Meet the team: Joe Stickings – Engineering Manager

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Meet the team: Joe Stickings – Engineering Manager featured image

Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Joe, an Engineering Manager at Rightmove and I work with our ever expanding team of Front End and Node.js engineers across the majority of our product development teams. For over 11 years I was a hands on full stack developer with a focus on front end technologies before spending the last 10 years plus in Engineering Management and leadership roles.

My role as a manager covers a wide range of areas and varies on a day to day basis but the most important part for me is supporting, developing and growing our engineers. I get no greater pleasure than seeing the people I work with succeed and progress towards achieving their goals and ambitions.

On top of that I am also responsible for hiring great talent and onboarding new joiners to the company as well as driving forward our technical strategy, setting direction and structure. I also get great satisfaction out of supporting improvements to our technical processes and the way we work, ensuring we can be as efficient as possible.

How did you become a software engineer?

My journey to becoming a software engineer is slightly less traditional than most as I am completely self taught and left school after completing my GCSE examinations.

At school, I was always creative and loved designing things. We were also very fortunate to have a brand new computer lab installed and it became a place that I would spend a lot of my lunch breaks and time after school.

After leaving school, I was keen to “get my foot in the door” in the graphic design industry and I spent some time on a volunteer work placement at a video and music production company designing CD/VHS (yes I said CD and VHS!!!) cover artwork where I also received a lot of extremely valuable mentoring. It was at this time that the internet was becoming more popular and businesses were investing a lot in developing and building their online offerings.

After my work placement I started my own design business but found the overheads of physical print very expensive and very time consuming (especially when I made a mistake and had to re-print the artwork and re-ship it to the client at my expense). So I started to focus on designing things for the internet as a way to reduce these overheads and this is when I found my passion for the web.

While working for yourself has its rewards, it requires significant energy and effort in terms of managing finances, accounts, clients etc. and I felt it took a lot of time away from actually doing the job that I enjoy. This is what gave me the push to pursue a permanent role with an established company.

Keeping good relations and building my network has always been something that is important to me, and has been one of the contributing factors in my career progression. So with this in mind, I approached some colleagues from my previous work placement who had moved to a small travel company who took me under their wing as a Web Designer.

I loved being in an environment where I could learn and grow on a daily basis but I very quickly found that the small development team were struggling to keep up with the pace at which designs were being produced.

To help the development team, I started to teach myself some basic HTML code (CSS didn’t exist then). It was all table layouts with transparent spacer images etc. This basic code kept evolving in terms of complexity and I found myself spending more time coding than I was designing and I was really enjoying the mix of both.

With redundancy looming, I approached my small but growing network in search of a new role and I was recommended for a temporary role as maternity cover at one of the worlds largest travel companies.

The role was simple, purely editing the code to update prices on promotional landing pages but it was an ideal environment for me to show what I could do and after a year I accepted an offer to join them permanently. I ended up leaving that company 8 years later progressing through their engineering career ladder while also developing even more skills. From a junior, mid and senior, front-end developer to full stack, technical lead and technical architect roles. This is also where I got my first taste of the management and leadership roles.

What do you love about your job?

As a developer my motivations were mainly around seeing the impact my code made on end users and knowing that large audiences were seeing and interacting with my work on a daily basis. It gave me a real sense of responsibility.

As I progressed through more senior roles, I found that these motivations started to change which prompted my move into management. I was driven more by seeing the team and people around me succeed than actually writing/delivering code. Being able to mentor a graduate engineer to a point where they earned a promotion was just the cherry on the cake.

I have now been in management roles for the last 10 years or so, and after all that time, I am still learning a huge amount and still getting great satisfaction out of seeing the people around me do well as well as being able to have a broad influence and a voice that can have an impact on the success of the company I am working for.

On top of this, in both roles as a developer and a manager, I have been incredibly fortunate to travel around the world for work and see some of the most amazing places, but one of the things that gets me out of bed every day is the people I work with, not only the talent, but some of my best friends I have met thanks to my job. 

What interesting things have you worked on?

Throughout my career, I have worked on broad range of pretty amazing things. As a graphic designer, I worked on the concert/tour artwork and promotional posters for some well known celebrity stars such as Britney Spears, Kylie Minogue, Elton John and Robbie Williams.

As a developer I have worked on the code and layout for the advertising display screens at Gatwick airport, a complete re-design of one of the worlds largest travel company’s web sites, migrating to headless CMS systems, optimising the performance and page speed on one of Europes largest photo printing company’s web sites, creating a multi site solution that allowed over 10,000 affiliates to create a bespoke theme, look and feel.

As a manager, I have worked on multiple data centre to cloud migration projects, technology/framework/library upgrades, technical debt strategies, diversity and inclusion strategies and building an off-shore technology hub of over 200 engineers from scratch.

Most recently at Rightmove I have focused on career development frameworks, hiring great talent, refining the interview and recruitment process, growing and developing our amazing and talented people and generally doing as much as I can to help the company to succeed.

What do you do when you are not working?

I have always been a keen sportsman and I have dabbled in a number of activities, usually getting far too enthusiastic very early on, buying all of the relevant equipment only to find out that either I am not very good at it or the initial enthusiasm fades after realising how much time and effort is needed in order to become competitive.

But there are 2 sports that I have dedicated a huge amount of my time, effort and energy since I was a kid. I have a huge passion for football, not only as a fan from the stands, but I have also represented both the London Borough of Bromley and Crystal Palace. I have always played as a goalkeeper but being only 5ft 7in tall has meant I have had to adapt a lot and overcome a number of challenges.

The other sport that has gripped my affections is tennis. I remember getting the bug for it at 4 years old while playing in the park with my parents and I still enjoy playing all those years later to this day. In that time I have juggled training for both tennis and football and I have played at county level for Kent as well as winning a number of regional tournaments.

As I have got slightly older and a young family on the scene, my footballing days are now more or less over due to injury and only playing tennis when I can, I now spend most of my free time flying aeroplanes. My other “non sporting” passion in life is aviation and I love all things about both commercial and military aircraft (with the Spitfire being a particular favourite). It was flying in a light aircraft on my honeymoon over Tanzania and Zanzibar that gave me the push I needed to train for my pilots licence. I have now been flying privately for over 9 years and love every minute of it.

Joe Stickings author photo

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Joe Stickings is an Engineering Manager at Rightmove. He leads our talented community of Front End and Node.js developers across both consumer and customer teams. Outside of work Joe is a dedicated footballer and a competitive tennis player. He is also passionate about aviation and is a qualified pilot. In his spare time you'll find him flying light aircraft at his local airfield.

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