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In the UK, national STEM Day is a chance to celebrate the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. Here at ZOO, innovative technologists are the foundation of our ground-breaking localization services, so all around the world, we're eager to encourage fresh talent into the industry.

From software development to operations, here are some top tips and insights from our super-talented R&D team. What it takes to work in tech, some of the biggest industry myths and what it's like to be a part of Team ZOO.

 

Patrick-Dev

“It's never been a better time to learn.”

– Patrick Gallagher, Software Developer

 

 

What is it that first interested you in R&D?

Creativity is what first interested me in IT. I grew up in a computer household with my dad having an Amiga and eventually a PC. It was an exciting time of rapid computer advancements. (I also enjoyed watching Star Trek!) The idea of being a part of that and being the guy who helped make stuff work appealed to me.

What are the biggest skills you need to do well in the tech industry?

Teamwork and a willingness to innovate, learn and think outside the box I think are the biggest skills you need to do well in the tech industry.

What advice would you give to anyone interested in working in tech?

My advice for anyone just getting into development is that the stuff you write at the start will almost certainly be terrible! You need people around you to tell what isn't up to scratch and to learn from – people who have years more experience in the field.

What are the biggest myths about working in R&D?

The biggest myth by far about R&D is around complexity as a barrier to entry. I distinctly remember at university when I told people what course I was doing, I'd get looks that implied 'That sounds really technical'.

This reputation can be a big hurdle but it's just like any industry with a learning curve. I've known people who have entered IT without a degree. In fact, it's never been a better time to learn – the tools and documentation to do amazing things are out on the internet ready for anybody who wants to learn.

Then it's all about having the discipline and drive to do it really well, surrounding yourself with experts and continuing to improve.

How is technology at ZOO different?

There are a lot of very talented people to learn from at ZOO – with a wide variety of experience and backgrounds. I think that having skilled people from a breadth of different backgrounds helps make ZOO so great.

 

David-Dev2-1

 

“Working in a technological industry is in essence a lifelong learning experience.”

– David Emmett, DevOps Engineer

 

What is it that first interested you in R&D?

I have an innate interest in figuring out how things work, so the first time I used a computer – when I was 4 – I immediately wanted to understand how it works.

From then on, I broke many computers (to my family's dismay), and subsequently learned how to start fixing them and making improvements. By the time I was 11 I'd started programming in Java, and by 13 I was freelancing with PHP for a local adult learning centre.

How did you first get into your role?

As I'd been freelancing since I was 13, I managed to build a fair bit of experience, which was a foot in the door by the time I was 17. I got a job as a Junior PHP Developer at an e-learning company and worked my way up through the ranks to a more senior role, mentoring other developers and leading development and ops on projects.

What are the biggest skills you need to do well in the tech industry?

Critical thinking – and subsequently being able to take criticism well. Peer-reviews happen; sometimes you're right and sometimes you're wrong. Sometimes you might be the reviewer, sometimes you might be the reviewee. Similarly, interpersonal skills are important. Have good manners, be polite and welcoming helps when working in teams.

'KISS' – Keep It Simple, Stupid! It is so easy to over-engineer a solution to a problem, knowing when to take a step back and realize you've made a problem harder to solve is a valuable skill. There's a saying in the industry: "Write your code like it's going to be maintained by a violent psychopath who knows where you live."

What advice would you give to anyone interested in working in tech?

Persevere. Technology is an ever-changing field, and working in a technological industry is in essence a lifelong learning experience. We're constantly moving forwards, to newer technologies, with new challenges, which means new experiences.

If you're completely stuck, don't be afraid to ask for help; we're all learning, and we're all in this together. Sometimes, just talking through a problem with somebody else is enough to help you overcome an obstacle – this is known as rubber-duck debugging.

What are the biggest myths about working in R&D?

1) "The computer did it wrong." – Computers do exactly what they are told to do and nothing else.

2) "It's a man's job." – It's a person's job. Sex and gender don't matter. I think this stereotype is dying fast, as more young people come into technology, we're rejecting the old-school attitudes that have long littered our industry.

3) "AI will take over the world and destroy all humans." – See #1, AI is just a fancy buzzword. It's just software really, and a human wrote that software – a computer will only do whatever it is told to do.

How is technology at ZOO different?

ZOO is similar to other tech companies in that we follow the same stringent processes – building, testing, deploying and maintaining software.

There is one big difference though, as ZOO has both an R&D department and a production department, our 'customer base' is both internal and external. Our production department uses the software we write in the R&D department, and works closely with our product management team to ensure that we're building the right things.

 

Duncan-Dev

“The projects are incredibly interesting and varied, so no one day is the same as a previous one.”

– Duncan Payne, Lead Software Engineer

 

What is it that first interested you in R&D?

It simply seemed a logical progression from my studies in Computer Science.

How did you first get into your role?

I fell into it. Having been at the company for 10 years, there has been opportunity for progression and the role has changed significantly as a result.

Since I joined, ZOO has become a lot bigger. We’ve added a number of new members to the team recently and our presence in the market has certainly grown along with the production department.

The job I do now is unrecognisable when compared with what I was first doing when I joined ZOO.

What are the biggest skills you need to do well in the tech industry?

An ability to hold the inner workings of a system in your head for a long time – and being able to predict how a decision now may affect the direction of a product in six months' time.

What advice would you give to anyone interested in working in tech?

Whilst the rewards can be great, it can also be very challenging and this is something to be prepared for. Tech never sleeps, so a '9 to 5' job doesn’t necessarily mean one can put things down at 5pm.

What are the biggest myths about working in R&D?

Everyone is a geek. Only 95.5% of us are!

How is technology at ZOO different?

The working atmosphere is great; really supportive and respectful. We have a good time and get on very well with each other. We support each other in the work that we do – but everyone here is committed to producing high-quality work.

What sets us apart is being dynamic and quick to change when changes are required. The projects are incredibly interesting and varied, so no one day is the same as a previous one. It’s quite a ride!

 

Get involved in STEM with ZOO

STEM industries are pushing society forward and we're proudly playing our part in the latest wave of global entertainment innovation. This wouldn't be possible without our very talented technologists.

Whether you're looking to dip your toes with an apprenticeship or dive into the R&D deep end, we encourage anyone interested in technology to take the plunge!

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