What I've Learnt: Mark Quinn, Director of Engineering, Mojo Mortgages

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Mark Quinn is Director of Engineering at Macclesfield-based startup Mojo Mortgages.

The online mortgage broker already has industry leaders such as Monzo, Bankrate, EDF Energy, Money.co.uk and Doorsteps.co.uk using the platform.

Here, Mark gives us the benefit of his experience...

1. Which single daily habit or practice could you not do without?

Morning standup with the team. Communication is so important, now more than ever and this is a great opportunity for us to get together as a team and talk things through. We’ll spend 10 minutes (sometimes more) chatting through what we did yesterday, what we plan to do today and most importantly what problems we have. This really helps me structure my days and look for opportunities to help the team out where they might be struggling. It’s also nice to just speak to some other people!

2. What's been your luckiest break?

When I started my A-Levels I was planning to be a structural engineer (no idea why) so I took Maths, Physics and Design and Technology as these seemed like good choices for that career. There was an issue with my timetable which meant I had accidently been put in an IT class. At the time I was good with computers but never saw it as a career. In the one week I spent in that class while they fixed my timetable I had my mind changed and from then on wanted to be a programmer. I asked to stay in the class and the rest is history.

3. What's your best failure?

In my early days as a developer I worked for a company that was going through a massive technical shift. They had lots of stuff to build and not very many people to do it. I was still relatively inexperienced but more senior than the rest of the team so therefore made a lot of the decisions on how we should build things. Obviously I made some very bad decisions, I did not consider the scale this company was going to achieve and therefore did not build a scalable system. A good friend of mine always reminds me that “If you don’t regret something you’ve built you’ve not been around long enough to see it fail!”. From then on I’ve approached every project as if the company is going to be Google tomorrow and so far it’s worked.

4. What is the best investment you've ever made, either financial or time?

Genuinely can’t think of something for this...

5. Which book would you recommend others to read and why?

The Phoenix Project. It’s a great book for really understanding the process involved in managing projects successfully. Although it is in the context of an IT company it could be applied to pretty much any sector. It’s also told in a fictional way so it’s a pretty easy read.

6. What one piece of advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

As much as you want to believe it, you’re not always right and you should listen to those around you.

7. Who or what has had the single biggest influence on your working life?

Jon Wilson – CPO at CarFinance247. Before working with Jon all I was focused on was writing the best code ever (I never did) and I thought that would result in a good finished product. Jon taught me that the more you understand a problem the better the solution and ultimately the less time you’ll have to spend going back and changing it all. Jon taught me to ask the question “Why?” and since then I have annoyed more people than I can count by constantly asking “Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?”. I find five times to be the optimal number. It may rub people up the wrong way but I very rarely approach a problem these days without fully understanding what I’m trying to solve.

8. Tell us something about you that would surprise people

I can solve a rubix cube in one minute. I do this a few times a day (not in a minute) to empty my head when I’m trying to solve a problem.

9. How will the Covid crisis change work for the better?

I think the positive I take away from this is that it has forced a worldwide “experiment” of working from home. Apart from all the environmental benefits this has had such as reduced pollution, it has changed the way every company in the world thinks about working from home. Every company talks about how they have a “great work/life balance” but one of the best ways of achieving this is by adopting a flexible working from home culture, which few have. Taking two hours commute out of someone’s day frees up two hours in their day for “life”. It also makes us ask “do we need an office?”, “do I have to hire someone local to us?”. The answers to these questions will change and ultimately make working, hiring and managing a much more flexible experience going forward.

10. What does success look like to you?

Happy customers. Everything we build as software developers is going to be delivered to a customer, be that a business or an individual. As a developer there is little more satisfying than seeing the thing you worked on out in the wild and being used. Although it is much more satisfying when they really like the thing that you built. For me having happy customers means a combination of good technology and good customer experience from people. I’m always trying to make sure I hold up my end of the bargain.

To propose somebody for our What I've Learnt series, contact david@prolificnorth.co.uk.