Talk to a Tykling: Andy Smith, Consulting Engineer

Meet the team – getting to know Andy Smith, Consulting Engineer

Tyk pours a lot of work into helping to make things better. And to make things, better. We pool a whole load of technical knowledge from some super-smart people in order to do what we do. But who are those people? Where do they hail from and how do they fit together to make the Tyk magic happen?

In this series of interview posts, we’re talking to our ‘Tyklings’ to get to know them – what they do, where they’re based and what they get up to in their spare time.

Today, it’s Andy Smith’s turn. Andy is a Consulting Engineer who ditched an early career counting bricks in favour of messing around with computers – a choice which eventually led him to be part of Tyk. Let’s grab a coffee and get to know Andy a bit better.

What do you do at Tyk?

I’ve recently joined Tyk as a Consulting Engineer. I’ve been here for about four months so far, so I’m still new. My role is to serve as a bridge between the users and the engineers. I support users while they’re getting to know the Tyk solutions, dealing with any questions, giving demos and supporting them to evaluate the service. I then deliver ongoing support to those users who sign up – at the moment, at least, as there’s scope for the role to be split in two.

Will you be travelling as part of your role?

Travel will certainly be a part of my role going forward. So far, I’ve travelled to see a user about a mile down the road from Tyk’s office in Shoreditch, but I’ll be going further afield over the coming weeks and months. I think Luxembourg is going to be first on the agenda.

Where are you usually based?

I’m still figuring that out at the moment! I think it will end up being a mix of working in the office and working from home. I like working from home – I’ve been home-based for a few years – but I also enjoy the opportunity of going into the office, especially as I’ve just started at Tyk. It’s good to go into the office and get to know people. I think it should balance out at two days in the office and three at home, but we’ll see!

In terms of your role, or the industry more widely, is there a particular problem that you wish you could fix?

I’ve worked for other companies that work in this space and over the past few years I’ve heard customers asking for products that are easy to use and fit in with their automated DevOps pipelines. Many vendors will claim this is true of their products, but that might not always be the reality.  Tyk’s solution is a very modern, cloud native platform which fits in very well with current ways of working and automation needs.

Also, in other companies that I’ve worked for, when potential users wanted to evaluate the product, the company would want to control the evaluation process really tightly, so see use cases upfront and have everything really tightly documented. At Tyk, it’s much more about doing things at the potential user’s pace. That might mean letting them do things largely on their own, just pinging us the odd question. Or it could mean more intensive support. Either way is fine – it’s about fitting with the client’s pace.

I think the fact that it’s a much more usable solution makes it easier – you don’t need bespoke training, it’s easy to install… it’s a much more consumable product.

What led you to Tyk in the first place?

I grew up in West Yorkshire. About halfway through my A Levels, I realised that I was taking subjects because I felt like I should have been taking them, not because I was that interested in them. Most of my friends had gone out to work instead of doing A Levels, so I decided to ditch my studies and head out into the world to make some money.

My first job was as a trainee quantity surveyor, so I ended up working as well as studying part-time. I took on a technical qualification – I can’t remember now whether they were called BTECs or Higher National Diplomas back then – as well as a part-time degree.

It was exhausting! I was also facing the realisation that once you have to start working, you don’t usually get to stop until you’re 65. So I reassessed, packed in the job and went off to university in Sheffield. The idea of a few years off work and having fun was very appealing!

I chose an IT degree, purely because I liked mucking around with computers. I had an old Spectrum that I enjoyed playing around with. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but IT seemed a natural choice given how much I enjoyed computers.

After leaving uni, it was time to re-enter the world of work in the tech sector. I moved down to London straight after uni, having applied for a role with a company called Sema, and attending two days of interviews and workshops in London. It turned out the role was actually a joint venture between Sema and British Aerospace; it was a defence role working on command and control systems for nuclear submarines. Definitely not where I thought I was going to end up!

