5ive point 6ix

its all about the journey

About Me

James Buchanan, thirty something, London


A friendly and enthusiastic digital technology professional with over 15 years web software design, development and managerial experience. I am a fastidious problem solver who relishes discovering, learning and using new technology.

I love digital technology, learn quickly and possess a broad ranging understanding of web programming and the internet. I am inspired by working on stimulating and exciting cutting edge projects with a team of like-minded, driven and, most importantly, fun individuals.

I am great at communicating concepts, refining requirements and developing pragmatic specifications with stakeholders especially with those of varying technical prowess. I like to share knowledge and am happy to coach others.

I am currently employed as a Solution Architect for Tesco Online Technologoy, one of the worlds largest online grocery retailers.

Contact   Experience

Random

Perfecting pizza

I always like to have some sort of project on the go: At the moment I am learning to make the best home made pizza possible using a wood fired oven and my own cheese!

Just for fun

Hobbies, toys and experiments. An insight into what makes me tick.


Photography

I gained a love of photography from my father and have more than 10,000 photos online going back to the 70’s.
For a challenge I took part in a year-long 365 project which involved taking a photo every day for a whole year - an amazing and rewarding challenge. Most of my photos are private but you can find some of my public photo projects on flickr.

Recreation

I can't claim to be a health freak, but I do love competitve sports and am always up for a game of table tennis or pool. I play disc golf - which is like golf but with a frisbee instead of clubs and balls - and am an active member of Croydon disc golf club. It's a great way to keep fit and get out into the countryside. I'm still crap... more practice required.

Tinkering

Over the years I have cobbled together a number of websites, iOS apps and bits and pieces in my free time (aka commuting). Most of my published apps were built either to satisfy my own curiosity (Match Batch, Crags), to fulfil a need (NoteBrainer and Mobius) or for the community (CDGC). You can find out more about my apps here.



Cuisine

I enjoy cooking for family and friends and am currently trying to learn perfect pizza using my own home made cheese and wood fired oven.

Of course, I also like being cooked for, and enjoy (occasional) fine dining in fancy restaurants with my wife. Some of my favourite restaurants are The Whitebrook, Gidleigh Park (under Michael Caines) and Murano.

Science

A scientist and engineer at heart. I like to know how things work and how to fix them again after I break them. I love innovative and new technologies and am known to have the odd gadget or two - some of which get use, and others... less so. Space travel and exploration particularly captivate my imagination and I read a lot of science fiction to get closer to the stars. Nearer to the ground I am facinated by how the earth is formed and how the passage of time affects this place we call home.

Travel

Sometimes I just like to sit in the sunshine by the pool and read a good book. When I am feeling more adventurous though I like to get out and explore the country side. A recent magical trip was to western USA where my wife and I drove over 2,500 miles through unbelievable natural landscapes. I love to ski, enjoying the crisp mountain air and comforts of cake and an open fire after a long day. Closer to home I enjoy the occasional weekend camping (as long as there is a real camp fire) and walks around our local countryside.

Experience and expertise

Some insight into the technology, strategies and concepts I have encountered and experienced professionally


Solution design

I have been designing digital solutions my entire career focused chiefly on web based consumer applications on the internet. My main strengths resolve around being able to understand, balance and clearly articulate both requirements and solutions. I try to listen and understand before making decisions or offering advice. I don't live in an ivory tower: I am never afraid to change course and re-engineer when required. I believe it is important to clearly document and summarise information and find tools such as UML, if used carefully, essential in recording and communicating concise information in an understandable manner. Im known for my diagrams - you cant beat a good diagram!

Web development

Javascript is well and trully back in fashion. One of the primary projects I am currently working with involves using node.js coupled with the excellent React library to transform the online shopping experience for Tesco. Web development has changed significantly from when I first started out: Gone are the days where javascript and css needed to be carefully (and painfully) curated for individual browser quirks. Whilst I am no longer at the coal face of client side CSS and HTML I do keep abreast of developments and remain engaged with developers particularly server side


Cloud Infastructure

I have worked with Amazon AWS to design and build cloud based infrastructure for development, testing and production. I love the way infrastructure is no longer constrained by unreliable hardware, purchasing lead times and wacky sysads. I have completed an Amazon accredited Architecting AWS but this is barely significant compared to the extensive experience I have aquired building enterprise infrastructure for Tesco. I have had some experience with Azure and Heroku too; they're ok.

Containerisation

Container based deployments are a hot topic in the world of virtualised environments and services. I have experience with both Docker and the Amazon container services platform. This is a great way to ship code reliably across environments and I am excited by the prospect of moving to server-less deployments such as those offered by the lambda AWS service.


