in Professional development

What I contributed and learned at Brett Martin

Tasked with improving the business through better use of technology, I wore many hats related to IT from being the software engineer to delivering training and workshops. After three and a half years between 2012-2015, here’s some of the areas where I made key contributions and the skills I picked up along the way:

Software Engineering:
  • ProfileID: when Debra (my colleague) mentioned in passing the reliance on her to identify roof profiles for customers and the sheer time it takes to do so, I saw an opportunity to use technology to empower our customers, and the industry for that matter, to identify profiles themselves – deskilling the current process. Every evening I’d come home to build a prototype – think Google for roof profiles. After a couple of weeks the bones of version 1 were visible. I partnered with Debra and Ian (project manager) to deliver a service that our early adopters (existing customers) loved so much they wanted it embedded on their site so their customers could solve the problem of identifying profiles. The app is viewable at
    • JavaScript: developed the measurement library (open source on Github) and closed source profile drawing libraries leveraging SVG (scalable vector graphics); this was a key breakthrough as it meant the technical profile drawings could be programmatically generated, saving the effort of uploading and maintaining over 1,500 drawings.
    • Bootstrap: responsive web design to scale app on mobile/tablet so roofers can identify profiles in-field on portable devices, a key requirement
    • ASP.NET: Microsoft web stack was chosen as it runs in parallel with the rest of the business stack
    • Azure: cloud computing and hosting was chosen to simplify deployment, maintenance and security
    • SQL: database design and queries design
    • C#: having originally written the server side logic in VB.NET, I migrated the codebase to C# to accommodate a broader developer audience
    • Agile philosophy: iterating quickly based on customer feedback, daily 5 minute reviews and feedback with Product Owner and Scrum Master
    • Source control: committing, pushing, pulling code from work and home computers to stay in sync
  • KnowledgeBase: a key objective on our business plan for some years was to develop consultants to the industry, that is, developing among the most knowledgeable staff within the industry – particularly sales managers. I worked closely with Paul (senior technical engineer) to build the foundation upon which to distribute technical and non-technical literature and its guidance so it’s easy to find, understand and learn from – think Wikipedia for internal use. Tom (managing director) mentioned in the Christmas 2015 newsletter that “SharePoint KnowledgeBase is starting to show real potential as the go-to place to store and find our collected knowledge … I’m sure it won’t be long before we can’t imagine how we lived without it”
    • Prototyping different designs and layouts
    • Responsive web design so laptop and tablet users don’t have to scroll horizontally to access content
    • Comments system: allow product owners to be notified of comments on their product pages so questions are routed to the right person and allow end-users to be notified of replies and best answers
    • JavaScript to track pages on which comments are made
    • Workflow designer to route notifications
    • HTML email design for email notifications
    • Analytics: Azure’s App Insights is used to track traffic across different pages
  • Assembly Scheduling: early into my time at BMDS I worked with Natalie (thermoforming and business manager) when she was relatively new to managing Domes production to address two key issues; 1. assembling units was a skilled role mainly because knowledge of processes was only acquired through experience rather than referenced, this made it difficult to expand the team periodically e.g. hiring temp labour during busy summer months  2. metrics such as product cycle times and shop floor labour productivity were not monitored making production capacity unclear. By splitting the production schedule into the core processes carried out by shop floor workers and tracking duration against these processes we were able clarify what was required from the shop floor worker and understand the performance of the team and individuals. Natalie now has meaningful one to one meetings with her team centred around productivity objectively and that’s something the team appreciates. The app is used daily by several people and it’s stable; there have been no bugs filed in the past several months; recent development requests are to accommodate new products/processes.
    • VBA (Visual Basic for Applications): we chose to use Excel/VBA as the platform for the app to allow for quick iteration, linking to our ERP system by way of Atlas – a data connector to pull high level production schedules from. I spent much time debugging and testing code in this environment.
    • Product, Data and Process modelling: abstracting the qualities of Domes for maintainability of code
    • Test Driven Development (TDD): each function had an accompanying test
    • MVC code structure: best practices of code organisation were applied to support Separation of Concerns
  • CRM (MS Dynamics) customisations: one of our company’s goal is to make it easy to do business with us, that goes for both customers and partners. By taking ownership of and streamlining our partner’s quoting process we save them the administrative overhead and ensure our quotes are in sync. To do this we need to ensure we reflect our partner’s brand and terms via our quoting system. I’d liaise with partner sales managers, develop a prototype quote, get feedback and deploy the quote to the local sales team.
    • Form customisation and JavaScript to pre-populate form and call web services
    • Hand coding XML SSRS rdl report file to reflect partner brand and trade agreements
Business Analysis:
  • Defining clear maintainable specifications understandable by developers and product owners e.g. Assembly Scheduling App spec
  • Analysing the context of change from Strategy Analysis through to Business Process Modelling (BPMN), User Stories, and Use cases
  • Addressing concerns and influencing group IT strategy through concise business cases e.g. addressing security concerns and getting group approval to use cloud services to access sales literature from any device
  • Prioritising end-user requests with a weekly session with managers to commit requests to the backlog for the next sprint (1-2week cycles)
  • Evaluating end-user requests for ERP (Dynamics AX) development e.g. due to changes to product or process and liaising with developers for implementation
  • Testing and guiding end-users through user acceptance testing
  • Delivering workshops from team leader training to showcasing software in interactive sessions
  • Provided video training on core ERP processes (what happens between receiving a customer order until we delivery/install our products) to basic online research skills
  • Designed and developed ZAP reports and dashboards allowing users to slice and filter their data on the fly, Atlas reports to summarise live ERP data, SSRS reports to summarise CRM data such as project conversion figures, Excel Pivot reports (including lookup functions) for flexible reporting
  • Built solid relationships with over 100 colleagues. In my farewell message to my colleagues I’ve noted one thing I’ll remember about each of them
  • Served as the first point of contact for support for over one hundred local users
  • Supported departments ad-hoc: aided Accounts in automating the processing of payroll data using VBA in Excel, HR by developing a secure personnel records system on top of SharePoint and training HR and managers, Admin by developing an easy to use clock card generator

Completed a PgC in Leadership and Professional Development over one and a half years. Sandwiched between learning contemporary theory on leadership, teams, and change, the cohort (about 12 other graduates and myself) were thrown into time pressured scenarios (think the apprentice), phobia inducing scenarios (spiders and scorpions crawling up arms), and the great outdoors (bushcraft and orienteering).

Write a Comment