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Adapting to change and keeping connected.

Chris Hawley

Welcome to Collabco's face behind the logo series, where we give you an insight into the people behind myday. This time, we sat down with our Senior Software Developer- Chris. He gives us an insight on his previous, current and future experiences working with myday, and how family, football and further learning keeps him busy out of the office!

Q - When did you join Collabco and what attracted you to the company?

A - I started September 2017 and from my perspective, the idea of working for a software as a service provider, where development is key to the business was really compelling. The product itself is really exciting and malleable, in that customers and users can tailor it to their needs, which I think is a great trend to be a part of. Users want and expect a more bespoke experience, so being able to be part of a team that delivers that and overcomes the challenges associated with it was and still is an exciting prospect. On top of that, from a purely technical standpoint, we use a lot of the latest technologies and architectural / design patterns in developing the product.

Q - What do you get up to day-to-day and how does it compare to your previous roles?

A - At first my day to day was working a lot on third-party integrations and bespoke customer development, but I’ve recently been more focused on working on the platform itself, so implementing new features, improving what is already there and contributing to the design decisions on how we might implement or improve a feature. I would say the main difference to any previous role is that I’m working on a product with hundreds of thousands of users and that the product itself is far more multi-faceted and forward thinking than anything I’ve worked on previously, especially the new platform. As a developer, this can seem daunting as it challenges your existing skill set, but that’s one of the great things about working at Collabco, we’re always looking at the best and latest technologies to improve the product so we never stop learning and improving ourselves.

Q - What is your favourite part about your job, and what do you look forward to from an education technology perspective in the future?

A - That’s a tough one – Collabco is a great working environment from top to bottom, I’m always happy to see my colleagues and I think we’ve got a really good team here. But from a more role-specific point of view, I’d say that being able to use a range of technologies and architectural/design patterns in order to achieve the best implementation of a solution or feature is really satisfying. Not only does it encourage you to learn more, but it also encourages you to apply critical thinking, best practices, and previous learning.

I think the most exciting thing on the horizon educational technology perspective is AI. There’s so much potential in terms of how it could be used to make the myday platform even more engaging and bespoke to users and there’s so much for us to learn about the technology and also from the technology. AI could tell us how people use the product which would help us improve it even more.

Q - How has your role developed over the years?

A - I mentioned before that I have obviously changed my day-to-day here at Collabco and as part of that change it has also resulted in me using different skills. Previously my role was full stack, in that I was almost equally split between front and back end development. On top of that the kind of projects I worked on where more focused, in that they would be often related to integrating a single third party product into myday. Moving over to the back-end side of the platform, I use my front end skills less and I’m using more of the c# skills that I started off using at the very beginning of my career as a developer. With working on the platform I’m also contributing to a much bigger overall project that has a broad range of considerations to take into account, even when working on just one component or microservice within the overall architecture.

Q - What are the 3 best ideas that the development team or customers have had to implement on myday?

A - There’s a few around at the moment. One that I’ve worked on at a Microsoft AI hackathon event with the Collabco Development team was the idea of an FAQ helper bot that Universities and Colleges could train with their own FAQ’s and end users could interact with through myday or through a messaging platform that the bot could be registered with.

There’s also been some discussion within the wider team at Collabco about how the myday platform could be used as a tool to offer targeted guidance and support to students above and beyond what is already possible through the platform. This could be in relation to improving the educational outcome for a student or improving their experience of student life,  for example by offering location suggestions in their first weeks of University, or any one of a range of important issues at any particular time. This kind of ability in the platform would be a really good use for AI.

I think another really useful feature, which we’ve taken the first steps towards, is understanding and building on the tools that myday administrators need. This helps us to provide better support and guidance to all establishments.

Q - What do you get up to outside of work and what are your hobbies?

A - I’ve got a daughter who has recently turned one so spending time with my family is really important to me nowadays. I’m also currently in the final year of my degree with the Open University in Computing and IT with Psychology as a second subject, studying part-time and the start/end dates of modules means this is my seventh year of study. I’m not sure if you can count that as a hobby. Aside from that, I’ve just started playing football again for the first time in years, it's fair to say I’m a bit rusty and out of shape, and that's putting it mildly. My main interest outside of work has always been music, I used to play a bit but I’m more of a listener these days

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