Employee Spotlight: Hew (Head of Engineering)

Published by:
Cameo Choquer
June 3, 2021
min read

What do you do at Applied?

I'm the Head of Engineering - so split my time between helping build and design the product and working with the rest of the engineering team to do technical design and longer term strategic planning. It's a really nice split between managing people, writing code and getting to ponder some big questions.

And what did you do before Joining Applied?

I've been working in product and engineering in various startups for a while - always something with a social mission at relatively small companies. In another life I worked in a chemistry research group using computation quantum mechanics to work out the shape of molecules (more fun than it sounds!).

So Interesting - What's been your favourite thing to make at Applied?

We recently added a new page that gives an overview of sourcing for a job while a role is in flight. It shows how a role is progressing but also lets hiring mangers see which sources are (and aren't!) working for them. I love it because it's incredibly useful for me when I'm hiring and it rapidly became a page our users love!

Must be nice to build something that helps you and your team. So what makes a good engineering team?

Now that is a big question. For me it's about trust and security and about caring about what you're building. If a team has trust and security then it's so much easier as a team to surface ideas, issues or concerns and deal with them and improving things.It can be very easier as an engineer to fall into the code and forget you're building a product for real people - ensuring those users stay the center of attention means both building better product and having such a good motivation to do it - hearing stories from both candidates and hiring managers about how much they love Applied makes it so worthwhile.

Okay, okay, then what is the best question to ask and what is the funnest question to answer?

So best - something unambiguous, situational and highly relevant to the role. Putting the candidate in a hypothetical situation that will almost definitely happen to them in the job, give them all the info they need to give you a great answer and you'll be able to really quickly find the best candidates.

As for most fun, we do a whole interview for engineers where we as a team (with the candidate on it!) try to solve a big technical challenge we have - they're always real challenges, either things we're building or things we've solved recently and they give the candidate loads of opportunity to get to know the team and show us what they know and how they approach problems. It's fun for us but we get so much feedback from people we interview that love it too!

You recently moved to Bristol - what is the best thing about it compared to living in London?

Yeah! So I was planning my escape from London and COVID was the useful shove I needed to do it. For me all of the green space in Bristol is a big plus. I live close to a bunch of really pretty parks and it's just a short walk down to the river which is a great place to sit by when it's sunny - most of the team at Applied have probably had meetings with me when I've been laying in the park of sprawled at the side of the river. It's also surrounded by absolutely gorgeous countryside which I am super excited to get exploring!

Going back to what you used to do as a chemist... what makes a good sourdough?

Time and love? Probably more accurately an active starter and patience. Baking bread is fun, I got weirdly obsessed with baking bread when I was 18 and lockdown made me immediately jump back into it, I enjoy the slow process of it, the act of making something with my hands and the fact that it always feels slightly magical (and... obviously I enjoy eating it). I think after studying chemistry for years I've ended up with a love of making bread and cheese and beer as a way of channeling that bit of me.

And while people are waiting for their dough to rise, what book would you recommend (besides what works) that people can read to understand Applied?

Well, What Works is a very good read and I would highly recommend it - it's the reason I ended up at Applied and is a really encouraging digestible overview of a huge swathe of research into bias-free design.

I actually wrote a blog post a few years ago with some reading recommendations that I will whole heartedly stand by - things that have definitely shaped and informed me over recent years

I'm going to continue my path of cheating with book recommendations and actually recommend two here:

Firstly "This bridge called my back" which is a fantastic anthology of works centered around and exploring the experiences of women of color and how they are significantly and very importantly different to the experiences of white women or black men. This exploration of intersectionality through poetry, essays and even visual art is really wonderfully thought provoking as well as being highly personal and impactful.

Secondly I'd go for "The Dispossessed" by Ursula le Guin - it's an essay about capitalism, collectivism, revolution and anarchism wrapped up nicely as a science fiction short story. It's a book I reread fairly regularly and always makes me look at the world differently - utopian visions are inspiring in showing us the potential for how things could be. In fact if you're in the mood for some speculative and visionary fiction "Octavia's brood" is a really cool anthology of wildly thought-provoking, radically speculative short stories. Named for Octavia Butler, who herself wrote wonderfully impactful science fiction that is as relevant now as it was when it was written 40 or so years ago. The anthology, Octavia's Brood, is a set of works inspired by Butler - brimming with powerful messages and big visions.

Hew is building the team and hiring a Full-Stack Engineer! if you want to learn more read here or you can reach out to him directly here.