Infrastructure as Code

Cloud infrastructure is tough to keep on top of. Managing it with code not only simplifies the management but also provides ample auditing, traceability and roll back potential. I really like the way tools such as Terraform allow us to build comprehensive, immutable, provider-agnostic infrastructure on which we can make real-time delta changes without down time. My jaw hit the floor when I first saw what it could do. I now use it every day to reliably manage all our AWS environments.

Agile development

Agile development can only be possible when the entire process from beginning to end supports the rapid development, prototyping, deployment and testing of code. I have developed and helped drive adoption of automated code-driven build pipelines using Jenkins and hosted solutions such as CircleCI. These tools allow incredibly rapid code, test and deploy cycles. Couple these with collaboration tools like Jira and Slack allow a development team can produce more to a higher quality than ever before.


Programming

I believe you can only be great at a programming language if you are using it daily. Whilst I do not claim to be an expert coder in any one language I have had broad experience of all sorts of programming languages. I can generally pick up new concepts and syntax quickly and start using them to build things straight away. I can usuually get something useful working pretty quick! Some of the languages and scripting technologies I have used in the past include Pascal, Z (never, ever again... please), C & C++, Delphi, ActionScript, PHP, Perl, Javascript (client and server), Java, Appcelerator, Swift, Objective-c, Bash, Regex, x-Path, XML, Obyx, Medusa, x86 Assembly, Basic, Varnish VCL, Visual Basic, Apache, Nginx, SQL, even C64 and spectrum back in the day.

Native mobile

I like the iOS ecosystem and the opportunities it has provided to developers. I support the mobile app teams at Tesco, have coded for fun for many years on the platform and have released a variety of different apps over the years. As an early adopter I had to struggle through poor objective-c documentation and reference code. It was a challenge, but things are easier now with Swift and multiple javascript frameworks like PhoneGap and Appcelerator (with which I have also published some apps with).


Database and NoSQL

I am well versed in traditional 'SQL' relational database technology with many years of experience in designing, building, optimising and maintaining databases supporting web applications. I enjoy the purity, elegance and logic of relational databases and would love to explore further the new territory provided by alternative paradigms like noSQL and big data. I have some experience wih elasticsearch and Hadoop but would love to gain more.

Server technology

I have been using *nix since university, some 20 or so years, and so am at home with a command line interface and the common linux applications and commands. I been using web servers almost as long and have considerable experience with the Apache web server. More recently nodejs has been at the forefront. I find most of the key concepts and abilities of Apache are mirrored in other server software like IIS and nginx. It will be interesting to see how these client server architectures evolve as their space is invaded by modern application servers and server-less design.


Internet technology

I am often suprised by how few people really understand how the internet works. It is so important to grasp what is going on beneath and I have extensive experience working at detail with all the layers of networking including the core transport protocols, DNS, SMTP, SSL and TLS encryption, TCP/IP, etc. I find having a good understanding of all these core techologies helps when desiging secure software that relies upon them.

API's & Microservices

I have considerable experience designing RESTful API's in service orientated architectures and also have experience consuming and dealing with the challenges service consumption can have on application performance and reliability. I have significant experience with Apigee API manager having designed, built and automated Tesco's API portal. I like the way microservices can empower teams to focus on excellence by reducing the problem space into easily manageable chunks. I think demand driven data schemes such as that offered by GraphQL could really change they way we look at data APIs.


Analytics and monitoring

How do we know if its any good if we are not measuring? I firmly believe that the best decisions are made with the best information and it is critical to monitor and measure everything about a site or application. I love to crunch data using a plethora of tools but Splunk and New Relic are my favourites that I use extensiviely for root cause and log analysis. I also love a good regular expression and you should see what I can do in Excel! Information is power: instrument everything!

Content management

If ever there was a more divisive and misunderstood term then 'content management' would be up there. I have spent many years working with managed content, playing an instrumental role in the design and build of 'Builder' the content management system used by Red Snapper. I have experience with many other content management systems such as Wordpress, Drupal and the god-awful Teamsite.

Employment History

I have been employed at Tesco since 2014 and have enjoyed a variety of Solution Architect roles within the online technology business. Before that I worked and was director for web agency Red Snapper.


Solution Architect, Online and Mobile Apps

Tesco, February 2017 to present

Supporting all aspects of the technical design and build of a new breed of native mobile apps. Additionally overseeing design and implementation of API gateway, realtime application business metric monitoring, abstracted analytics data modeling and infrastructure design and monitoring.