I have to say, the onboarding experience was just superb. We had to write a simulator for a sonar system – search and destroy-type stuff. The office was based in New Malden, but we spent six weeks training in Covent Garden, which was good fun.

I know it’s early days, but what do you like about working at Tyk so far?

I like how laid back and informal it feels. I’ve worked for companies before where I’ve known almost from day one that the role wasn’t right for me – with everyone suited and booted and lots of procedure and politics. There’s probably some politics at Tyk but I certainly haven’t seen any evidence of that yet. In fact, I haven’t found any negatives yet!

Tyk’s wonderfully informal. The people are really smart and driven – everybody! Nobody’s prepared to settle for the way things are, they’re always looking to improve, whether the documentation, process or something else. 

I also like the fact it’s remote-first. I might be going into the office a couple of days a week, but that’s my choice. Not having to waste two or three hours a day on a packed tube or stuck in traffic is nice! I’ve been for a run this morning, which is the first time I’ve done that in a long time! It took about 15 minutes to get into it, but I did eventually and now I’ve done it I feel alive! I feel like I have to run to stay in shape, but it’s normally at the weekends. 

As a new starter, what are your tips for getting the best out of a remote-first organisation?

Be clear on expectations. Struggling with expectations can be amplified in a remote-first company. We use Slack to communicate, for example, and it can be easy to misunderstand the urgency of something or what somebody is feeling. Somebody asked me to do something on Slack last week, so I pulled out all the stops to get it done instantly. It turned out it was actually an ‘if you feel like it and if you have the time’ type of request! 

I think you also have to find a balance between working life and home life. Switching off notifications is something I would recommend if you struggle to unplug yourself from work in the evenings. It’s down to personal choice – you’re not expected to be on call 24 hours per day!

In terms of your career, what is a mistake that you made and what did you learn from it?

It was when I was working for British Aerospace. After two or three years in London I got notions of buying a flat and decided that London was too expensive. It’s funny, London is known for being expensive but when I first moved down from the North and found out what I would have to pay for rent I couldn’t believe it! So, I started thinking about buying a place, but decided it was way too much. I moved back North, swearing that I was done with London and wouldn’t be going back. 

Of course, it didn’t really take that long until I did go back. Well, it was a few years later. The lesson? Don’t leave London, because coming back it will seem even more expensive! If only I’d taken the plunge when I was here the first time… but the only reason I left was to buy a place. 

What are the values that drive you personally and how do they fit with the Tyk culture?

I like to keep learning. One of the reasons I joined Tyk was the opportunity to learn some new skills. IT is always moving and I felt like I was getting a little bit stale. I knew that at Tyk I would immediately have to learn some new languages and technologies to do the job, so it allows me to keep learning now and longer-term, as the product is constantly evolving. 

I also wanted to be involved in a company that’s going places and feel a sense of belonging, of being part of something. 

The other thing I’ve demonstrated throughout my career is a ‘can do’ attitude. That sounds a bit cheesy, but I hope it will serve me well at Tyk! 

What are your three favourite books or podcasts?

I’ve only ever listened to one podcast. It was called My Dad Wrote a Porno and it was very, very funny. It was quite famous at the time. 

I tend to read a fair few blogs related to my profession (such as Nordic API’s) and follow people who share relevant content on LinkedIn. I’ve also taken a couple of courses on Udemy recently… 

In terms of books, I like to read fiction. Crime, mainly. I’ve read the Stieg Larsson Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series a few times. I also recently discovered Stephen King’s novel, The Outsider, so I started reading a bunch of his latest books. I used to love his horror novels when I was younger and it’s been good to rediscover his books.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working, other than reading and running?

I play a bit of tennis, though I’m sort of broken at the moment, so I’ll start that up again once I can put myself back together! I actually joined a tennis club in West London, where I live, as a way to meet people when I moved here, but then really got into it. I love it. I haven’t played for months but am almost ready to get back to it. I’m no good, but I enjoy it! 

I also watch a lot of TV – Netflix, of course! In fact, I probably spend far too much time in front of the TV…