Inside ProDev: Alex Wilson on the importance of problem solving, politics, and Strictly Come Dancing

We recently sat down with Alex Wilson from our ProDev team to find out more about the day in the life of an Unruly developer. Find out more about the projects, the people, and above all – the best music to listen to while coding. 

Q: Hi Alex, first of all, could you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about what you do here at Unruly?

AW: Hi! I’m Alex Wilson, and I’ve been at Unruly for almost six years, working in the Product Development team.

During my time at Unruly, I’ve held a few different roles and currently work as the Team Lead for our Shared Infrastructure Team. Our team look after shared systems, and try to act as a force-multiplier for other development teams so they can work on their own domain-specific problems.

How did you find out about Unruly, and what you did before you got here?

AW: I did a short summer internship as a software developer for another ad-tech company, but Unruly is my first “proper” job. I found out about it through a friend I went to University with. I finished University on Friday, moved to London over the weekend and started on Monday. I was still doing corrections for my master’s dissertation during my probation period!

Q: Wow! A very quick turnaround! What do you enjoy about the work you do?

AW: I’ve always liked solving problems and supporting other people, and I get a huge kick out of making processes faster and removing blockers. The shift to becoming a team leader was a big change but I’m enjoying spending more time thinking about long-term sustainability and improvements, whilst at the same time enabling a fun and safe learning environment for my team.

Q: How do you put your skills to use outside of work?

AW: I spend some of my time outside Unruly volunteering my software development skills for Democracy Club. They are a community working on making elections in the UK much easier for people to navigate, and cover all aspects of the electoral process, from being able to find your polling station on election day, to seeing who is running for a position and their policies.

Q: Everyone loves a side hustle. Tell us about yours:

AW: A particular interest of mine is ‘small data’ (data sets of curious or niche information). I maintain a database of Strictly Come Dancing results and contestant data, and have contributed to OpenBenches (https://openbenches.org/) which is an index of memorial benches around the world.

We get Gold Cards, also known as 20% Time, in Product Development to work on things that we are interested in, and I recently built a small open-sourced web-app called MapDrop to help me accumulate locations of interesting things. I can drop and label a pin at my current location, and then download them all later, or view them on an interactive map.

Q: It’s the weekend: what do you like to do in your spare time?

AW: I don’t like being indoors too much, I usually spend my time walking around London’s many canals and small rivers, sticking my head into small cafes, and exploring museums. I make sure I take a day off every year to go to the Science Museum and check out their latest exhibits!

I’m also a huge fan of fantasy novels, and when it’s cold and miserable outside there’s nothing like burying myself in a good book or binge-watching a box set. I’m currently working my way through Terrace House which is a really addictive Japanese reality show!

Q: What kind of challenges do the developers at Unruly tackle?

AW: The problem we face time and time again is making sure that we’re still building the right thing, in the right way, to solve the right problems at the right time.

We’re an XP development company at our core, and a lot of our thinking goes towards tuning and improving our prioritisation processes.

We also have to make sure that we’re giving enough time to innovation and research, without compromising on our continuous delivery ethos.

Any and every single person at Unruly can make a difference to our business. In ProDev alone, a couple of Gold Card projects have been spun out into revenue-driving products, or helped the wider business save time that was previously spent on mundane tasks.

Q: Finally, the most important question! What music do you listen to whilst working? Do you have a specific work playlist?

AW: It tends to be all over the place, anything from the Nightvale Presents podcast network to whatever’s currently in the charts, to classical choral music, but I’ll always have a soft spot for pop!

Want to join the Unruly family? You’re in luck, we’re hiring! Check out our job page for the latest roles!