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JH Success Stories: From Junior to Lead Frontend Developer

After 7.5 years working with us, our legendary Lead Frontend Developer Shane Osbourne is about to fly the nest. Before he went, we grabbed him for a chat about his time here, what he’s learned, and where he’ll be going next.

Shane joined us as a Junior Developer way back in 2013, and during his time with us, he’s worked his way up to Lead Frontend Developer, while contributing to tons of projects, and selflessly mentoring and training those around him. 

Before he left us for an exciting new role, Marketing Exec Alli managed to squeeze some time into his schedule to chat all things JH – good on Shane for letting us have that one last learning opportunity!

So Shane, what made you choose JH originally?

Technically it was my first job in the industry, actually! I remember seeing a Twitter post about the vacancy, and I’d quit my previous job – because I came from a completely different background, working in construction – and I thought, “That sounds amazing… Especially as I’ve been working outdoors for 10 years.” I wrote a really long introduction to myself, and I guess I talked my way into the job! 

What stands out as the highlights of your time at JH?

Last year, stood on stage in Vegas, accepting Best Mobile Commerce Experience Award for the 4th year in a row  – at that time, 6 years prior, I’d been building decking and brick walls for people, and 6 years later I’m on a massive stage, in Vegas, accepting an award for work we’ve done.

The personal highlight for me was definitely a sellout talk in Barcelona. Running up to it, I’d done a few other talks, and started to build a reputation in the community, and it all just kind of led up to this big one. It was two years ago, and it was packed – there were about 500 people allowed in, but they actually had to stop more people from coming in. I just remember looking out from the stage, and it was just like being at a concert or something – all I could see was people.

How have you changed while working at JH? Did you discover anything about yourself?

Yeah, I discovered – I’m more bothered about other peoples’ careers than I am my own. So in the position I’m in at JH, I get to choose a lot of directions that we go in, on a technical level. Someone who loves software like I do, you could just run away and do whatever you wanted to, but I’ve always tried to pull it back and be pragmatic about other people that work here, so they’re not learning ‘some crazy thing that just Shane likes’. Rather – that they’re doing something that means, if they go and look for another job next year, they’re going to be in a really good position. Whereas in my old job, where I just used to be working outdoors, you just do a job, and then go to the next job – working here, you can have a genuine impact on people and their careers.

Can you tell me about your favourite parts of your role at JH?

It’s split between two things! Firstly, having the opportunity to explore new technologies – we’re definitely not what I’d call a cookie-cutter agency, just delivering as many websites as you can, all the same technologies. Even though on the surface, some of the clients or projects that we work on might not seem very exciting – but the technology that drives that genuinely is exciting. So the ability to explore new and modern techniques for creating software, alongside the ability to mentor and train other people. I do online courses, I’ve given loads of presentations in the past, and on a daily basis I mentor the team as well, so – those are the two things I like the most! New technologies, and helping people.

What was your favourite project you worked on at JH?

Probably Workwear Express. Simply because of the technical challenges with it – that was an example of bringing an entire team into it, raising everybody up. And it ended up being one of the fastest PWAs in the world, too!

And what about your biggest challenge?

I think, doing the first Single Page Application – when we did UKMeds, the first time we transitioned from a regular Magento website into what we call a ‘headless’ website, or Progressive Web App (PWA). That was the biggest challenge, because we had to rethink everything, from the ground up. But it was done in a way where we were going to be going in the direction of where the industry was going – so it was a worthwhile goal – it wasn’t “let’s just rewrite everything from scratch just for the sake of it”. It was very much, the industry will be going this way so let’s get on board.

And really it was worth it – because PWAs are what JH are known for, now.

Yeah exactly – that’s the legacy I’m hoping I’m leaving, is that because we got on board early, and we took the pain early – there’s still some agencies out there that aren’t even anywhere near adopting headless, and by us doing that, we put ourselves in a nice position, for sure.

What kinds of training and development did you have access to while working at JH?

Kind of anything we wanted really – in one way or another, whether it’s a shared account, or it has come out of a personal development budget, JH has always made it available. I’ve also been to a number of conferences as well, that JH has paid for over the years. So I would say – if you consider that I’ve had learning resources in terms of books, courses and conferences – and then that they were willing to allow us to explore new technologies that means we learn on the job – I had access to everything I needed.

