The Day Shift: Chris Northwood

The Day Shift: Meet Chris Northwood, Culture Shift’s Head of Development

What type of relationship do you have with the organisation you work for? Is it transactional or is there a more emotive and meaningful pull that inspires your contribution?

From the day we started Culture Shift, we outlined the importance of building a positive working environment. One that reflected the type of culture we’re helping our customers create… one that is safe, happy and supportive.

We’re a small but growing team, and each member of the team is valued - not only for their contribution to the cause but for who they are. It may be a cliche, but we’re proud to have a family-feel to the team.

And like all families, we’re proud of each other. Which is why we wanted to use our blog to shine the spotlight on the people that make this a great place to work - The Day Shifters.

First up is Head of Development Chris Northwood, who joined the business as a freelancer in May 2019 and played a pivotal role in the launch of version 2 of Report + Support (the original name for the Culture Shift platform).

Less than a year later, Chris was offered and, to our delight, accepted a permanent position in the team. We nabbed Chris for a quick chat about his role, his passions and what it means to be part of Culture Shift.

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Hi Chris. You’re head of development at Culture Shift. What does that involve day-to-day?

Days are pretty varied. I can be working on sessions to develop and refine our product roadmap. Testing prototypes of new features with our customers to check they meet our user's needs. Or giving technical guidance to the developers to help guide the products being built. I can go from developing strategy in the morning to getting stuck into bug fixes in the afternoon!

What originally drew you to a career in programming?

When I was younger I used to really enjoy the mental challenge of programming - coming up with ways of solving a problem and then expressing that in code as elegantly as possible. As I moved through my career, I realised that it was also satisfying to not only build elegant structures of code, but to make people's life better through building the right code. I try to combine elegant user experiences with high quality code.

You're the author of The Full Stack Developer. What can you tell us about the book?

The Full Stack Developer incorporates a bit of everything I've learnt across my career. Many software development books are focused purely on the technical skills, but one of the things I've discovered is that a strong understanding of the technical fundamentals of the web makes it easy to learn new tools and skills in this rapidly evolving landscape. 

Modern software development is also a team sport, and a developer will be working with people such as designers, testers and the wider business. So the book combines the non-technical skills of understanding the basics of the roles of your teammates, with these fundamental technologies that should set the reader up for the long term.

You’ve gone from being a freelancer to now a permanent member of the team. What does it mean to you to be part of a company that’s trying to lead positive change in organisational culture?

Wanting to leave a positive legacy in the world is one of my biggest drivers. Previously the work I was most proud of was the work I did for BBC Bitesize. It was immensely rewarding to know I was helping kids learn and pass their exams, especially as a decade or so earlier, I was in the same boat! 

At Culture Shift, it's brought into sharp focus some of the injustice out there, and I'm proud to be able to help tackle them.

What’s your favourite thing about working here?

Culture Shifters are a forward-thinking, trusting lot. My colleagues empower me to do the best job I can do without having to constantly second guess myself, and don't judge me when I make mistakes, and I know that they're doing the best job they can too. Collectively, we challenge each other to improve.

Culture Shift has three core values that reflect what we stand for. What would you say is one of your own personal values?

I always try to act with empathy, trying not to assume malice in someone but to understand where they're coming from rather than jump to conclusions. As someone who lives with Asperger's syndrome (on the autistic spectrum), empathy was not always something that came easy to me and it's a learned skill, so it's one I try to practice as much as I can as it's a strength I'm proud of.

As well as writing books, you also enjoy reading them. What would you recommend we read next?

I recently read Rutger Bregman's Humankind: A Hopeful History, which is a non-fiction book that challenges many negative assumptions people have about humanity, and gives hope for how we collectively can continue to keep building better societies.

It’s on the list! What about technologies, apps or platforms; is there anything you would be loathed to live without?

Over the course of my life I've gone from having no Internet connection, to a slow connection through a modem for a couple of hours a night, to an always one at home, to being constantly connected everywhere I go, even abroad. Although the Internet has been used for bad, the connectivity of people and information has never been greater, and websites like Wikipedia are amongst the greatest things humanity has ever produced.

Finally, if you could change one other thing about the world (beside's Culture Shift’s vision: a world of work and study that is safe, happy and supportive for everyone, everywhere) what would it be?

I think oftentimes people are scared to take bold steps through a fear of losing out - and that empowering someone else or another group of people can mean that you have to lose something else in exchange. But often it's not a zero-sum game, and making things a lot better for someone else can mean making things a little better for yourself too.

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If you’d like to know more about Chris’s work or have an interest in joining the Culture Shift team, please do get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.

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