Octopus Energy is made up of 3000+ fantastic people working on stuff you'd never expect, all pushing hard towards a shared goal: driving the global green energy revolution. In our Spotlight series, we'll introduce you to some of the brilliant people behind the scenes.
Today we are talking to Steph, the incredibly talented senior front-end engineer who's part of the team behind our sleek and simple Octopus web design. She is the reason our websites look and feel like Octopus from Japan to Texas. I had a chat with her to discuss all things design, tech and what it's like working at Octopus.
Steph is a senior frontend engineer, and she works on the codebase for our award-winning tech platform; Kraken. She's part of the team that keeps our UX seamless, consistently up to date and free of bugs. At Octopus, customer experience is holy.
Good tech is all about what the customer wants and needs, rather than some corporate checkbox system
Previously, she was an integral part of creating Project Coral: the blueprint of the Octopus’ digital brand identity.
After studying multimedia computing and programming at University, Steph zeroed in on web development as the thing she most loved. She started her tech career as a junior front-end engineer for digital agencies before moving on to new pastures.
I was attracted to Octopus because I love the ethos of the company. I’m an Octopus customer myself, and it’s refreshing to work for a company that cares so much about its customers and the environment
Steph was first hired at Octopus to work on Coral (we do love a nautical theme-related name), which is like a global design ‘tool kit’ for all Octopus websites. Coral basically helps enable a unified, universal ‘Octopus’ look, in terms of colour schemes, UI details and everything else that defines our brand online, wherever you are around the world. It’s crucial for our brand and our customers that it always feels like the Octopus you know.
My role essentially involved overhauling the old system, to pave way for the new
Everyone knew we had outgrown the old system, and welcomed the chance to start fresh with a clear, consistent design system and codebase’. The old system relied too heavily on an ever-growing library of design components that was growing more complex and difficult to use with each addition. ‘Last summer, I hunkered down and remade every single component from scratch, not using the old library. It was very, very satisfying, and it ended up being amazing for the project’.
With Steph’s effort, Coral is now more effective than ever with new features being added constantly; something that wouldn’t have been possible on the old system. Steph tells me overhauling the codebase is the project she’s the proudest of. ‘That's when I was happiest. I worked hard to fix it, and it was the right thing to do’.
Of course, with a project as gargantuan as that one, there are challenges. ‘I loved the tech side, but a big part of the role was talking to the various heads and developers across the different regions teaching them about Coral and the new system.
That regular communication is obviously super essential for this particular project, but I ultimately decided it was time for me to move on to a project where I could dedicate more time to coding. So I told my manager that it wasn't the right role for me and that importantly, I wasn't the right person for the role’.
'So I asked my manager for something new – now I'm happier than ever.’ Steph’s team focuses on the consumer facing side of our tech, from the sign up journey to the littlest details on the website. The team is growing exponentially and they recently hired their 16th member. ‘The team atmosphere is wonderful, everyone is so supportive of each other. It's like having a group of mates at work – though the Coral team were also the loveliest people that I've ever had the pleasure of working with’.
I’ve been through a lot this past year and everyone has been lovely and supportive of me. That creates a bond that motivates you to go on when things are really difficult
Steph on a day out with some colleagues
Steph discovered her trans identity last year, and came out during her first year at Octopus. ‘It must have been surprising to the team’ Steph laughs, ‘I just showed up one day looking different. Steph knew she needed to make a change, and whilst she worried her foundations might be shaken; she never worried about her experience at work. 'Octopus have been incredibly supportive, but it's been a journey.'
Our company ethos is all about respect and we don’t hire people that don’t honour people’s differences
She called her bosses into a meeting one afternoon, and told them she was transitioning and would like her name and email changed on the systems. ‘It was super easy and all done in a day. It was a little anticlimactic actually’, Steph giggles.
‘The team has become like family to me, and they were the ones that helped me come out to the rest of my social circle’.
Steph's relaxation technique: making awesome crochet pillows
I’m often told coming out as trans is brave, but it isn’t; it was just necessary.
"I know my experience isn’t universal, but for my own mental health I’ve had to take my distance from a lot of the discourse around trans people. Our identities are politicised, but I’m just a person who wants to exist. I want to live a stress-free life, without having to constantly fight for my existence. I didn’t choose to be in this body, but I exist and all I want is to be treated like everyone else."
I would never want to work for another company again, feeling so welcomed and valued has meant the world to me
Supporting your team also involves caring for their mental health and well being. Whilst it isn’t as visible, it’s as important: "I’ve received a lot of support with mental health days when I need them, and regular check ins. Sometimes you’re overwhelmed and not operating at your fullest capacity. So the key thing is to know that realising your limits and asking for help is a good thing. My bosses Matt and Ashley have just been amazing that way".
Tips for a career in tech
- Show your work.
Make a portfolio with your code, projects and work on Github to demonstrate your work to employers.
2. Be passionate.
Don’t be afraid to build something and have fun with it. Show your skills, passion and personality; that means more than some nebulous degree.
3. Use every resource.
The amount of free online tutorials learning platforms is staggering, so make the most of them. Resources like FreeCodeCamp, CodeAcademy and Sololearn are fantastic ways to learn in your free time.
Quick Fire Round
Any unusual skills or hobbies?
I absolutely love to crochet! I’m currently making some pokemon plushies!
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.
YOGSCAST on Youtube.
Favourite place in the world?
The nearest Costa Coffee
Journeying to Dusseldorf a few years ago with my bestie to see a magnificent symphonic orchestral concert, followed by one of the best burgers I’ve ever had!
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