Posted by Umber Creative 09/08/2019

Meet Tom, our Technical Director

We have a great team here at Umber Creative, who work really hard to do a stellar job for our clients. We wouldn’t be where we are today without them! So, we want you to get to know them a little better, find out what makes them tick, what they love about their job and finally settle the age old debate on how to make a good old brew.

Tom is probably one of the smartest people we know. Not only has he worked for some big name accounts at agencies in London and Harrogate, he also studied for a Ph.D. before joining the Umber Creative team. He has great taste in music (ahem) and has strong opinions on mobile phone use in cinemas. Let’s get to know him a bit better...

Where are you from?

Hull.

What’s your education history?

I studied for my A Levels at Hymers College in Hull, then completed my undergraduate studies in Internet Computing at the University of Hull. 

After graduating, I worked on my (incomplete) Ph.D. at University College Dublin and the University of St Andrews in Scotland.

When did you join Umber Creative?

I joined Umber Creative in 2016, but there’s a bit of a backstory here, bear with me!

I met Luke back in 2003 when we were studying the same subject at Uni together. We were really good mates and stayed in touch after graduating when he started working at an agency in East Yorkshire and I moved to join an agency in London.

Whilst I had the opportunity to work on some great accounts, I never really got on with the London lifestyle. So, after a while I decided to apply for postgraduate study. After 4 years of researching many things that didn’t work, I worked at a big agency in Harrogate for a while, then moved back to Hull and started freelancing. In the meantime, Luke and Kevin had started Umber Creative. I helped out on the odd project and in 2016, I joined the company full time.

Why did you choose to join Umber Creative?

I’d worked with Luke a few times before on projects, and we seemed to get along (just because you’re friends with someone, doesn’t always mean you’ll work well together!)

Umber Creative were looking to expand their team with someone more experienced, and it seemed like the right time to jump on board and help Kevin and Luke grow the company.

What’s your current role and what does it involve?

I’m the Technical Director at Umber Creative, which encompasses setting up, running and monitoring our hosting infrastructure, building systems and applications for clients, and maintaining the physical infrastructure in the office, ensuring things run smoothly. 

Why did this career appeal to you?

I was never really a fan of the IT class at school, I preferred wood and metal work; but I did enjoy being able to study electronics in sixth form. We got our first modern computer at home when I was 14 so I bought myself a book to try and learn programming. 

I toyed with the idea of a few different careers at a teenager (Geologist, Marine Biologist, even a Pilot for a while!) but I think from the point I started learning to program, the die was cast. 

I got a summer job when I was 16 in a paint factory, then spent my whole 6 weeks worth of wages on my first laptop. When my parents offered me driving lessons, I opted for an upgraded laptop instead, and finally learnt to drive at the age of 33!

There’s no doubt that sometimes this type of work is frustrating and stressful (computers do not always do what you expect!), but there’s always a new challenge or a new problem to solve.

What’s the most interesting account you’ve ever worked on?

I’ve worked on some big accounts at other agencies including More Than, RSA Group, EDF Energy and Digital Cinema Media, but I think the most interesting project was the kiosk system we put together here at Umber Creative for The Holiday Home Centre.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Strangely, I like the beginning and the near-end of projects. At the start, it’s an idea, which gets thrashed out, wireframed, critiqued, reworked; you can see the system in your head and think through the various approaches, scenarios and potential issues. 

We still refer to ‘breaking the back’ of a project. At this point you can see the end and it feels like although there are pieces still to be done, the plan is coming to fruition.

What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you whilst at work?

In my first job after graduating from University, we had some hardware arrive in large boxes and I decided to make a robot costume in the middle of the office floor, and ‘interact’ with my coworkers. Pictures were taken, and a comic strip was made titled “Dave 209” (why I had the nickname Dave is another story).

Top piece of advice for young people who’d like to enter the industry?

It’s unlikely that the technology you’re using now is going to be what you use at the end of your career, so it’s important to be curious and flexible about the technologies you use. Never stop learning and don’t feel you have to jump on the bandwagon every time a new programming language / paradigm / approach is hyped.

You’re making a cuppa. What goes in first... milk or tea bag?

Tea bag first, but the milk must be added shortly after the water, if you want to avoid floaters.

What’s your pet peeve?

Mobile phones in the cinema. If your partner is expecting a baby, or you’re an on-call surgeon, then you’re forgiven. However, I’m sure catching up on the social network feeds can wait until the film is over...

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Many people find my taste in music somewhat questionable for a 37 year old man…. 

I have the back catalogue of Roxette and Avril Lavigne and I’m known to be partial to some Taylor Swift and Katy Perry.

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