Career Pathways - Dave Griffiths - Coder and Director - Software Cornwall

Dave Griffiths Bio picture

davegriffithsDavid Griffiths

Director, code monkey and sharpener of pencils

Business / Employer : Foam Kernow

What does your company do?

Foam Kernow is all about enabling people to develop creative and confident relationships with science and technology, merging our experience in science, programming and design in a broad range of transdisciplinary research and education projects.

A lot of our work has a software element, from games for people to contribute to scientific research, computer music software for installations and live performances as well as android apps for farmers.

We also work in local schools teaching programming as a creative activity, and run workshops on interdisciplinary skills between the arts and sciences.

Job Description

I do a lot of programming but probably spend equal time discussing with people about their needs and ideas – so I need to be able to see things from their perspective as well as knowing appropriate technical approaches.

Communication skills are also needed in order to translate in some form on any project – e.g. between biologists and gamers, mathematicians and musicians, government advisers and farmers – this can be as simple as coming up with good names for sliders.

What are your favorite products and services you have helped to develop?

I ported the first PS2 game I worked on (The Thing) into Japanese, adding features needed by their games market (ridiculous font code mainly).

Putting a complex GPS based sound playback system in a load of bikes which ran for 4 months in rain and cobblestones of Ghent.

Winning the VIDA art and artificial life prize for ‘Naked on Pluto’ – a facebook game about online privacy, and building a fancy interactive installation for it in Madrid.

Career Pathway

* Studied Computer Animation at Bournemouth Uni.
* Worked in the game industry for a while (where I actually started learning how to program)
* Started writing free/open source software for fun
* Left games for film industry, writing software to render thousands of people (Troy, Kingdom of heaven, Harry Potter)
* Went back to games at Sony R&D for a few years, did the agile thing, learned some PS3.
* Left commercial world and started full time open source development for arts/research projects
* Founded Foam Kernow as an independent research organisation in Cornwall

What’s your favorite part of the work you do?

Software allows you to help a huge variety of people with different problems – and makes you very motivated to come up with solutions. So meeting people, and finding out you can help them is the best bit for me these days.

Writing open source software is also a big factor, as often it allows you to take part in bigger communities, and contribute to global projects – also work you do tends to get picked up and used in ways you couldn’t have imagined.

What piece of advice would you give anyone considering a career in the Software sector?

* Don’t follow the hype, it’s exhausting and rarely helps.
* Always play with things you’re not supposed to.
* Learn the fundamentals, then you will be able to work across different contexts and be more job secure (i.e. web, native, mobile, embedded, the next big thing).

If someone was interested in doing the job you do what advice would you give and what resources might you recommend?

*Try doing “”ludum dare”” with some friends, take part in local game jams, buy an arduino.

*Get a small self motivated project to the point where somebody else uses it, blog about this.

*Seek advice on courses before spending any money (free ones are better).

*Publish your code online so potential employers can find it. This is very very hard to do at first – but doesn’t have to be perfect/working, it’ll get you jobs so worth it.

What’s the best thing about living and working in Cornwall?

*Better balance of life makes higher quality stuff possible.
*Similarly, the environment provides a different perspective – so you come up with more unique ideas.
*I think there is a higher proportion of interesting people here (software sector and beyond) than in big cities, you just need to search them out a bit more.

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