In our newest Meet the Team blog, we speak to Akhila Rao, a software developer looking to make a real difference to people’s daily lives.
This time, we spoke to Mike Thomas, the Dynamics developer working with Cornwall Council to digitalise its front-end portals. Find out how he went from owning his own graphic design business to programming and coding with Headforwards.
To find out how a computer works, dismantle it
Mike was first introduced to computers by his dad, a science teacher who brought a BBC Microcomputer home on weekends, hoping his children would learn how to use it. (Interestingly, Headforward’s co-founder Craig also credited the “The Beeb” for his early interest in tech.)
But Mike had other ideas. He systematically pulled it apart, surveying its different sections and leaving his dad to put it back together in time for Monday morning.
“After investigating the computer’s inner workings, I started looking at programming and coding – destroying the computer that way, which my dad didn’t like me doing either,” says Mike. “But it sparked my interest in what computers were and how they worked.”
When Microsoft launched Paint, Mike was able to combine his passion for computers with his creativity. “I always enjoyed being creative, and with Paint and very basic animation packages, I was able to create something that was instantly visually gratifying,” says Mike.
Partying, surfing – and some study
Years later, Mike followed his love for creativity and went to Falmouth University to study graphic design. “I went for a little bit, did a lot of partying and surfing,” says Mike. “But I decided I wasn’t ready for it, so left.”
Instead, Mike taught himself Adobe Creative Suite – including Photoshop and Illustrator – and started his own graphic design company.
For the next ten years, Mike specialised in logo design, animation, design print, web development and 3D architectural visualisation. “Graphic design is my background, but I didn’t enjoy being a businessman,” says Mike. “I wanted to leave that side of it and be employed again.”
Enthusiast turns expert – a breath of fresh air with Headforwards
“Headforwards offered to help me learn React and build the skills I needed to be perfect for the role,” says Mike. “Those skills didn’t exist for me yet, but the team saw that possible value in me.”
Almost three years into his career at Headforwards, Mike now works on the Cornwall Council team. As a Microsoft Dynamics 365 developer, Mike uses a consultancy approach to transform the council’s front-end portals and digitalise its services under a Microsoft banner.
I feel empowered, trusted and respected at Headforwards. I have the autonomy to shape my day, I’m not micromanaged, and that fosters the good working relationships I have, and my mutual respect for Headforwards. There’s a lot to be said for job satisfaction – I’m happy.
Being a developer isn’t all about your qualifications
According to Mike, being a great developer isn’t all about your qualifications; it’s about being open to continually learning.
“With the passion I had for it, I could have gone to uni to study 3ds Max or Maya, but the knowledge I would have learnt would have been out of date by the time I finished,” said Mike. “There’s only so much formal study you can do that stays relevant in the fast-moving technical world.”
At Headforwards, Mike has access to paid training and a license for LinkedIn Learning, so even with two children and limited time to do extra-curricular study, he’s still able to keep up to date and learn new things.
“If you’re not willing to learn constantly on the job, it won’t work,” says Mike. “It’s about having the right mindset and ability to learn about what’s next. And it can be frustrating – when you open a door, there’s always ten more behind it. You can’t be an expert at everything, but it’s also exciting to have that freedom, constant innovation, and be able to springboard into lots of peripheral areas.”
Interested in learning more about what it’s like at Headforwards?
Stay tuned to meet many more Dynamics developers, data experts, project managers, business analysts, and QA testers, and hear about their work at Headforwards. While you’re waiting, you can find out more about what it’s like to work with us on our Careers page – and explore our vacancies.