🚀 Start Here

# Start Here

📅 Tue, May 30th 2023

Me in 5 seconds

Hey, I’m Sam. Currently based in London, UK, I’ve been working at startups as an engineer for a while now.

How did you learn to code?

When I was 12 I started selling sweets at school. Demand for sugar on the playgrounds of Britain was much steeper than supply. Especially after those school dinners. I found that I was running out every day, before I could sell to everyone that wanted something.

In order to meet the level of demand, I needed to figure out in advance what everyone would want for the day so I could buy the stock. My 12-year-old brain thought on that for a little while (the walk home) and realised that preorder would be the answer.

I frantically delved through Google to build a web form, hosted it on a not-too-memorable free domain name, and sent the link out to my faithful patrons over Blackberry Messenger (you either remember those rosy days or you don’t).

This was my very first dip in the ocean of software. The web form sent me an email directly, with no backend from what I remember. These were simpler times.

When I woke up the next day my hotmail account (“am-ere@”) was flooded with emails, the subject line listing the line item & quantity of a particular person’s order, with their name. And we were in real business. That day I brought an enormous bag of sugary fare to school, sold every last thing, and went home that day weighed down with 50p pieces and not one bit of guilt at my contribution to the budding diabetes epidemic.

I continued to add features to that web form, like the ability to select multiple items at once, and a way to get the emails into a spreadsheet so I didn’t have to count the totals by hand.

And thus, through precocious commercial drive & a dedication to giving the customer what they craved, I learned to code.

I would stand by this approach too. Not selling sweets to children: I was eventually shut down by the ruthless cabal of the Parent-Teacher Association, not all too happy with the over-sugared children creating chaos in the afternoons.

I would stand by the approach of learning in order to do. Necessity is the mother of invention. Give yourself a reason to learn, and learn only what you need. Theory will never substitute practice. Learn by building.

How did you become a software engineer?

My misgivings for selling (LEGAL!) substances online never halted, and when I arrived at University I started running a coffee-delivery service on campus, with some friends, based on a slightly prettier web form, now with payment included.

I was studying Law (for my sins) but the fulfilment I got from running this little project far outweighed any meaning I derived from my studies.

When I graduated (and escaped the attractive trappings of a corporate legal career) I found some local businesses in the area and showed them that I had been able to make money online, and in each case suggested how I might be able to help them do the same. A local gym took me up on the offer, & I built online features for them that made it possible to serve more customers with fewer staff, which led to them opening a new site.

Then I heard from a recruiter who had seen an article I had written for the gym, about our software. He taught me a new word: “startup”. I’d never heard of such a thing, though honestly it sounded like an insult. He opened my eyes to this crazy world of other people making things online, and I knew it was for me. He helped me to get a few interviews, and I joined an 8 person company doing cool things in the manufacturing space.

Startups force you to learn very quickly, trial by fire, and I love that. The rest is history really.

What are you working on now?

Currently I’m in the Staff Engineering role at Deliveroo, a food delivery company based in the UK.

That’s right: I’m STILL selling food & drink on the internet!

It’s the largest company I’ve ever worked for by far, but each team still has the autonomy of a startup. I focus mainly on recommendations, helping people to find the meal they have never tasted before, but will absolutely love.

Let’s Chat

If you made it this far, either we have a few things in common, or you’re a bot. If you’re a bot, how’s that?

Otherwise, I’m always happy to get mail from real humans. I read emails sent to sam [at] the current domain here.