Hello and welcome back to 7 @ Eleven. Seven short and snappy answers from people in the Pixel team that will hopefully bring laughter, surprise and intriguing revelations, all while you enjoy your mid-morning cuppa.
This time, we caught up with Technical Manager Gavin Melling who has been an integral part of the Pixel team since its early days.
It’s a quiet August morning and we’ve got our cups of tea in hand, so why not grab a seat, pour yourself a steamy cup of the good stuff, and find out all about the man behind Pixel’s technical solutions.
Hi, Gavin! Thanks for freeing up some time to chat with us. Ready to go?
Let's do it,
You've been part of the Pixel team for a while. How has software changed over time?
My 15 year anniversary at Pixel is coming up, so it has been quite a while and I feel like part of the furniture. In that time, our approach to software development has certainly changed a lot, but it’s the tools available to us that have changed the most. When we first started out, we only had tools like a text editor and a physical programming language book to refer to. Nowadays, there are so many new technologies that allow us to push the boundaries of the services we provide and in a lot less time than before.
Keeping on top of new developments is what allows us to offer the best for our clients and provide them with reliable projects, incorporating leading technology that wouldn’t have been feasible years ago. An example would be A.I. tools like facial detection, background replacement and image detection. We recently rolled out a photobooth for a client that uses A.I. to block inappropriate images and obscene gestures automatically without the need for human intervention. That means our client doesn’t have to sift through images themselves, saving their time and protecting the brand.
Tell us how you came to be Technical Manager of Pixel.
When I graduated from university in Manchester, I landed my first job at a web development company in Stockport, where I was hired by Nikk Smith (now managing director of Pixel). He left to set up Pixel Inspiration with Barry Bugg and I moved on to a different company but we all stayed in touch. After a while, the business started to grow and Nikk and Barry needed an extra person, so they asked if I wanted to join. I immediately said yes. I was so excited to join a company with such a passionate team. Despite how small it was at the beginning, I could see the potential in it and I wasn’t wrong. Pixel Inspiration has gone from strength to strength and we’re all still so passionate about what we do and the services we provide.
No career is without it's obstacles. What are the main challenges you've faced since joining Pixel and how did you overcome them?
There was a period where the business grew very quickly and it felt impossible to keep on top of everything at once. But once more people joined the team, the hardest challenge became adjusting from being a team of one to heading up a team of six, as I hadn’t had any previous managerial experience.
Pixel really supported me along the way so that I felt comfortable in the transition, giving me access to formal training and allowing me lots of time to develop myself and build the team in a way that worked best for us all. Although it’s been challenging, now that we’re all settled in, having a strong team is really nice.
What's top of your agenda as Pixel's Technical Manager?
We want to deliver the best we can for our clients, so making sure Pixel is always at the forefront of new technologies stays at the top of my agenda. I think delivering reliable and manageable technology and digital solutions can be easily overlooked in our industry, so I like to ensure that everything we produce ticks those boxes.
Back, when I started at Pixel, there were only five team members in the whole of the business, so my job was a bit of everything. I used to develop, support, build and install tech for clients. These days, we have almost a hundred Pixel employees, so part of my day-to-day agenda is to delegate tasks so that I can concentrate on making sure the work and technology we produce for clients is of a high standard, smooth-running and remains reliable.
Now, we want to get to know the real you. Time for the juicy questions.
If you could trade places with anyone in the world for one day, who would it be and why?
I’d have to swap with someone on the International Space Station. Less than 300 people have ever had the opportunity to go up there and there’s a phenomenon called ‘the overview effect’ that people experience in space. It happens when you look through the window and see the whole of Planet Earth as one. Astronauts have described it as life changing - it changes their whole perspective on life, cultural differences get put aside and you get to see the whole of humankind, the Earth, and the environment as one.
If there was any chance of being able to go there and experience that, I’d absolutely take it, it’d be incredible.
What's your favourite thing to do in your free time?
Having two young children means free time isn't something that I get a lot of nowadays. However, I’m very passionate about music, especially live music, going to gigs and festivals. I'm going to be dragging the kids and family along to a music festival this weekend, so I’m really looking forward to that.
I spend a lot of quality time with my children, it’s important to me and it also gives me an excuse to play with Lego and other toys.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
I had to think about this one for a while, but teleportation would be very handy. Most people would probably say they use their superpowers to save the world, but I’d use teleportation just to avoid getting stuck in traffic. Being able to instantly teleport myself to The Bahamas or to Spain for the weekend wouldn’t be bad at all. It’s a selfish superpower but I’d definitely make good use of it!
Gavin, thank you for chatting with us today. We loved getting to know you better. If you ever make it to the International Space Station, make sure to send us lots of pictures!
Thanks to our readers too, we hope you enjoyed the Q & A and join us again for our next 7 @ Eleven soon.