Alex Harper, Senior Engineer
Interviews 25 Jan 2021  ■1 Comment

Alex Harper, Senior Engineer

Based in the UK, senior engineer Alex may be worlds apart from the rest of the LottieFiles team (at least geographically) but he is as an essential piece in our mission to make working with Lottie accessible to all.

What do you do at LottieFiles?

At LottieFiles I get a fairly wide remit to work on “Microsoft stuff”. This means that I work on the LottieFiles Desktop app for Windows, but I also get to explore developer tooling and anything that might benefit the Microsoft ecosystem. From a personal perspective this is super interesting, as I get to explore all the different ways that might benefit users and developers.

How did you end up getting into software engineering?

I was always into computers as a kid. One of my earliest memories was aged 6, typing out a BASIC game on the school computer over break time. The game was a 2D “canyon run”, where you had to move your spaceship to avoid hitting the canyon walls. The program took 40 minutes of painstakingly accurate typing for no more than 10 minutes of play, but it’s no doubt how I first learned that perseverance and patience needed to be a software engineer.

My grandfather and a couple of my uncles were programmers, and when I was slightly older I was lucky enough to get donated a copy of Visual Basic 6. I spent countless hours making games and trying to figure out the Windows transparency API calls, long before I had any idea what a game engine was.

I have been fortunate enough to have a pretty interesting career - I have worked on software for testing sensors used for detecting nuclear weapons, on back office systems for telecoms companies, line of business software for finance companies, hotel automation systems - everything from desktop apps, web apps and even IoT firmware.

I sort of just seem to fall into the things I do.

At University I did a BSc and MSc in Robotic Engineering, on the recommendation of my college IT lecturer. Robotics is a fascinating discipline, but as someone who likes to create things, it’s a very difficult subject to investigate in your own time - you typically need an electronics lab, lots of power tools for making components, and then you still need to program the electronics when you’re done.

Exploring and learning new things is just something I can't help.

For my bachelors dissertation, I spent the entire summer learning CAD, designing and building a hexapod robot, then programming it to walk. This was super fun and a great learning experience, but I found that the programming aspect was the most rewarding, and it was far more accessible which helped. These days, 3D printing and Arduino have made robotics far more accessible for beginners, and there’s a wealth of high-quality content on YouTube.

Software Engineering is still a relatively new discipline, and as long as you like solving problems and learning, you’re never going to get bored.

What would you say is the most important thing to keep at the forefront of your mind when working as a Software Engineer?

Persistence, inquisitiveness, and keeping calm. The computer is never wrong, so relax and make sure you have complete control of the facts. My main aim as a Software engineer is to make users' lives easier and more enjoyable, so whenever I’m working on a project, I try to keep that at the forefront of my mind.

Me keeping zen in all situations.

What would your advice be for anyone wanting to go into a career in Software Engineering?

The depth and breadth of the Software industry is more than any one person could ever hope to learn, even inside a single language or domain, so be hungry, focused, and persistent. You may not know where you’ll end up, but you’ll never have a reason to be bored (and if you are, we’re hiring).

Want to join the LottieFiles team? Check out our open roles and send your CV our way!

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