Talking to the experts | Blog | UK based Software Engineering, App Development | NorthLink Digital

2021-09-07Talking to the experts

NorthLink Digital

NorthLink Digital

To celebrate the run-up to National Coding Week 2021, we asked our top team of software engineers about their journey into the world of coding, preferred platforms, and some advice for laymen wanting to hone their skills.

Phil is our CTO, overseeing and partaking in technical projects while ensuring everything runs smoothly. He started his career in mobile development and has made apps & games for smartphones across a range of industry sectors using technologies including React Native, Unity3D, Xamarin, Cocos2dx, Native iOS/Android, XNA, Alexa Skills, Cardboard VR, ARKit, and many others. More recently he’s been focused on building enterprise web applications using JavaScript/TypeScript based platforms including React, Node and NextJS.

Danni joined NorthLink Digital as a full-stack developer back in September 2019. She is currently working on developing a full-stack web and mobile platform interacting with innovative sensory devices for government bodies, used by landlords to detect changes in temperate in buildings to prevent things like mold.

Jerome, another of our software developers, joined our team in early 2020. He is currently working on an end-to-end well-being application that allows people to document and track their mental states, with an aim to pinpoint and prevent possible triggers.


What’s the coolest project you were involved in?

Phil: Batman & The Flash: Hero Run. I was directly involved with DC / Warner Bros, they sent us tons of brand-new books and comics, action figures, and stuff that you can’t generally get for free. I also got to work with the voice actor who did Bob the builder, Johnny bravo, danger mouse, Saturday night takeaway and other stuff... Marc Silk, great guy.

Danni: The coolest project I have been involved in is probably the one I’m working on right now. We’re working with a start-up to develop a dashboard website and a mobile app to work alongside sensors that sit in people’s homes monitoring temperature and humidity. It’s been an interesting project as we’ve had to manipulate and present data for their clients in different ways throughout the site. Seeing all the data start to populate the site has been really cool as we start to see in real-time the condition of people’s houses.

Jerome: In one project at Uni we acquired a giant teddy from a charity shop and added a few sensors and a processing unit that played bedtime music when the teddy was moved. It also had a cool 6-inch circle light that cycled through some warm colours.


What made you want to start coding?

Phil: Id always wanted to be able to create my own video games from an early age. I had started using RPG Maker 2000 and Game Maker around 2002-2003 but found the software quite limiting so decided to learn and code myself.

Danni: After being in my previous job for over seven years, I decided I wanted a new challenge. I’ve always been very competent on computers and used to code a little when I was younger. It was quite a change from marketing, but as soon as I started, I knew it fit my skill set much better.

Jerome: Back in my younger years I was an avid PC gamer. On occasion, if a game didn’t install correctly or function properly, you could modify the code in configuration files to fix problems and change the way the game ran. I played about with making changes to see what the results would be. I thought it was cool that I could adjust my games to suit my style, and this was my first taste of coding.


Where did you learn to code?

Phil: If this is regarding my first experience of coding; in my bedroom. I started with C++, but found it too cumbersome for a teenager wanting to make simple games, so ended up learning how to use DarkBASIC instead. As for formal education in development, my first conscious choice to start coding was undertaking a degree in Computer Games Programming. One important point I'd like to make however, is that there's no end to learning to code. As an example, I was watching Youtube only last night to learn more about .NET Core Web APIs.

Danni: I took an unconventional route into computer programming and undertook a 12-week boot camp. Although based in Middlesbrough, I traveled to Leeds every day working in three-week blocks to learn the basics of Javascript, frontend (vanilla & React), and backend (Node). In our last week, we teamed up and created a functional app.

Jerome: In 2015 I decided to pursue a career in programming and enrolled at Teesside Uni on a BSc Computer Science degree. This was my first experience of formal programming and tuition.


What is your favourite platform to work with and why?

Phil: As much as it's impractical for most businesses, I really enjoy working on pure native iOS/Android software. The languages and APIs make for an incredibly smooth development experience, often with little compromise. I've spent most of my career working with cross-platform software; Unity3D, Xamarin, React Native & JavaScript, so having the luxury of working directly with software designed for a platform is great.

Danni: I work across frontend and backend daily, using React and NodeJS, but I enjoy NodeJS more. As a developer, you create logic and tests in both frameworks, but I enjoy working with APIs and databases, linking together the data and the front end.

Jerome: NodeJs. Whilst at Uni we were exposed to a range of different platforms and programming languages. I found I enjoyed writing in Javascript the most and NodeJs is the runtime where Javascript can be run outside of a browser. Its super-fast, scalable, and easy to get up and running quickly on almost any type of project.


What’s one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to start coding?

Phil: Find a topic that makes you happy, design an application around that as you'll find it much easier to progress than if you work on something boring.

Danni: The wealth of technologies and tutorials available can be very overwhelming. I suggest getting on Free Code Camp and picking a language, then just go from there. All your learnings will be transferable, so just get stuck in and start researching what else is out there.

Jerome: Youtube and Google is a programmer’s best friend. There are some awesome projects to follow online. I tend to watch tutorial videos that have a high thumbs-up rating. Compare different languages to see what you find most enjoyable. Once you have learned one language to some degree, learning another is much easier.