How I got here: Adam Emmott, software engineer

I’ve been working with Footasylum for around 4 years now but like some of the others who are now in the Tech team, I didn’t join in a tech role. I actually started in the warehouse.

I left school at 16. I didn’t go to college or university. I went straight into ‘unskilled’ work. I worked in various warehouses, and just before I joined Footasylum I was picking and packing goods for a massive company. The work was ok, it was what I expected: I went in, had a laugh and joke, I met my target for the day and I went home. It was that, on repeat, for 8 – sometimes 12 – hours a day.

After 2 years working there my mental health began to fail. I don’t know why but I began to experience anxiety attacks (super embarrassing at the time). As a society, we have a much better understanding and are generally more sympathetic to mental health issues today, but at the time, this particular workplace showed zero compassion.

The lack of understanding led to increased anxiety and I got trapped in a vicious circle.

Until I was asked to leave because of it.

Fighting for better standards 💪

The next part of my ‘how I got here’ story spanned around a year. I took my former employer to court because I believed I’d been dismissed unfairly.

I won the tribunal on all counts.

It was the hardest thing I’ve done, partly because ➡️I represented myself.⬅️ I stood in opposition to specialist employment solicitors from a big company, and I made a stand against insensitive, outdated attitudes to mental health. I sincerely hope that the case set a new precedent for the way staff would be treated in the future. During that time, it became very clear to me how much I value being valued – as a human being and not just as a cog in a much bigger machine.

Not long after that ordeal, I joined the Footasylum warehouse.

In demand and happy to help 🌟

I wasn’t working in the Footasylum warehouse for long before I was asked to join the quality control team, and it wasn’t long after that that I got promoted again to the admin person on the internet department, then team leader and finally supervisor. Hard work doesn’t go unnoticed.

At this point I was fixing the printers pretty regularly and picked up other techy tasks that it wasn’t really anybody’s job to do and I landed an interview with the IT support team. I’d always tinkered with PCs and my enthusiasm must have gone down well because I was actually offered the job mid-way through the interview.

😎 That felt so good.

A passing comment turned into an opportunity

Since I’d started in IT support I had much more visibility of what the Tech team was working on. I liked the idea that there was now this team who were dedicated to improving systems that would help colleagues in our stores. I got chatting to IT Director Paul Martin at the Christmas do and asked how software engineers become software engineers and I said that it sounded like a rewarding job.

A week later, Paul emailed me and asked if I’d be interested in learning to code at Code Nation. The training would be funded by Footasylum.

Of course, I jumped at the chance. But it wasn't just the free training and the opportunity for 12 months on-the-job learning that sold it to me. I liked the fact that I'd expressed an interest in something, someone had listened, and they'd taken a leap of faith in me. I felt a long way away from being that cog in a machine in the other warehouse.

Change in culture

I'd got used to the warehouse culture. You came in, you did your job, you left. There wasn't much variation on that and there wasn't much need for collaboration either. There was always a high turnover of staff too which meant that relationships were kind of fleeting and there wasn’t time to establish deep trust. All of this is fine but it's just very different to working in a tech team.

In Footasylum Tech, the flexibility really struck me. I can do the school run without eyebrows being raised. I can take a last minute week off without a grumble and (at a safe distance) spend it with my Nan who got coronavirus. Here, the assumption is that I’m committed to my team and doing the best job I can at all times. That level of trust makes it impossible to have a bad attitude and not return the favour when it comes to flexibility. If a little more is needed, I’m happy to give it. There’s a lot of give and take – it comes down to having mutual respect.

3 months training , 12 months learning on the job

The 3 months of 9-5pm at Code Nation was a general introduction to front-end, back-end and how everything fits together – it helped me connect the puzzle parts. We mainly worked on learning javascript.

After that, I continued my learning in the Footasylum Retail team. We’re responsible for the till systems in store and we’re working on various new features. For example, at the moment colleagues can only sign on to tills as a cashier or a manager which isn’t great for security or accountability. We’re figuring out a way that each person will have their own sign in.

Support when I need it

I have Ian Wells as my mentor and we spend Tuesday afternoons improving my java skills. I’m actually working towards my Oracle Certified Associate (OCA) certification (again, paid for by Footasylum).

For more day-to-day challenges I pair with Ian and principal engineer Chris Reason. Most recently we’ve worked together on building various cloud-based apps like logic apps, APIs and function apps to query, map, rebuild and upload items to Azure cosmos databases.

I’m nearly at the end of my year-long apprenticeship. I'm now in a 'skilled' job, I have great prospects, and even though I'm still training, I'm earning more money than before. I’ve learnt loads, but there’s still so much to get my head round. The attitude to learning here is great though. There’s none of that senior school mockery for wanting to learn – learning and asking questions is encouraged because the Tech team wants each colleague to grow.

I love that. ❤️

Adam Emmott Software engineer