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20+ years working on the web, and I still haven't finished it!

Current Role
2003 - present

I've been an independent, self-employed data-centric web developer since 2003, designing and building 'data first', web-based systems for a broad range of clients mainly using PHP, Mysql/MariaDB, Nginx, Node.js, HTML, CSS & JavaScript/JQuery usually combined with the Semantic/Fomantic frontend framework.

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Primary Skills & Technolgies
Preferred techstack

PHP and JavaScript are what I spend most of my time coding. There’s always an SQL DB layer too - most commonly MariaDB.

Version control is handled by SVN. Backups rely heavily on rsync. SSL is courtesy of Let’s Encrypt.

From the ground up: I use non-shared servers running Debian or similar, configured to run only what they need to - e.g things like FTP are disabled. I use Nginx as the web server, with Nodo.js to handling sockets. MariaDB and PHP are the main code and data munge-partners.

Once we’re client side, I’m happy with JQuery or native JS. I use Semantic UI / Fomantic UI as a it’s fantastic at fiddly stuff like nested dropdown menus.

Work experience

Full Stack Developer Oct 2003 - Present
From server provision to performance optimisation, and everything in between

I specialise in designing and developing online data and communications systems, and have a reputation for higher than average technical expertise, which tends to lead to me to picking up projects too techie for agencies, or which other developers have found impossible to fulfil.

Most of what I do involves designing and developing complex projects that require a custom, ground-up approach and are slightly more challenging than hacking Wordpress. I am a skilled and experienced technologist, having lived online since the late 90s.

Multitask Master, Green Cathedral 1999-2003
Production Manager & Senior Technical Analyst

I was originally invited to join the company for my Apple expertise, and design and print know-how, but soon became a cross between a production manager and projects manager. I set-up the company's management database - the core of the QA system, and occupied a flexible space just below board level.

In 2002 I decided to focus on all things 'search' to address a gap in the company's in-house skillset, and joined the relatively small digital marketing division as Senior Technical Analyst. I then played a key role in securing major contracts as well as delivering results in organic search. Eg. Which? Magazine launched a campaign to do with mortgages called 'Endowment Action' which was the no. 1 Google result for a search for 'Endowment Action' (without the quotes) on the day the site was launched. AXA Investments Management used the minutes of a meeting with me to form their internal Web publishing guidelines.

Green Cathedral Digital Marketing became the fastest growing part of the business, and the main revenue generator. Despite the success for GCDM and its bright prospects, I decided to leave, partly as there were some elements of the culture from the top that I found personally repellent, but mainly to not miss my daughters' early years.

Hello Cambridge 1997
Digital Imaging Centre & Piggott Printers

I remember 1997 for several reasons: New Labour, Princess Di, Jeff Buckley, and being in Germany for a few summer months before returning to London for a possible job helping my brother's band Arkarna on a tour of the US. I didn't get the gig, as the say, and after a few freelance temp jobs – eg. putting together page spreads for TV Times at IPC Magazines – I applied for a job advertised in the Guardian, at the Digital Imaging Centre in Cambridge. It was an interesting place that offered quite advanced photographic services – hi-res scanning, and digitising 35mm slides for the likes of The Babraham Institute. The ad had promised an opportunity to help shape and lead the business, but the owner had obsessive, control-freak tendencies which fostered an air of oppression.

I left DIC to join Piggott Printers in the design and pre-press department - taking design files from punters (sometimes literally) and turning them into something that could be printed. It wasn't a management or leadership role, but it was a logical step following from the 4 years being the boss at the Printworks. The hours were flexible, and the culture was more pragmatic than dogmatic, and they had some kit that appealed to an old ink-head like me, like a 5 colour Heidelberg Speedmaster. They were also one of the first printers in the country to invest in a digital platemaker. It didn't work very well, but it did seem to emphasise that just about everything was gradually being digitised.

MD RCS Printworks 1993-1997
A small design & print house, and recording studio

I happened upon YP Community Printworks when looking for a way to produce 50 copies of a wandering first person narrative I'd written called Typomania. "The YP" had been a council funded charity aimed at helping young people with few prospects. Its funding had stopped a couple of years before I found it, and it had been kept going by the record collecting urban hippie Charlie Pritchard. I made my books and went off to London for a few months, before returning to Rugby to find that the place was facing imminent closure. They had a few Apple Macs, a small offset press a pile of unpaid bills and on one day a white van parked outside with a gang of men poised to clear and padlock the building. I made a deal with the landlord, formed my first limited company and climbed the steep learning curve that faces most people in their 20s on the path out of dreamy idealism.

Ancient History < 1993

In 1987, aged 19 and thoroughly through with small town life, I got on a train to London. The next day, dressed in a £100 Burton suit, I visited a branch of the recruitment agency Alfred Marks where was handed one of their standard application forms - a huge list of boxes next to skills and experience an applicant might have. I handed it back with hardly anything ticked. I was told to come back the next day at 10am, which I did, and by 11am I was sitting at a desk on the foreign exchange department of Nomura International, (next to the Monument in those days), checking exchange rate calculations and settlement notes.

After this 2 week assignment, I spent about 7 months at BZW, a contemporaneously recent merger of 3 merchant banks. After that I was a career temp, and bounced between jobs and agencies.

Without any real ties, I also bounced geographically for a number of years between London, Rugby and Newcastle. A pattern that only really completely stopped after moving to Cambridge.

During these nomadic years I must have racked up well over 50 different jobs from re-stacking 1/4 million cans of Pespi by hand, to driving driving Jeremy Beadle around for a few days, to selling timeshare on the Costa del Sol over the phone.

In Rugby the jobs were mainly deathly dull. If you're not familiar with the place, it's where major UK transport networks have interconnected for eons. First the canals, then the railways and roads. The A14, M6 and M1 meet there. It's right next to Crick where the first stretch of M1 ended, and close to the now massive road and rail mega hub DIRFT. If you're into logistics, can drive an HGV or forklift, the Rugby is the place to fill your safety boots.

I recall a year-long stint selling Hygena kitchens in a corner concession of a Do-It-All, which was next door to an MFI store, which sold the exact same products, but cheaper. There were a few soul destroying night shifts at Multi Freight loading and unloading lorries. I spent a few months - which felt like years - in accounts at Manor Bakeries, a Kiplings distribution warehouse of course, not an oven in sight.

In Newcastle life was immeasurably more fulfilling and interesting compared to the Midlands. I spent a summer gathering data in medical records at the RVI; volunteered at the Tyne Theatre; performed a comedy double-act gig with my pal Andy; worked at Millers Salerooms; and even ended up in the camera department for Spender III and got to hang out with David Lean's top camera bod Earnest Day (who shot Lawrence of Arabia, Dr Zhivago, etc), and his crew, veterans of big Bond films. The focus puller, Frank Elliott, had worked on one of my all time favourite films 'Where Eagles Dare' and told me about sitting between Richard Burton and Clint Eastward at a dinner, and generally helped to make the long days more bearable with stories from his extraordinary career.

This is already too long, so I won't go back as far as my first Saturday job working on a dairy farm. Besides, it's probably not really relevant to those looking to hire an IT full-stack super techy.