About Piers Lawson

 

The Person

Ever since I first managed to get a mainframe to spit out an ASCII art picture of Snoopy I have been interested in getting computers to do what I want. The first computer I programmed was a Sinclair ZX81 (which was later upgraded with the 16Kb RAM Pack). The second was an Apple Macintosh 128k my uncle lent me.

Whilst my day to day job means I don't write as much code as I used to, I still love to evaluate new technologies. I also like to understand different processes for developing software and understand which elements may be applicable to my company.

 

The Family

The Lawson's live in Reading, UK. Both my wife and I are Northerners and would love to move back to the North one day... it just isn't practical at the moment. So in the meantime we have to try and school our four children in the correct pronunciation of many words... I think we're losing that battle and they are becoming little Southerners in front of our eyes. I mainly miss the landscape... I want to be able to see at least one decent sized hill. Otherwise, Reading is OK... good schools and everything is close to hand.

 

The History

I was born in 1970 and grew up in a small town, Ulverston, on the edge of the Lake District in the United Kingdom. From there I went to the University of Bradford and received an M.Eng. in Electrical Electronic Engineering.

Armed with my degree I joined the large defence contractor GEC-Marconi, now part of BAE Systems, working in Milton Keynes. It could have gone either way, but I slipped into the software side of things and avoided the dark art of hardware design. During my time with GEC-Marconi I mainly worked on airborne radar systems. Initially writing FORTRAN to run on DECs and C for VxWorks based embedded systems, I also had my first exposure to Windows programming with VB and C++.

Around 1995 I moved to Sony Broadcast & Professional in Basingstoke. Sony was a great place to work for anybody interested in the latest media technologies. The projects were varied and cutting edge. Again I worked in C for embedded systems and C++ for Windows development, though the balance was moving towards Windows. With Sony I started to use MFC, COM / DCOM and ATL. I also had my first exposure to databases, namely Oracle, SQL Server and the odd bit of Microsoft Access! Whilst GEC-Marconi had introduced me to a the idea of a development process (Yourdon SSADM) at Sony my personal development habits started to form. Towards the end of my time with Sony I was introduced to the Rational Objectory Process (later known as the Rational Unified Process). It wasn't quite Agile, but it seemed a lot more attuned to managing customer's changing requirements than the Waterfall technique of Yourdon.

In 1999 I left Sony to join Searchlight Systems (later renamed Kismet Studios). This was my "Internet start-up" experience. Based at the Old Truman Brewery in London, I experienced the joys of a daily commute into this nation's capital. I joined the company to get experience of programming for the internet. We developed a gaming system that even today is behind many online casinos. It was written in C++ for Windows. The atmosphere in the company was fantastic with game designers and developers working together closely. Whilst at Kismet, I had my first look at .Net as I investigated the Beta 2 release of the .Net Framework 1.0.

Unfortunately, as the Dot-com bubble burst, Kismet Studios downsized. I moved to the Financial Services division of CSC. I joined a department based in Twyford that developed the 3r Evolution CRM system. I wrote some Java for 3r, but for my first few years at CSC I mainly worked on other projects, for instance the company's intranet site. I spent my last two years working on a large implementation of 3r. During that time I was asked to identify and find solutions for performance issues. Performance had not been a major factor in my development career before then... what an eye opener that was! I keep in touch with the great people I met there.

Since 2005 I have been working for Distribution Technology. Initially this required me to return to the commuting rat race, but we are now based in Reading. We develop online financial planning software which is used by many of the UK and the world's major financial institutions. In the time I have been with them, the company has grown rapidly. By maintaining very high recruitment standards the team I work with are smart, well motivated and a good laugh... a great combination to provide day to day interest and job satisfaction. Our production systems are Microsoft throughout, so in the last few years I have mainly been working in C# and SQL Server.