Inside ProDev: Raouf Aghrout on happiness, diversity and Man Utd
To celebrate our Emotions Uncovered: Happiness fortnight we sat down with Senior Software Developer, Raouf Aghrout, to find out what makes him happy, and what life is like in Unruly’s ProDev team.
Q: Hi, first of all, could you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about what you do here at Unruly?
Hi, I’m Raouf and I’m a Senior Software Developer in the Reporting & Data (RAD) team here at Unruly. I also occasionally take on a Technical Lead role on product initiatives.
Q: Can you talk a bit about how you joined Unruly?
I went to a tech talk at GOTO conference in September 2015 just after I’d moved to London from Manchester. Rachel Davies, a former Agile Coach and Team Lead at Unruly, was talking about XP (eXtreme Programming) and that’s how the company first appeared on my radar. Some months later I was looking for a job and a recruiter approached me very ambiguously about a role at a social video company in East London. Much to his surprise, I guessed it was Unruly, I was keen and he got the ball rolling, the rest is history.
Q: What roles made you happy before you joined Unruly?
Before Unruly I worked at Shazam – the music recognition app, which was really cool because music is huge for me. Before that, I worked for ThoughtWorks – a well known Agile and XP consultancy in the tech industry with a focus on social justice. There I had the opportunity to consult on projects for some big organisations, Sky and Morrisons probably being the most well known.
Q: How would you explain your job to your grandparents?
Erm… good question, I don’t think I’ve ever had to and I’d be surprised if they asked actually. I would probably just tell them I work with computers? Swiftly bringing the conversation to an end.
Q: What makes you happy about the work you do?
I’ve always been into technology, as a kid in the mid 90’s my dad used to take me to his office at the local University. There I would use the computers and surf the net for hours on the weekends, growing up in a pretty rough area I was fortunate to have that great escape. That combined with having the opportunity to use the computers at school, the local library and eventually at home meant I was quickly showing my dad how to do stuff and not the other way round, much to his annoyance. Video games were also a huge part of my life growing up and I still haven’t been able to shake it off, definitely spent too much of my life in front of a screen already!
Back to the present day though… I really enjoy working collaboratively to find solutions that are simple and utilise the best technology, often solving what are quite tricky problems. I also get a lot of satisfaction from delivering something valuable, getting positive feedback from users gives you a real buzz for the job.
Q: What continues to surprise you about your work?
There’s still a lot of work to be done in this area so don’t get me wrong, but Unruly is the most diverse place I’ve worked and I love it. I’m surprised by people and their stories, who they are, where they’re from, what they’ve done and how they’ve gotten to be at Unruly. My parents were immigrants to the UK, coming here to study and eventually settling here, so my own background is pretty diverse. I think building a diverse, open-minded and accepting society is fundamental and Unruly surprises me with its own reflection of that in the workplace.
Q: It’s the weekend: what makes you happy in your spare time?
I’ll always make time to watch the football on the weekend, I grew up in Salford near Old Trafford so I’m a huge Manchester United fan, which is not a popular thing to admit. But yeah, I try to never miss a game. Sometimes I like nights in, with good food and drink, listening to some new music, checking out a new tv show, watching a movie, catching up on my video game backlog or seeing my friends and playing board games. Equally, I enjoy outdoorsy stuff, playing football, a good BBQ, going to the park on a sunny day or heading out to see some live music.
Q: What kind of challenges does ProDev tackle?
Unruly and ProDev have grown a lot in the last year or so, and that brings with it all kinds of new challenges. We’ve been working to scale our various platforms to handle this growth. The number of teams has increased and the number of people in each team has also gone up. Again, this means we need to think more about how we organise ourselves, how we distribute responsibility and most importantly how we communicate. More generally speaking, it’s our job to take any given idea to market in the leanest way possible, and then iterate on that until it’s both scalable and sustainable.
Q: What music do you enjoy listening to at work?
We work really collaboratively so when we’re not in meetings we’re usually pairing. When I do get the chance to work individually you’ll probably find me with my headphones on listening to a curated playlist on Spotify or a podcast of some sort. While working I’m really into alternative R&B and chilled piano music right now, podcast-wise I regularly listen to The Guardian Football Weekly and Reply All.
Q: Is there an ad that sticks in your mind that made you feel particularly happy when watching it?
I loved the first ‘Just Do It’ ad from Nike that was narrated by Colin Kaepernick. Every time I watch it I can’t help smiling! If you haven’t seen it yet you need to check it out, it’s an amazing advert that sends a very strong and powerful message.