In this week’s instalment of Meet the SME, we are joined by Ashley Grant, our Head of Development for North America, who joined the Endava family through the merger with Levvel. After a small detour, Ashley went back to her passion for development and is now leading our teams to accomplish great feats of software engineering.
Welcome, Ashley, thank you for making the time. For starters, what has brought you into the tech industry?
My story, like many these days, is a bit long and full of twists and turns. I discovered my love of programming in high school. The very first programme I ever wrote was on my TI83 calculator. I wrote a random compliment generator for my friends who were having bad luck with dating. I went on to learn C++ in my senior year with the intention of going to college for computer science. Admittedly, I ended up quickly changing majors due to a lack of diversity in the programme and fear of failure as a result.
I found my way back into tech after working for a small business after college. I saw first-hand how technology plays a huge role in enabling success for businesses, and how the lack of technology can cause great challenges. This ultimately drove me back to school to pursue a second degree in computer science where I rediscovered my love for programming and that led me to where I am today.
What has been the biggest innovation since you have been working in the industry?
We can do almost anything from our smartphones these days. The automation of simple tasks, like depositing a check, paying a friend, or requesting a prescription refill, may not be the flashiest of innovations, but these have a huge impact on individual productivity. The underpinning technological advances around things like image processing, APIs, system integrations, and cloud computing have played a huge role in enabling companies to better serve their customers and deliver new offerings.
What is the biggest challenge or opportunity you are seeing, and what should businesses be doing to prepare for this?
Customer demands have evolved, which puts new challenges on businesses. Customers now seek instant gratification, which means fast, reliable, and stellar user experiences. To bring these to life in the right way, businesses have to better understand how to leverage data to drive business decisions and provide consistent experiences for their customers. It is also becoming more and more important for organisations to view technology as an equal partner in decision-making to quickly bring these experiences to life.
What is the Endava group project you are most proud of and why?
I’ve had a lot of great opportunities over the years. Some of the projects that stick out most to me are ones where we helped early-stage companies bring a new product to life. These make me the proudest because there are unique challenges that come with working in a start-up context. In these projects, we built brand-new products from the ground up, based on an idea and a vision. I’ve had the opportunity to directly work on two of these types of projects, and they are always a good reminder for me that when you have the right team and the right engineering culture, you can make anything possible.
On the flip side, what is the project or technology that challenged you the most and where you had some setbacks? What did you learn from this?
One of the projects that have challenged me the most (in a good way!) was one of my first strategy engagements. As part of my role on the team, I had the responsibility to design and document the full system design, including all API designs and underlying data structures to support a Zelle implementation effort for one of our banking clients. I was able to leverage my prior Zelle implementation experience, but it was the first time I was doing the full system design and building the technical specification that the team would execute on. It required a lot of late nights and iterations as I learned best practices in design at an architecture level. It was a great experience and one I look back on as a pivotal moment in helping me grow in mindset and technical skill as an engineer.
Let’s move on to a few more personal questions, alright? What topic could you give a 20-minute presentation on without any preparation?
I could easily talk for 20 minutes or more around engineering culture as well as being a mom in tech. Both are very personal to me and something that is always top of mind as a leader in my space.
Would you be brave enough to share one of your guilty pleasures with us?
I have a lot of sneakers.
What was something you thought would be easy until you tried it?
I will say fishing. The back story here is that my husband does competitive kayak fishing. I used to give him a hard time because I had this perception that he would go sit on the lake and have this very peaceful all-day experience. While I have also grown to really enjoy fishing, let me tell you: there is a lot of skill that goes into it that I didn’t quite expect!
Finally, would you share a favourite quote with us to send our readers off with some inspiration?
“The most meaningful way to succeed is to help others succeed.” (Adam Grant)
Many thanks to Ashley for sharing her experience and expertise with us. Stay tuned for more insights into the work and life of Endavans in the next part of our Meet the SME series!