But none of that work gets done without the people that make up our ever-growing team of developers, data experts, project managers, business analysts, and QA testers. In our new Meet the Headforwards Team series, we’ll be chatting with people from all over the business, getting an insight into their diverse backgrounds, interests, and opinions on the future of Agile software development.
To start us off, we talked to Headforwards co-founder and Agile expert Craig Girvan, about how he got his start in software development, and what he loves most about Headforwards.
Rubber keyboards and games on cassette tapes
Children of the 80s and early 90s may remember the BBC Micro, a microcomputer nicknamed “The Beeb” that more than 80% of British schools bought for their pupils as part of the BBC’s Computer Literacy Project.
Designed to help children get to grips with computing, the BBC Micro included games and BBC BASIC, a way to write simple pieces of code. For Craig, that sparked an early interest in creating software, which was encouraged further when his family bought a ZX Spectrum 48K.
“I remember me and my twin brother sitting down at the ZX Spectrum, with its rubber keyboard, and loading up games on tape, listening to the cassettes crunch,” says Craig. “It came with a small book of instructions for coding in BASIC, and I really enjoyed experimenting with small programs.”
The BBC Micro retired in 1993, after inspiring many who would become industry pioneers, including the creator of Raspberry Pi. And its legacy remains, with the BBC launching a new platform called Microbit in 2012. “Schools are really proactive about teaching coding these days. My daughter is working on some Python code right now – maybe there’s a career at Headforwards waiting for her!” says Craig.
Schools are really proactive about teaching coding these days. My daughter is working on some Python code right now – maybe there’s a career at Headforwards waiting for her!”
Learning about what makes people tick
After a computer science GCSE, Craig’s academic interests took a major detour – into psychology.
During his undergraduate degree, Craig studied under Professor Rupert Brown, a leading social psychologist. “I think that focus on group psychology definitely fed into my interest in unpicking how teams function and how approaches like Agile can help you get the best out of people when they work together,” explains Craig.
An extra unit in Pascal programming kept Craig’s interest in code ticking over until he took a master’s degree in computer science – but psychology wasn’t a wasted venture: “Studying psychology was definitely useful for the empiricist in me; there’s a lot of statistical analysis involved, and you always need to back up your theories with strong evidence,” says Craig.
After graduation, Craig had development roles at Logica and Tesco.com, which is where the Agile story really starts.
“I trained as a scrum master on the job at Tesco.com,” says Craig. “It’s always difficult to introduce Agile practices into huge organisations – so that was an interesting challenge for my first projects.”
In 2010, Toby Parkins and Craig discussed creating an Agile outsource company at a barbecue. And, well, the rest is history.
Diverse teams build better code
From day one, the core of Headforwards’ success has been building great teams who create excellent code. Agile development is all about bringing people together to find the best path forward, bouncing off each other’s opinions and ideas, even (or especially) when those opinions clash.
As Craig explains: “The main thing I learnt as a new scrum master is how Agile facilitates teams. Agile is about building a comfortable space where everyone can share their ideas, and we pay attention to every voice. There’s amazing energy in a team that works well together.”
In the coming months, we’ll be talking to Headforwards team members in all sorts of different roles about their experiences, and what excites them about Agile software development. And in the meantime, if you’re interested in how we find all these amazing people in the first place, you can read our talent Q&A with Craig.
“I’m really proud of our team,” says Craig. “We have so many awesome people at Headforwards, bringing different perspectives and experiences to our projects. The things we’re passionate about make us interesting and, in turn, that makes the work interesting too.”