Dootrix provides expert solutions to complex problems. That means hiring talented, experienced, senior engineers and nurturing experts within our own ranks. Mark Vallins, Dootrix’s Head of DevOps, not only brings a wealth of experience to consulting on, overseeing and delivering projects, but plays a key role in fostering our positive, collaborative culture.
When Mark Vallins joined Dootrix in 2016 it represented a change in direction for him. He’d spend two decades with a company developing a small range of software products. Dootrix offered him wider horizons and bigger challenges.
Cybernetics and software
Mark first encountered computers at home in North Kent in growing up the 1980s. However, it wasn’t until he went to Reading University to study cybernetics (under the UK’s foremost self-styled cyborg, Prof. Kevin Warwick) and computer science, that he realised that he had an affinity with software engineering.
His first job was with Admiral Computing, a company that did a wide range of contract work for the banking and defence industries. However, Mark soon found a more interesting opportunity with Colt VR, then based on the south coast. Colt VR, later renamed Vector Command, made virtual reality systems designed to help train senior fire officers how to manage major incidents.
“I was with Vector Command for almost 20 years working on three main products,” says Mark, remembering the shift of gears when he moved jobs. “Dootrix represented quite a change. On the one hand, I was used to working in a small agile team, and at Dootrix we continue to operate similarly with tight knit, focussed teams where your voice is heard and individual contribution counts. On the other here you’re working on a project for three or six months, perhaps 12 or 18, but then you’re onto something else.”
“But, what working for a product company gave me that I could bring over to Dootrix was an understanding that something should be built to last, to be maintained and upgraded. Because, even if we aren’t working on it long-term, someone else will be – and I know what it’s like to be in their shoes.”
Head of DevOps
Mark’s job title reflects the fact that he’s one of Dootrix’s most senior technical leaders. However, given that Dootrix is DevOps through and through, his working relationship with the company’s Head of Engineering, Craig Rowe, is necessarily closely collaborative.
“I tend to be involved more with the support operation side of projects and consultancy-lead strategic projects – advising on process, approach and strategy, helping businesses set up or improve ways of working around software development.”
A deepening of expertise
As Dootrix grows, Mark is seeing roles within the company evolve and his own skillset expand.
“When I arrived at Dootrix my software development background was rooted in Windows desktop development, using Microsoft frameworks and programming languages such as C++ and C#. Joining Dootrix gave me the opportunity to expand my horizons working on a variety of mobile applications, web services and cloud-based solutions. That’s allowed me to grow my skills through experience across multiple projects and business domains, from solving problems in the small to defining cloud strategy, governance and policies for operating in the cloud.”
For some Dootrix is an environment in which they can widen their expertise and for others it’s a chance to focus and gain expertise in specific areas, and for others it’s a mix of the two.
“There are a lot of programming languages, platforms, frameworks and libraries out there, and at Dootrix you’ll get the opportunity to work with a few of them. While specific skills are incredibly valuable in the short term, a grounding in technical fundamentals, problem-solving, solution design and a broad experience of multiple environments will provide you with a long term set of skills that widen your perspective and approach to solving complex problems.”
“One of our strengths is that we have a lot of multi-skilled people capable of working on a variety of tasks across the entire software development life cycle.. Within projects that gives us enormous flexibility. But, with time, and as we’ve focused more and more on bringing customers the best of the opportunities Azure offers, we’re increasingly seeing deeper – rather than broader – roles emerge. People have more opportunities to specialise.”
One thing that will stand anyone joining Dootrix in good stead is experience of the day-to-day challenges of software engineering and project management because, for all that Dootrix is a technology company, it’s also a collection of human beings who have to help one another through the more difficult parts of the tasks they undertake.
“In hiring, we've always valued strong technical backgrounds. At every level of seniority, whether we're looking for an engineer, an enterprise architect or a solution architect or whatever - it's important to us that they know how to programme, they know what the frustrations are, they’ve had to deal with all the practical challenges. Because not only do we expect anybody, including seniors, to be able to get stuck in if they need to, we need senior people to know from experience the issues and challenges that their colleagues are dealing with.”
When Mark joined Dootrix the team was only just over a dozen strong. Yet even though the number of people working here has multiplied many times over, there is still a central ethos.
“The way the teams work is always supportive and collaborative, not combative. I hope everyone else feels the same and that if they have a question or if they're struggling with something, there's somebody they can reach out to and say, ‘Can I just talk this through? I’m trying to solve this issue for a customer and I’m running into a brick wall’. There's that level of support.”
The culture of looking after colleagues extends to looking after the best interests of customers.
“People care. They care about what they do and the effort and the quality they put in. Those were the core values embedded in the company early on and are still there now. That passion and that care are also what we look for in interviews.”
And while Dootrix became Mark’s new work home when he was already a very experienced senior software engineer, he thinks it can be a great place to build a career, whatever level of experience someone has achieved.
“We’re always looking to bring in people new to the industry and train them up. Hopefully, they'll stay with us and grow their careers, just as we’ve seen people join our apprenticeship programme and thrive.”
WORKPLACE EDUCATION PROGRAMME
The best of both worlds
At Dootrix we use Future Ed to nurture and encourage young talent into becoming industry experts. The programme is specially designed to ready you for working in a real professional environment and to build client / partner relationships while learning core and cutting edge industry skills.