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What you need to know before speaking at a Tech event.

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Public speaking can get the better of us a lot of the time, so we sat down with Jon, a Software Development Team Lead in AO Tech to see if he could share some pearls of wisdom when it comes to getting in front of a crowd.


Can you tell us a bit about what your role involves at AO?

As a Software Development Team Lead, I’m responsible for bringing work into my team. Our team is all about customer personalisation, which means we’re looking into how to use the data we generate from the website to start creating personalised experiences for our customers. Working alongside a Product Owner and Business Analyst, we review what’s coming up in the roadmap, making sure we’re thinking about the right kind of projects that the business will benefit from.

A big part of my role is also about being there to support my team. I make sure they get what they need and help out with any development tasks they may be struggling with.


What’s the problem your team is trying to solve day-to-day?

Our team’s mission is to drive conversion and finding new ways to make sure our customers see what they’re looking for. It’s all about being personalised to their wants and needs, but we need to do it in a way that’s natural for them throughout the onsite journey. This end up using a variety of different bits of amazing tech to help drive this.


How long have you been at AO and what were you doing when you started?

I started in the same position, but the scope of the role has changed massively in the last three years. We had a brand-new team, there was only three of us and we spent a lot of that first year finding our feet and really working out our purpose. We were given a lot of freedom to try new things and work out what worked and what didn’ when we began to build a picture of what our customers were like.

In my second and third year, we spoke a lot in internal show and tells around the business, allowing people to understand what we were doing but also challenging. I got a lot of public speaking experience from doing the circuit around the organisation.

Outside of that, I’ve been able to get a lot of experience from speaking about our work at MongoDB Europe, which is a big conference down in London. I think there was about 400 people there for my first talk.


What has the journey been like to where you are now?

Before AO, I ended up doing a lot of self-directed learning. I did a computer science course at University but kind of forgot I could write code and lacked a bit of confidence with it. Even with a bit more experience as an engineer, it was still difficult and there was definitely a feeling of imposter syndrome. I realised I had to be open about it and be in a really supportive environment. Since I’ve joined AO, the experience has been great and the time’s flown by.


What has been your AO highlight so far?

I think it’s the opportunity I get to speak to people both internally and externally. I think it’s really great to get out and say “I’m from” and talk about what you’re working on. But I’ve also really enjoyed the opportunity to help build a diverse and inclusive team of skilled people.


How do you approach having to speak on stage? Any tips for those with stage fright?

Being an introverted person makes it difficult to put yourself out there, but I’d say getting out there to speak is one of the best things I’ve done, it’s really helped me grow.

For people getting started, practice really does make perfect. One tip is to practice the first 30 seconds. When I first start getting up on stage, that first 30 seconds just disappears and I didn’ stutter or trip up too much. Once you get through that, you start to feel way more comfortable, quickly get into a groove and feel the confidence getting stronger. You’ve got to practice as much as possible.


If you’re interested to hear more about the life at AO Tech, Jon will be speaking at this year’s Agile Manchester 2020 in May. We hope to see you there!