Granite 5’s Digital Project Manager David shares insights from life as a developer

6 min read

The next in our series of meet the team articles, we speak to David Claxton, Digital Project Manager at Granite 5, to explore David’s insights from a long career in the industry.

TL;DR data has stayed consistent but the industry has changed, developer for 19 years with a passion for all things electronic and recently moved to digital project management at Granite 5.

David started his career in the web industry at the very early age of just 15, where he spotted an advert in the local magazine to help maintain their website. He was offered the job and once he got to grips with it, diligently learned all he could about web development. This coupled with his keen interest in electronics from a young age, sparked his passion for web development.

From there David’s talent and specialty for database design, grew. An example of the kind of expertise he already had at this young age, is when he was enlisted by his sixth form college, whom he was a student of, to support in fixing server issues they couldn’t find a solution to. David, of course being the ever calm and methodical person, found the issue and resolved it! A testament to the kind of knowledge he already had.

After completing his Computing Science degree, David started out with his first client Angling Direct supporting an in-house developer on a freelance basis, to extend their online Magento store, and his fate for working agency side was sealed and he has never looked back!

Granite 5 > With such an extensive career in the web industry, do you feel data has changed during this time?

David > In terms of data, the same basic principles of data structures still apply now as they did back in the 1970s when they were created, however, there are more options depending on the data subject, such as non-relational (or NoSQL) structures.

Integration has become more unified with the introduction of standards such as JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) and RESTful APIs which are standardised regardless of the systems used. This is a big improvement, as going back to the start of my career you had to speak directly to the database in its particular language and format, depending upon the server.

There has also been a lot of big tech advances in the last 20+ years which have significantly impacted the way developers work and have made big improvements to the whole web experience. Some examples that stick in my mind are when smartphones first connected to the internet in 2000 which changed browsing behavior. In 2008 when HTML5 was released. And when responsive web design was introduced in 2010 – maintaining a second ‘mobile version’ of a website was never fun. All powerful milestones that shaped the web experiences we know today.

I think one of the great things about this industry is that changes are suggested and made by the developers who are on the ground and using the technology. That means things do change and advance but in a practical and methodical way. Something I really like!

Granite 5 > With such an extensive career of working in agencies, what appeals to you most about working agency side?

David > I love the challenge! For me I always loved IT and what was possible with it. Working in an agency allows me to apply my skills to multiple businesses to create them the best solution possible to excel their business.

As I originally started working in an agency that was a small business, it gave me the opportunity to look after the whole lifecycle of the website project from concept to creation and beyond. That gave me such a sense of satisfaction to work with a client and then to deliver what they had been imagining. There’s nothing like it!

I think from that point I knew agency life was for me as you get to work with such a variety of clients with such diverse businesses and focus on your strengths. At Granite 5, we specialise in membership organisations, which has given me such great opportunities to use my database and integration skills with some amazing clients such as Association for Nutrition, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine (FPM), and UKinbound.

Granite 5 > Tell us about a typical day in the life of a digital project manager at Granite 5

David >

  • The day starts with a strong cup of coffee and a check of emails and support tickets to begin prioritising tasks.
  • Then on to the Dev’ team stand-up at 9am each day via Zoom to plan the day. This includes:
    • A run through with each developer seeing what they managed to achieve the day before, and whether they need more time
    • Discussion of any issues and how to resolve them and upcoming updates
    • Creating a plan of attack – who’s going to achieve what
  • The main bulk of my day is planning and project work which varies from day to day. This includes:
    • Scheduling resources to meet project deadlines
    • Building specs, working with clients to work out what’s feasible – this is where my developer background comes in handy as I know what can be achieved and I can provide alternate options
    • Liaising between clients and our dev’ team to ensure the smooth-running of projects
  • And finally, as chief trouble-shooter I’m often called on to support the rest of the team with issues or support requests, offering new ideas to try and suggestions to debug the problem.

So, no two days are the same and that’s what makes it such an interesting job!

Granite 5 > What is the project you are most proud of?

David > I think that would have to be the Cambridgeshire Chamber of Commerce’s new website which we launched on the 14th October 2019. This was a complex project where we used our Growth Driven Design (GDD) methodology to allow us to launch the new website early and then make improvements once the site was live with real user data. This was so powerful and enabled us to deliver a great website that met the needs of the client and delivered a great user experience.

Granite 5 > What made you make the move to digital project manager from a senior developer?

David > After working at Granite 5 for 2 years as a senior developer, Granite 5 started recruiting for a digital project manager due to the agency expanding. I had always been used to managing the whole project process from previous roles and many projects at Granite 5, so it seemed like a natural progression and a new challenge!

It meant that I could take my development skills and apply them to making our projects run as smoothly and efficiently as possible. With my background as a developer, it allows me to understand what is possible, which is certainly very handy when you are project managing! It also means I get more interaction with clients and can pass on my knowledge to better support them in project decisions which ultimately leads to a better result for the client.

Granite 5 > What makes Granite 5 unique?

David > I can honestly say that I have never worked for a more inclusive and accepting company. The company MD Jill has worked so hard to create a safe and open working environment. Granite 5 truly does have a family feel where you know your colleagues will support you, but equally challenge you to do your best work.

Personal development is also a big part of the Granite 5 culture and all team members are actively encouraged to constantly grow and learn in their specialty. And this is truly meant, rather than a tick box HR statement like some companies!

My first-hand experience of this was when starting my new role as a digital project manager, the company provided ActionCOACH training to support me on transitioning to the new role and to develop my leadership skills.

Granite 5 > Finally, when you are working in an industry that changes so fast, how do you keep up to date?

David > Luckily, I love learning and I like the challenge of keeping up to date!

My main sources are personal development books on varying topics. My most recent read was The First 90 Days by Michael D. Watkins, and online courses, which most of my recent ones have focused on software project management. I also attend industry events such as Deliver Conference which I managed to get to just before lockdown! The format of these may change going forward but I find these a valuable source of industry insight and love the energy of being surrounded by like-minded people at various stages of the Project Management career path.