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Meet the team - Zach Gatu

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What do you do?

I’m a software developer, currently working on the DLG Digital blog, which is basically a content management system that we use to showcase Digital.

I’m the tech lead and the main back-end developer on the project, so my responsibilities include coming up with the architecture for the CMS, working out how we deploy to production and deciding which databases we need to use.

How did you get into programming?

My degree was in computer science, many moons ago, and part of it covered programming. Funnily enough, at the time I didn’t think I was very good at it, so I never thought I could actually make a living out of programming. But I persisted with it, and here we are!

I took a one-year break during my degree and found a placement doing IT support at a local company which was really interesting and gave me a good grounding in computing. Then, after I went back and finished my degree I got a job with someone I met on my placement who had started his own company.

That’s where I started proper programming and using Java.

What is your favourite aspect of your role?

I love the fact that someone can come to me and say, ‘here’s a problem,’ and it’s up to me to find a solution. Some of the time you’re told, ‘here’s a problem and we want to solve it like this,’ but quite often you’re just presented with an issue, so you have to go away and work out a way around it. It’s the problem-solving aspect that really motivates me.

Seeing my solutions implemented and working is always a great feeling.

What’s the biggest challenge you face?

The biggest challenge for me would be understanding what the client thinks they want. Quite often I get briefed and it’s not until I show them a prototype that they’ll suddenly say, ‘ah, what I really meant was…’

The other challenge is that with IT, there is always something new. So it’s a case of having to keep up with new tech while maintaining and practising your existing skills.

Do you think there are a lot of opportunities to grow and develop your skills at DLG?

There’s a lot of scope at DLG. They’re bringing a lot of development back in house, and the way that Digital is being set up means that they’re empowering more developers to not just find solutions, but also choose the right tools to develop those solutions.

Some of the places I’ve worked before immediately use the very latest cutting edge technologies. DLG needs to be a bit more careful about the programmes it uses to make sure they’re safe, but the Digital team are very open to suggestions and new ways of doing things – as long as you can prove it’s worthwhile going down a particular route and using a particular tool.

How do you feel about working in Bromley?

For me the location is great as I’m only five miles down the road. It’s not as glamorous as Shoreditch maybe, but Bromley’s got everything I need. I used to live in Lewisham, so I know it pretty well.

What advice would you give someone thinking about becoming a programmer?

I would say, don’t be afraid of failure, and practise, practise, practise. Practise by doing. If you’ve seen a new programming language that you’d like to try, go for it. You learn a lot by getting it wrong the first time, working out why it’s wrong and getting it right the second time.