Solution Architect, UK Groceries Online

Tesco, January 2016 January 2017

Primarily focused on supporting the re-platforming of the UI tier from legacy IIS/.Net to nodejs/react. Design and build of multi-region code-managed cloud infrastructure, development of CI/CD platform and virgin implementation of APM and monitoring tools enabling devops run support. Incident data analysis specialist.


Solution Architect, International Groceries Online

Tesco, August 2014 - December 2015

Scoping, designing and building features for Tesco's multi-lingual, multi-tenant international home delivery website. Lead architect supporting the development of API's and infrastructure to enable re-platforming from legacy IIS/.Net to nodejs/React.


Operations Director

Red Snapper Ltd, July 2012 - June 2014

Planning, strategy and implementation of operations across the web agency. I was tasked with developing processes for improving the working practices and general operations of all staff and departments and was involved in the running of the business supporting the other directors with development plans, sales and strategy. Amomgst technical duties I assisted with the creation of sales and finance forecasting model and successfully launched new working practices, appraisal processes and staff pensions provision.


Web Application Developer

Red Snapper Ltd, 2000 - 2007

Originally working as a traditional traditional web developer, which in those days meant coalface involvement with raw Javascript, HTML4 and a flavour of CSS best forgotten. I developed a good understanding of how the web works during this time and accumulated a firm grounding in front-end and back-end development as well as an appreciation of the merits of working within a team of developers.

Later responsibilities involved the analysis, design and implementation of bespoke web-based SQL-driven functionality and applications. I played an instrumental role in developing requirements and defining specifications of web applications for a broad range of clients. I took technical leadon jobs, which inevitably required regular direct involvement with clients in order to discuss and determine their requirements.


And the rest...

I worked throughout my University years. I managed a student bar which was excellent fun, supervised in the warehouse at Comet, ran the back door and night shift at Sainsbury's and filled doughnuts in the in-store bakery.


BSc Computer Science, First Class

University of Reading

A fantastic course that I thoroughly enjoyed. I especially enjoyed the aspects of artificial intelligence and automation.

Apps

A litte bit of information about the apps I have built in my free time. just for fun.


NoteBrainer

I originally created this app back in 2009 to help me learn sheet music when I started playing the piano. There were no apps on the store then that offered what I wanted so I decided to create one. I released both a free and paid pro version of the app written in objective-c. Times were hard in those days with sparse documentation and limited examples. In 2017 I rebuilt the app entireley in Swift 3 for iOS 10. I have learnt objective-c and swift building this app - but sadly my piano playing is still pretty ropey!

View on the App Store

App Website


Mobius

I wrote this app as I was struggling to learn a tune on the piano and wanted to find an app that repeated small segments of the music. There wasn’t anything like that available at the time so I decided to build my own. There are better apps now available and I have discontinued this app as it is so old and doesnt play well with the latest operating systems. It was fun whilst it lasted.

Discontinued


Croydon Disc Golf

A course guide and scorecard for Croydon Disc Golf club. The app allows players to record and communicate their scores as well as naviagate around the course. It uses satellite information to locate tees and baskets (well sort of, not in the Russian spy sense). Its a great companion for the game and part of Croydon’s push to become a world player in the disc golf scene. (Built with Appcelerator)

View on the App Store


Crags

When I started climbing I built this app as a way to learn the Appcelerator framework. It allows climbers to log their climbs, taking photos and annotating the climbing routes. It also includes a web share option. I rarely climb these days so this app is clinging on – its still popular in the climbing world.

Discontinued, iOS11 killed it.


Match Batch

A simple game written using the cocos-2d framework and objective-c as a kids learning tool. Originally free, I re-released this as a paid app to raise money for the SANDS Charity. It is now free again and looking a bit tired! The best bit about this game is the animal noises – kids love it! Sadly I do not have the time or original resources to 'retinize' all the original graphics so I fear there's only a bit of life left in this one. What I really learnt on this project was that making a game is one thing, getting anyone to download it (let alone pay for it) is a whole other problem.

Discontinued - it got booted by Apple for not having been updated for so long and because it did not support retina graphics or modern form factors :(


Puttz! (web app)

Whist I was learning the excellent React framework I read about a training drill for disc golf that required you to keep track of your score. I built this app whilst working abroad to see what could be done in a single day using the amazing React JS framework. Its a web-app, but it sort of works!

Try the app in your browser

Get in touch


If you would like to contact me
drop me an email to james@5point6.net
or direct message me on twitter to @twocups
Im also on LinkedIn (who isnt?)

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