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Nortal Spotlight: Mick Sexton

by Nortal cloud team, December 19, 2020

In our final employee spotlight of the year, we interviewed Mick Sexton, one of our highly driven Software Engineers, about his background and highlights of 2020.

How did you get into software engineering?

“I was in software sales for about 10 years and pretty much as soon as I got into it, I was interested in the technical side of things. I took some night classes in C++ at a community college, then did coding as a hobby for a while. A few years ago, I decided that I wanted to make software development my full-time job. I liked programming, designing software, and solving problems, so I ended up enrolling in a bootcamp and completing an internship. I gradually worked my way up in the industry and that’s how I got to where I am now.”

Which technologies are your favorite to work with? 

“I work primarily with Java and Spring frameworks, and because these technologies have been industry standards there are tons of tools available. There is a lot you can do with them in terms of enterprise applications and a lot of documentation available on the internet. They are my favorite for those reasons. I tend to gravitate towards back-end instead of front-end tools and technologies. I like tools and frameworks that are easily extensible so you aren’t pigeonholed into using them in a certain way.”

What made you join Nortal? 

“I found Nortal online before the Dev9 acquisition. The company was working at the WeWork office in downtown Bellevue and they were looking for a Java Developer. I looked into the work Nortal was doing in Estonia with regards to digital government and I thought the projects were really cool. I went in, interviewed, and did a lot of grueling technical exercises. Then I got to know the team pretty well and talked to Oleg Shvaikovsky. I remember he had so much enthusiasm and passion for Nortal. I specifically remember him talking about blockchain and X-Road. Nortal seemed like a very open minded culture that supported all kinds of people, and also as a place I could really grow.”

What is your favorite part of your current project?

“What I like the most would be the amount of change and learning opportunities there are in the project. It’s constantly changing at a pretty brisk pace. The client rolls out a lot of initiatives, so even when you work on one team, there are new tasks coming up all the time. I’ve always found something interesting to work on and I think that’s really cool.”

Which traits do you think are the most important for success in software engineering? What about technology leadership? 

“Within software engineering, it’s crucial to be a self-starter, constant learner, and to know when to ask for help. I think being a clear communicator is also really essential since we are consultants. We have project deliverables but we also have to voice our opinions that help guide stories and projects a certain way. This means clarifying requirements, asking a lot of questions, and uncovering concerns with the client as we go along, since this could impact how we build on top of that feature in the future. Airing out all concerns and grievances early on makes the development process more straightforward.

In terms of technology leadership, it’s important to drive team conversations to come up with better solutions. The first solution that comes up is not always the best, so having a team dynamic that elicits different perspectives from team members is imperative. Building clients’ trust is also crucial. While this takes time, if you learn your clients fears and pain points then you can anticipate their concerns. This makes it easier to be on the same page with them.”

What is the most challenging aspect of your job? What is the most rewarding?

“The most challenging would be probably getting the client to understand the need to make certain changes and have them be open to ideas that would be best for the project in general. I think our clients can be very risk-averse because of past production issues, which makes them hold back from anything that looks like too much change. Explaining proposals in a way that addresses their fear of change is really important. When clients don’t understand the benefits of certain ideas then they can pick things apart during meetings. Anticipating their fears can help save time in the long run.

The most rewarding part of my job is the constant learning because I love learning new technologies and concepts. When I am not working, I am reading or taking up a new hobby such as music or programming. Even when I revisit a technology I thought I knew, I love going back and having those moments of deeper understanding. That is really exciting to me.”

What are you most excited about for 2021 in terms of projects? 

“This year we were all divided into specialized teams, so I’ve been able to work in other domains and take up cross-functional stories that are out of my wheelhouse. My hope is that I am able to do more of that in 2021. Whether it’s a challenging story or a different project, I like getting exposed to new areas of learning within software development.”

What holiday traditions are you looking forward to this year while we are all quarantining?

“Just spending time with my family, going away for a couple days, and laying low. I have a wife and daughter that is 15 months old so it’s been nice to quarantine this year since my daughter is so young.”

If you’re interested in working at Nortal, visit our careers page. To learn more about Mick and his background, visit his LinkedIn profile.

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