable and adaptable solution.

Coding

I like to think that over the past 25 years I've got rather good at it. I take pride in producing high quality, well tested, functional code that is easy to maintain and add features to.

I'm also a pragmatist and I try to balance my desire to create a beautiful code with actually getting the job done. A good example would be if I were adding a new feature to some code that had a coding style that I didn't particularly like. I'm not one to start converting it to how I like it. Sure, if I have to comprehensively refactor the class then I will do so to my own style but if I'm adding a feature I'll adopt the style that the code is written in. Having two styles in one class is just ugly and I'd rather see consistency.

Refactoring

Every codebase has areas that you honestly don't want to touch and that's dangerous. Understanding your application and being able to change it is critical. There is a solution though; Step 1: Get decent test coverage. Step 2: Refactor. I'm very good at both.

I've worked on system were it's been almost impossible to add new functionality because the engineers who built it have left and no one really understands how it works. Eventually of course something does need to change and then it's time to try and get it under test. Rarely is it possibly to spend the time developing a full set of tests, often it's difficult to tell what it's even doing. The trick is to isolate the parts that need to be changed and get those parts under test. Often it's possible to find seams in the existing code where you can can extract code into seperate classes. Then the job of testing gets easier because you can test that part in isolation. Finding seams is a skill though and knowing whether the extraction of that code is safe is a matter of experience.

Legacy Code

My definition of legacy code is simply code that hasn't got appropriate test coverage. Put the tests in and it's not legacy code any more, it's code that can be modified, flexed, and enhanced. Let me help you turn your codebase into place that you don't fear to tread.

Low-Latency

Does processing time matter to you? In most applications it does and I'm experienced in finding bottlenecks and eradicating them. You have to design for performance. I can help with that too.

Enterprise Integration

Systems are built from both new and old applications, integrating them reliably can be hard. One of the key aspects of my current role with Nomura has been learning and using Apache Camel. If you're not familiar with Apache Camel, it's a framework which allows you to implement enterprise integration patterns. It's configuration based and treats interactions between system as interactions which form routes. I wont go into a ton of details here as there's lots of information on the internet about it.

One short example though; say to want to create a process that watched a directory for a file and when it is created, read it, write a new file and then FTP it over to a file share on a different machine. That's a totally common requirement and one that the implementation in pure Java would have a surprising number of intricacies. IO issues, directory monitoring, charsets, stream handling, the list goes on. What Apache Camel provides is some building blocks that allow you to define this process in just a few lines of configuration. Exception handling is handled and you get to get on with thinking about adding value to the project rather than debugging low-level Java IO implementations.

One of the focuses on my blog is going to be Apache Camel so look out for more posts about different aspects of this excellent framework.

Analysis & Design

Software engineering isn't just coding, there are many other aspects and an important one is the abilityto take a problem and find out what is actually needed. Say for instance that a user requests that a new button is added to a UI. You might take that at face-value and just add it in. Then you find out that the new button forms part of a new business workflow and it affects some of the other functions of the system. OK, more changes required and you put those in. Then the user thinks some more and decides the button needs to do something slightly different... This is not software engineering. This is just hacking. Fine for a little prototyping but it's too iterative and you end up wasting a lot of time. This is amplified when you are also having to code up tests.

A better approach would have been to actually talk to the user about what that button did. Why do they need it. What new business logic is actually required. That's analysis. Armed with knowledge about what the business are trying to acheive you design something that fulfils it. That may or may not be the button they requested initially, it could be something thoroughly different that the user never thought of.

I don't advocate the creation of huge specifications up front before coding a feature. I like to work in an iterative environment but one in which I've spent the time and effort understanding what is actually required.

Technical Debt

I'm not an advocate of staying on the bleeding edge, but you have to know how far from it you are. Are your third-party libraries up to date? Are you using libraries that are no longer supported? Is there something better available now? I can help answer these question and dig you out of technical debt.

Technical Interviewing

Hiring is hard. There are many ways to judge whether a candidate is right for a role, one of critical ones is "Do they know there stuff?" I've conducted a large amounts of interviews and I can spot a lemon from a diamond. It's not all about asking questions though, pair programming in an interview can let you know whether the candidate can communicate and deal with problems.

When you need to know whether a developer knows his Java you need a technical test so that you can see the depth of knowledge and also allow you to compare one interviewee from another. Most companies have their own internal Java technical test but I wanted something that I could use anywhere. That led me to create Javonical - the canonical Java technical test. It's on GitHub and it's open-source so if you want to use it go ahead and if you want to change it then just ping me a pull request.

Multithreading

I like to think I know where the pitfalls are in multithreaded code. It's an area that people tend to get pretty rusty at and it helps to adopt some practices that mitigate the issues. Is it thread-safe? I'll help you find out if it is or not.

Mentoring

One of the most rewarding aspects of my career has been helping other developers to improve their skills and gain in knowledge. In many of my roles I've worked with recent graduates and junior developers that are still in the process of learning the software engineering trade.

I can help developers to take a step back from their day to day work and look at aspects of software engineering which can improve the quality of their code and increase their productivity. That might be how to design an immutable class, or perhaps how to use their IDE more effectively. Unix and Windows tricks and tips, class structuring, refactoring, the list is endless. I really enjoy helping others to improve.