Our “Meet the Team” series profiles the creative and curious people of First Mode. We are driven to find purposeful technology solutions to the world’s most important challenges. We take our work seriously but ourselves not too seriously. Want to work with us? View our open positions.
What do you do at First Mode?
I am a Principal Software Architect and the co-Director of Software Engineering in the Perth office of First Mode. When people ask what that means, I say “computers.”
What are you working on right now?
We are currently designing a large, underground diesel-electric haul truck from the ground up. I love reimagining all the things that go into making a vehicle, and the challenge of having to make the design trades along the way.
I also spend time mentoring and coaching our software team, as well as working on growing our team and evolving our processes.
Why is this important?
I am a very strong believer that engineering is a craft, and that requires all of us to invest in ongoing coaching and professional development.
My career has been shaped by the teaching, support, and influence of other engineers that I have been lucky enough to have worked with. Nowadays, some of my proudest moments are seeing people that I have had a small part in mentoring or coaching have success in their own careers, whether by launching products or becoming senior leaders.
What drew you to First Mode originally?
I can remember the day quite clearly; I met Jan, the General Manager of First Mode’s Perth office, for a coffee when we had just come out of lockdown, and he asked me flat out if I wanted to build something awesome. Who would say no to that?
After my first call with Maggie and Krunal, I knew that First Mode was where I needed to be. I believe I even told my partner after that first call that I had “found my people.”
How did your passion for engineering and tech begin?
From a very young age there were always computers in my home, and I was always fascinated with them—learning how they worked, programming them, pulling them apart and not always putting them back together. I also loved building contraptions out of Capsela, Meccano, or the go-to for many people at First Mode—Lego.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
It sounds clichéd, but getting to work with the First Mode team. We have a great group of people who are incredibly intelligent and capable, but more importantly are supportive and fun. They’re also fully prepared to indulge my odd quirks, like the entire team wearing pink shirts on Wednesdays, listening to me talk endlessly about Cinnamon Scrolls, or supporting superstitions like never catching lift L first thing in the morning.
What does your typical day look like?
Working on the opposite side of the world to much of my team means my day is split into “Seattle Time” and “Perth Time”; Seattle Time is catching up on everything that is happening on our projects on the other side of the ocean, and working together with that part of the team. Perth Time is when I get to sit down and work through my own individual contributions to our projects, whether that is writing code, reviewing documentation, talking to vendors, or hassling my colleagues to go and get coffee (from very specific coffee shops).
Do you have a mantra, a motto, or a mission statement?
“Be curious.” There is a world of amazing stuff out there, and so many people you meet have had such incredible experiences—so always ask questions, always test your assumptions, always wonder “what if.”
What is great about software engineering?
I love software engineering because it is a career that is creative, dynamic, and highly collaborative; it is not the classic stereotype of a loner in a basement. It’s thrilling watching something you have made from the ground up work in the real world for the first time, or seeing people using something that you have built.
At the end of the day, I think good software engineering is an art, and there are a near-infinite number of ways you can solve a problem. I love learning about the different ways people take a problem and come up with a solution.
Could you point to a project that you are most proud of?
Early in my career, I was part of a small team that built a fleet of autonomous robots as part of a DSTO (Australia’s Defence Science & Technology Organization) competition. In the space of a year, and over many sleepless nights, we went from knowing nothing about building a robot to watching our small fleet of vehicles drive around the Adelaide Showground.
I am still incredibly proud of what that small team achieved. The rapid exploration, prototyping, creativity, and bootstrapping, all with a group of good mates, is something that opened up an incredible path for me and has defined my career.
What do you think is the most significant discovery or human endeavor of the last few years?
The development and deployment of the COVID-19 vaccines. It shows that when funding is made available and collaboration is encouraged, humanity can take great steps to rapidly respond to enormous and dire threats. It gives me hope that collectively we do have the ingenuity and drive to solve current and future threats to our communities and planet.
Why does it matter that we keep inventing, testing, and creating?
To explore, learn, and create is human. It reminds us that collectively and thoughtfully we can build a better future.
What are your hobbies and interests outside of work?
I am one of those people that cannot stick to a hobby, so I tend to jump around between things. Recently I have been getting into riding motorbikes, HAM radio, competing in the Highland Games, and woodworking. This year I have decided to get my private pilot’s license. Lego is also still something I love.
Have you learned anything especially great in the last year?
At First Mode we have a “fun fact” section in our interview process, through which I have learned so much about the incredible experiences and achievements of the First Mode team.
Watching the Perseverance landing at 3:00 a.m. Perth time while getting to ask questions of the First Mode team via Slack in real time has to be one of the coolest things I’ve experienced as an engineer. To have access to that knowledge and experience, and answers to the questions the space-obsessed kid inside me wanted to ask, was just incredible, and to be a part of a team where knowledge is so generously shared reminds me of why I am an engineer.