Speaker Spotlight: Navigating the Tech Landscape – Insights from Naomi Gotts on Building Bridges and Learning in Community

Developers are often faced with the challenge of having to explain technical subjects to non-technical colleagues. At a previous PHP Sussex event, Naomi Gotts delves into the business case for TDD, explaining why it is important and using an interactive example to demonstrate how it helps improve development flow.

We spoke to Naomi following her talk to learn more about her…

Can you tell us a bit about you and the work that you do?

I’m a Senior Software Engineer at Tillo, a fintech company based in Brighton & Hove. My role is focused on software development for Tillo’s gift card API and also the managment application that our customers use. I’m keen to ensure that, alongside work on project refinement, mentoring and leading initiatives such as our technical book club, I still find time to code!

What was the inspiration for your recent talk?

At the end of 2022 I was part of organising and delivering Tillo’s first ever internal tech conference. What started as an event just for our Engineering team ultimately grew to become a whole company event, which was incredible but meant that all of the speakers needed to tailor their talks to an audience made up of both technical and non-technical people – it was a real challenge but an enjoyable one! My talk on the day was about automated testing and how it helps improve the development flow. It became the inspiration for my recent talk, where I explain how our speakers approached delivering talks for a non-technical audience; and how I went about explaining Test Driven Development (TDD) using an interactive demonstration.

Any key highlights / takeaways for anyone who missed it?

The interactive demonstration is always a highlight for me – working with 4 volunteers to build and maintain a make-shift vending machine and getting the entire audience involved by turning them into a human test-runner! It’s a lot of fun to do and has proven effective in getting the important points across to both technical and non-technical audiences.

Did you come up through a “traditional” techie route or has your career taken twists and turns along the way?

Not at all! I have a degree in Geography and found my own path into tech by building websites and applications in my own time before finally being encouraged to look for work in the field by family and the colleagues I worked with in an administrative role after finishing university.

Is there a moment that helped define your career?

I guess it would have to have been when I discovered PHP and web application building and how much I enjoyed it. I built my own Fantasy F1 League website / application and through doing it discovered that I was absolutely loving it. This was just after finishing uni and back then I clearly remember a moment of thinking “it would be amazing to get paid to do this all day…”. Fast forward a couple of years and that was exactly what I was doing, in my first job as a web developer.

What piece of advice would you give your younger self?

Not to worry about needing to “know everything, now”. The tech industry has evolved so much in the almost 20 years I’ve been involved in it, and everyone is constantly learning; there is literally no limit to how much knowledge we can assimilate, there will always be more. Being open to learning is the most important thing, and learning how and where to find the knowledge that you need at the time, be that from colleagues, mentors, Google (we all become search experts!), or I guess, these days, AI! And, on that, building good awareness of how best to apply the knowledge you find is also important.

Silicon Brighton wouldn’t be here without people like you giving back to the community so… what does the word community mean to you?

When I started learning programming it was the people I found on online forums, who had the answers to my seemingly endless questions, that kept me going. There’s every chance I would have given up without them. The world wide web was built on some of the fundamental principles of community, sharing information and helping other people. A lot of software developers will say that they are “self-taught”, usually meaning that they didn’t study Computer Science or similar in further/higher education. However, I’d argue that none of us are really truly “self-taught” – we have actually been taught – by the amazing numbers of people out there who take their time to answer forum posts, make YouTube videos, write blog posts and so on. We are products of the community and I think there are a lot of us out there who hold a “let’s pay it forward” mentality when it comes to helping others on their journeys.

Missed Naomi’s talk or want to watch it again? Check it out here…