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Rob Campbell, Head of Prague Technology Center

A developer's view of Barclays

As someone who’s come from a developer background, worked at a Start Up and now manages developer teams for what you might call a big corporate, I guess I’ve seen both sides of the tech career world.

I joined Barclays in 2012 in Prague. We were really starting to invest in talent at that point and everything had that “new car” exciting sort of feel. I think that’s why I joined, it was the chance to be in at the start of something. I could see the opportunities. And even though we’ve grown so much since then, I still think there’s an element of that that exists today.

Big challenges

There’s no denying that we’re big. And it’s that scale that I think offers developers the chance to do something really special. I look around the tech industry as a whole and I see tons of places where you can build your average web or mobile application. And that can be great.

But when you look at the scales of those things – a relatively small number of people are going to be guaranteed to download or use it. And whether you’re measuring success by the number of users or the amount of transactions or the amount of money that flows through it, it is usually very small scale – which often reflects the market itself.

At Barclays, you'll find systems that require petabytes of storage a month. You'll find systems that require thousands of compute nodes. You'll find systems where they need to use GPUs. You'll find systems where you facilitate billions of transactions or billions of dollars flow through something you built, or tens of thousands of the world's top money managers use your system regularly.

Not only is that rewarding from a professional aspect but I think that sort of scale comes with a lot of very interesting technology challenges. You can't just build a web app and then expect to have that level of performance and scale. It has very distinct, interesting technology challenges associated with it.

Big opportunity

When you think of working somewhere like Barclays, you’ve got to consider where it sits from a technological perspective. Now compared to the tech powerhouses, we obviously don’t have the products – but what we do have is the talent, the willingness to invest and the appetite for new ideas. Which means there’s a whole lot of opportunity. This is a place where there's a lot of voids to fill, a lot of work that should be done that just no one's doing. So if you're motivated, if you're proactive and you start doing those things, we are very, very good at progressing your career in terms of your role, responsibility, compensation.

We have someone working here. One of our grads. Very talented. Very capable. Now we always had a sense here that we're sitting on a huge amount of unstructured data and weren't fully utilizing it. For example, for our Investment Banking clients, we create a lot of content; articles, white papers. And when they log on to the portal, they can see it. But there was no way of them knowing which articles to choose – classic information discovery problem.

Anyway, long story short, he ended up taking a prototype, a very, very earlier stage recommended prototype that we had been playing with, which was looking at applying the behavioural recommendation techniques that big retail uses to our research. He completely re-engineered it, using the latest in open source libraries and frameworks to make a robust, highly available system. After showing senior technology management, senior business management, and basically getting people excited about it, he eventually got it into production. Now it's on the homepage of Barclays Live – plus they're looking to apply it to other areas like sales too.

Now I’m not saying that happens every day. But it does happen. And it’s that sort of thing that makes this such an exciting place to work. You can join here. You can make an impact. You can suggest ideas. And if they’re good, not only do you get to develop the idea, you also get the support to develop yourself.

Always developing

I have a very robust system, by which an engineer can move roles and keep learning. So for example, if I'm a Java engineer and I just get tired of Java and I want to try something new and I'm interested in mobile development, at most companies you'd have to leave the company to make that sort of dramatic technology shift. Here, very often you can just move within the company. We have a dedicated internal team that helps to facilitate that. I have a developer on my team who started as a .NET developer, moved to Java, then moved to JavaScript, now is doing IOS development for iPhones. That kind of horizontal movement is supported, it's possible and it can help you grow as a professional.

So if you’re looking for a place with opportunity that can be matched by challenge and investment – and I’m talking both in terms of in the technology and career progression – Barclays is definitely something you should consider.

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