What are your thoughts on JH’s culture and staff benefits?

This is one of the things I mentioned in the #recognition channel [JH’s dedicated Slack channel for internal staff praise and colleague recognition] the other day – I don’t want to put across the idea that everything is perfect, because clearly every agency’s learning, every agency’s growing. But the way that the staff are treated, in terms of personal life, is the major highlight – I actually believe that it’s the reason a lot of people stay at JH. 

It can make all the difference during those stressful moments – that focus on you being in a good place, is so important at JH, it’s always been – family first, or home life first, or put your health first and then work comes afterwards. Because I’ve only worked here, within the industry, I guess I thought that was the norm. But over the years, going around different places, going right around the world basically; and speaking to people, you start to get the idea that it’s not normal to have that way of working.

From your perspective, how does JH compare to other similar organizations in the industry?

I think the biggest things that I like about JH is the forward thinking, and making sure that we’re going in the right direction that the industry’s going. That drive and ability to – even if it’s painful – take the correct path forward, and we don’t hang around for someone else to do it. That was always a major positive.

You worked at JH for 7.5 years – a long time in today’s job market! Can you tell me what made you stick around for all that time?

It’s the fact that we don’t have – a working template, if you like. Just put that out for every client, and end up being sort of a cookie-cutter company. Because we have this drive and ambition – not to be ‘the best’, because I don’t wanna say that in the sense of putting everyone else down, but to be on the forefront of where the industry’s going. That trickles down to mean that the developers are constantly learning – which means that the developers are always happy. 

It’s a strange industry when you think about it – that we get paid to come to work to not know what to do. Someone pays me to come to work and not have the answer – I have to figure it out in the day. And as a developer – someone who likes that mental challenge – that is gold. It still blows my mind that people pay me to actually do that. 

And what was it that made you decide to move on?

Definitely the fact that I’ve been here for 7 and a half years – just the length of time that I’ve been at one company, and wanting to see the rest of the world. 

The second bit – part of my job search, I had a very strict criteria, which is that it either had to be something that was progressive, or green, or for animal rights – or something that’s going to make me feel like it’s worth getting out of bed in the morning. 

And then the last bit, is just like, the really kind of selfish bit? Which is – eCommerce and websites is one tiny little sliver of what you can do in software. I see myself in the future, in my dream job – if you imagine the safety systems in driverless cars in the future, that are literally saving thousands and thousands of lives – I see myself working in that kind of software space in the future. It’s about moving out of this job to broaden my skillset, so that I can have more of an impact in the future.

Looking back, how do you feel overall?

I think there’s been a lot of highlights, a lot of good stuff; I feel that personally, I’ve had a pretty decent impact. I’ve helped people in their careers, so that’s made me happy – it’s just time to fly the nest I think, and go and do bigger things. It’s crazy to think that when I started at JH I had no formal experience – so to go from that, to being the position I’m in, and then go to work for somewhere like Nationwide, where I’ll be serving millions and millions of customers… It’s you know… 

Yeah, it’s an amazing achievement.

Yeah… Thank you!

It’s been really interesting to chat with you about your time here – and great to hear you still have positive things to say about JH, seeing as it’s your time to move on.

Well this is it – I hired someone new at JH recently, Dom [Talbot, Senior Frontend Developer], and I wouldn’t have been able to sit there, look him straight in the face, knowing I was leaving, and tell him ‘it is still a good job’, if I didn’t think that was true. But after being here for 7 years…

Exactly, I think most people understand that after such a long time, you need a change.

I don’t regret doing it for so long – because of the position that I’m in now, people forget where I came from – people forget that this is my first job, I haven’t worked my way up through other companies, I’ve just learnt it on the job. Don’t get me wrong, I put tons and tons of time into it, in my spare time too – I take a holiday each month, a full day, that I don’t even spend with my family, and I call that a ‘career day’, and I just go and learn something. 

You know – I put the effort in. And you get the rewards, I guess.

Once again, thanks so much to Shane for sharing his thoughts with us – the team wish him all the best for his new role and in his future projects and successes. You can follow along his journey by following him on Twitter or LinkedIn.

As a final thought, we’ll leave you with this heartfelt message from Jamie, our CEO – which we think sums it up perfectly.

JH sound like a place you’d like to work? We’re always on the lookout for great talent to join us. Check out our current vacancies on our Careers page.