Filter Digital CTO Paul Halfpenny takes time out to talk about his career, trends in tech, web development and WordPress. Plus the advice he would give to his 16 year old self!
1. Describe your role in no more than 100 words
My primary role is to define the technical strategy for the agency, in terms of the technologies that we use and how we use them. I spend most of my time with clients, working to create technical solutions to meet their needs and requirements within digital, and concentrating on developing frictionless and impactful customer journeys.
2. Was there a particular moment which influenced you career path in a meaningful way?
It was the move to an agency called Evolving, in Bedford in 2006. I was employee number 16, and met both Olly and Lech, who I still work with. The agency grew quickly, picked up great clients and provided us all with the need to develop new and innovative digital solutions and systems.
Growing the development and project management teams into double figures, whilst delivering retained income from our SaaS email platform was a great grounding for creating a successful digital agency of our own.
3. What are your career highlights? Or Describe a successful project you have worked on.
The benefit of working for growing agencies is that you get to work on so many interesting and different projects. I am especially proud of the bespoke platforms that we have created ourselves – our EMS email platform was sending 20m emails per month at one point for clients such as Yo! Sushi, David Lloyd and Walkabout, which we built from the ground up.
Meanwhile at McCormack & Morrison, we worked with glh Hotels to create the first Hotel Room Chooser platform, allowing guests to select their own room as part of their booking, and a satisfaction rate of 96% across 50,000 bookings as part of the rollout is a statistic that you cannot argue with.
Finally, at Filter, we incubate new products and ideas within our Labs whilst we prototype, innovate and extend them into full-featured services. A great example of this is Sportstar Influencer, which went from a simple question around the relative social worth of sports players into a unique, algorithmic-based product that was referenced in the Guardian, The Sun and The Times, and is now being used as the basis for a post-graduate teaching and thesis-writing.
4. How do you keep current with technology trends? Can you recommend any useful resources?
I read, read, and read. I am constantly intrigued by new technology, platforms and user patterns, and spend a lot of time researching and understanding how our clients can use technology to gain competitive advantage. Prototyping and playing with new tech is also incredibly useful – it allows you to find out the limits and what doesn’t match the marketing material and the hype. Finally, I spend time attending events and conferences, both online and in-person.
5. In your view, what will the major trend in software development be in the next 12 months?
This is the question that everyone regrets answering when they look back in 12 months time! Over the past few years, we’ve had many false dawns about what the next big thing might be – I’m looking at you, VR (again), and that can come back to haunt you.
6. You went to WordCamp Europe last month, can you share your thoughts on the next developments on WordPress?
The speed of change has caused problems within the community, and is impacting on established business models, but it’s a necessary step to ensure that WordPress can compete as a platform against both site-builders such as Squarespace and Wix, and API-driven platforms like Drupal and Contentful. Wordcamp Europe was an interesting experience, as now that Gutenberg has been integrated into Core, it feels as though the argument over whether it is a good thing has been done, and everyone can now move on to delivering Gutenberg-based solutions and improvements in the future.
There’s still a (very) long way to go, but the upcoming improvements I saw showed promise and you could see people finally beginning to understand the wider picture, and how it will benefit them, and WordPress.
7. Is there any advice you would give your 16 year old self?
Don’t worry, the internet is coming, and you will find a job!