Why this Galway hurler is excited by the county’s tech ecosystem
John Hanbury. Image: Storm Technology

Why this Galway hurler is excited by the county’s tech ecosystem

24 Oct 2019601 Views

John Hanbury of Storm Technology explains how his hurling skills have helped his career as a software engineer.

John Hanbury is a Galway hurler but, in his day-to-day job, he’s also a software engineer with Storm Technology.

While his diverse passions might seem worlds apart, he has discovered that many of the technical and soft skills he developed are incredibly beneficial to both. Here, he discusses how he balances the two, and what it’s like to work in Galway’s tech ecosystem.

‘Problem-solving skills honed as a software engineer prove invaluable during the game’
– JOHN HANBURY

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

Working as a software engineer in Storm Technology, my role centres on helping clients leverage the Microsoft technology stack to define, architect and develop bespoke business solutions. We build most of our applications on the Microsoft stack and have an emphasis on cloud technologies where possible to help our clients leverage the benefits of cloud computing.

The client-focused nature of the role means no two projects are the same. Each project brings something new with the type of solution required, varying from client to client. Working with Storm has allowed me the opportunity to work on everything from websites to mobile apps and desktop apps to bots.

Was your career path straightforward?

While my pathway into IT was relatively straightforward, it is far removed from the path I envisaged heading into college. Like many inter-county GAA players, I saw teaching as a logical step, having gained experience working with kids from a coaching perspective. However, a summer internship with a web design firm in Galway led me on the journey to software engineering.

I had always had an interest in computers as a kid but had honestly never looked at it as a potential profession. That week exposed me to what it meant to be an engineer and the sense of achievement one can get from building something, be it a webpage or a simple helper class. The tight-knit atmosphere of an agile team also felt familiar, striking a lot of similarities with the team environment I had grown accustomed to through hurling.

From that brief internship, I was hooked and dived head-first into everything software related. I finished my undergraduate and applied for the industry stream software design and development course at NUI Galway. Providing the opportunity to intern with a local software company, and in my case Storm Technology, this course opened so many doors for students seeking to get into the technology space. I spent three months in Storm learning and working on projects, and afterwards I became a full-time member of the Storm team.

Do you see your hurling skills as beneficial to your tech consulting skills?

Absolutely. It goes without saying that the teamwork skills developed on the pitch are directly transferable to professional life, however, I think it’s the confidence-building skills acquired through my training that have stood to me most as a technology consultant.

Hurling has taught me a lot about developing confidence, showing me from an early age that true confidence comes from resilience and plenty of practice. The more you practised the basic skills, the easier the game was and, from that, your confidence grew.

Similarly, when learning a new language or framework, the more time you invest in developing the skillset, the more your confidence grows. One of the most addictive qualities of programming is that it’s always growing – there’s always something new to learn.

My professional experience with agile project methodology has filtered through to hurling, providing insights into an existing team mentality. In terms of agile, each game is viewed as a ‘sprint’, while the next session after the game is used as a retrospective to plan for the next game.

Equally, the problem-solving skills honed as a software engineer prove invaluable during the game, providing a methodical process for problem-solving. I have come to see that both managers and players are essentially debugging throughout each game, trying to understand and resolve any problem areas.

Many developers might agree with the statement that the debugging skills you develop in work are usually applicable to a lot of other scenarios, such as fixing things about the house. In my case, I have found those skills beneficial in my hurling career.

Do you find it difficult to balance your hurling with your work at Storm Technology?

While balancing a career, personal commitments and the professional level demands of inter-county hurling can prove challenging, I have been very lucky to have the opportunity to follow my ambition both on and off the field.

From the outset, Storm has been incredibly supportive of my hurling career, not only understanding the time constraints involved but also as loyal supporters come match time.

I have found that the sacrifices that hurling demands are for the most part around the amount of spare time available. Training usually takes place at evenings and weekends more so than anything. For me, it’s a hobby and I play because I enjoy it.

What do you see as the greatest challenge in your field?

As a software engineer, one of the greatest challenges I face is keeping pace with the rate of technology change. While it can be tempting to focus in on the ‘next big thing’, this does not always deliver the best results for our customers.

It’s our job as a business technology consultancy to cut through the hype and help our customers identify the right solution for their business objectives.

How is innovation in Galway helping to overcome that?

While keeping pace with the rate of change can prove a challenge, one of the great things about living in Galway is the technology community that exists here.

From universities to networking events, the focus in the Galway technology ecosystem is very much on collaboration and innovation, driving regional and business growth through knowledge sharing.

Tapping into this ecosystem is a great way to keep abreast of the latest developments and to share your experiences.

Do you have any advice for someone thinking of relocating to Galway to work in software engineering?

As I mentioned, Galway truly is a great city to live in from a technology perspective.

The technology ecosystem that exists here is second to none and with many of the worlds largest technology companies investing area, it’s a great place to grow your career within the sector.

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