Culture

Meet the Team: Jamie MacDonald

August 25, 2021
6 minute read
Lucy Drennan

In the next instalment of our meet the team series, we speak to Jamie MacDonald, our Lead Mobile Engineer. Jamie tells us more about his role, what attracted him to work for Phlo, and Phlo’s approach to developing our native mobile applications.

Tell us a bit about your educational background and your previous roles before joining Phlo.

When I was at school, one of my maths teachers said I would enjoy doing maths as a career but I didn’t enjoy it that much. However, the problem-solving aspect always appealed to me and I went on to study Computer Science at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. I’ve always enjoyed working with technology and had a job in a computer shop when I was younger that involved building and repairing machines. Once I understood how they were physically put together I knew I wanted to gain a deeper understanding of their internal processes worked which ultimately led me to my degree.

Prior to starting at Phlo, I worked for a company that sold CRM and ERP business software and while there, I primarily worked on creating customisations for these bits of software. I found these tasks particularly engrossing and during my time there I really learned that just about every problem could be solved with enough collaboration and deliberation. The ability to provide features that weren’t available out of the box was really rewarding, especially when hearing how much of a help it had been for the end users.

What attracted you to work for Phlo?

I was looking to find a role that would allow me to grow and develop alongside the business and Phlo immediately jumped out at me from reading the job advert. Having previously worked for larger companies where processes were more ingrained and harder to change it was a breath of fresh air to find a company that worked in an agile way and welcomed everyone’s input when trying to identify areas that could be improved upon.  

Joining a smaller, product focused team was the perfect step for me as it meant that I got to continually improve on the work which I had developed and allowed me to build up a bigger contextual understanding of the business. This wasn’t available to me in my previous role which tended to jump between different clients and projects frequently. Our ability at Phlo to take a step back and look at optimizing what we’ve created is what really appealed to me as well.

What does a typical day look like for you?

One of the best things about my role at Phlo is that no two days are the same, I’m always learning and able to help out a variety of teams if any issues pop up. I also really enjoy working on the development of our mobile apps - both our iOS and React Native projects as well as supporting Phlo’s web team. In addition to the leadership aspect, I also get the opportunity to write code myself and be on the tools to figure out a particular problem.

Typically, my day starts by reviewing any new emails or slack messages, I enjoy reading how the other teams are getting on and what they are working on, I feel this gives me a wider contextual understanding of the company as a whole and enables me to deliver better solutions to the projects we complete in the mobile team.

From there, we have a daily stand-up call with the mobile team. This gives us the ability to keep up to date with what everyone is working on and try and be pre-emptive if any potential issues may arise. After that my day can continue in a myriad of ways, from planning future projects, assisting the team with their current tickets, helping with support issues or even working with other teams to ensure that we’re all working harmoniously towards the same goals.

We recently launched our mobile apps for iOS and Android where you led that team. What did you most enjoy about this and what were some of the challenges you came up against?

The most enjoyable part for me was being able to watch the progress of the apps as they were being developed. It’s an incremental process and often it’s hard to see the full picture until everything is in place so when we finally completed the development of the apps, it was really rewarding to have the final app on a device in my hand and run through the app properly from installing to registering and finally scheduling deliveries.

Most of the challenges with the apps were due to the subtle differences between mobile apps and the web app, some things you don’t realise will be different until you start implementing but on the plus side it gave me an opportunity to gain more context for parts of our system that I wasn’t aware of before. What kept me going was completing one area at a time and then seeing it all come together ready for release was hugely rewarding.

An example of our iteration process when developing app features

What do you like most about your job?

The part of my job that I enjoy most is seeing an idea through from conception to completion. Problem solving is a big passion for me so being presented with a problem and then working through all the potential solutions until arriving at the ideal one, is always exciting for me. I also really enjoy being drafted in to assist on a tough problem, if we’ve identified a bug but can’t figure out the exact cause or can’t identify a solution then I enjoy taking a step back trying to look at it from another angle and iterate on it until we eventually arrive at the solution. Marking a bug as solved after investing a few hours into it is so rewarding and feels like a weight gets lifted.

I have also enjoyed working within the different teams. I started in product stack development, then I led the pharmacy team on the engineering side and I’ve now moved over to mobile. It’s been good to build up context in one area then move over to another and try something new. Phlo has always given me the opportunity to learn more and have my hand in all parts of it.

What makes Phlo different and why should people join us?

For me, the thing that makes Phlo so different is how quickly someone can join and start making a real difference. When discussing potential solutions everyone has an opportunity to share their opinion and help guide where we will ultimately go, even if that’s their first day. At Phlo, we are always open to change and looking to improve on things so everybody’s opinion is valid and encouraged. I also really appreciate that people are offered chances to challenge assumptions and know that if there is a better way to accomplish something then we’ll always be working on iterating and improving every aspect we can.

What piece of advice would you give someone wanting to work in the mobile engineering industry?

I really could not recommend learning React Native (RN) enough, after transferring from web development to mobile I was anxious that it would be an entirely new ecosystem for me to get to terms with but RN made the transition so much easier as it carried over a lot of context I had built up from web development which was rewarding in itself.

On top of that I’d recommend keeping up to date with articles and blog posts, engineering in general is fast paced but mobile in particular is always changing and improving. Even setting aside 10 minutes a day to read a quick article will be a big help to ensure you’re always following best practices.  

What do you like to do in your spare time?

In my spare time I’m mostly found listening to music. Prior to the pandemic I’d be going to gigs weekly and always out hunting for new records for my collection on the weekends. I’ve seen over 150 bands and I am looking forward to expanding that, once gigs start back up properly again.

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If you'd like to join the Phlo team and help us shape the future of Pharmacy, check out our vacancies on our careers page.

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