🏡 City: Manchester

💼 Job title: Engineering Director

🎓 Studies: BSc Computer Science, Swansea University

🔮 Languages: English 🇬🇧 and a few programming languages 💻

👣 How do you commute to work: On foot, from the bedroom to my home office via the kitchen. I’ve worked remotely for almost eight years and still don’t miss sitting in traffic! 

🧳 Travel dreams: Wilderness and wildlife have always fascinated me. There’s something magical about wide open spaces with no trace of civilization. My favourites have been traveling across Australia’s red centre and scuba diving in Palawan. My oldest travel dream is to explore the Amazon rainforest—someday I would love to make that come true!

🎬 Favorite film: I have a few! A great film for me either makes me laugh or cry. Maybe my favourite of all is Good Will Hunting, which does both every single time I watch it 🥲

Sean Handley scuba photo
Sean scuba diving in Palawan

📌 What does a typical day as Engineering Director at Stuart look like?

It can vary a lot! As a director, I’m accountable for the technical strategy of our teams and ensuring we’re able to achieve our goals and build the software the business needs.

A big part of my role is to be an advocate for my team and act as a coach to help them develop their skills and to grow professionally. Leaders should be enablers rather than dictators!

I also work closely with my colleagues in the Product team and the business teams to ensure we understand clearly what we need to build and why we need to build it. This part of my job is awesome because it gives real context to the work we do.

In addition to planning sessions, 1-on-1s, and interviewing engineering candidates, I try to find some time each week to do some coding and technical planning work—I don’t ever want to lose touch with my technical roots and I believe education is something you never finish.

One thing I have enjoyed participating in this year is the technical event committee. We’re organising a two-day online meetup for the whole technical team at Stuart and we’ve decided to host it in virtual reality! We’ll do talks, group sessions, and games inside virtual worlds 😎

📌 What is the main objective of your team and how does it support the company’s business?

Our team is responsible for all product features and services that impact Stuart courier partners directly, such as the courier mobile application used to manage deliveries as well as various other supporting services behind the scenes.

We’re currently working on some innovative new features for the mobile application that we’re really excited about launching over the coming months. Couriers are at the heart of our business and it’s vital for us that they get the respect and consideration that they deserve. The software we work on should enable them to have as much control over their work as possible and to reliably earn a solid wage each week they work.

Something interesting we encourage each member of the team to do is to make some real deliveries using the courier application on a regular basis—this helps us understand what it’s actually like to do the work and where our app needs to be improved.

We have some exciting ideas in progress right now and we’re determined to realise Stuart’s overall vision for being the most courier-friendly delivery platform 🚴‍♂️

📌 When did you join Stuart and how has your team evolved since then?

I’m one of the dinosaurs on the team now, coming to Stuart as an engineer in October 2017. I joined what was then the Backend team, around ten engineers reporting to one manager. Fast-forward to 2021 and the technical organisation has completely changed—we have over 150 people working across 15 teams.

Many engineers at Stuart have worked fully remotely for many years so Covid-19 didn’t change our daily work too much. It’s been wonderful getting more chances to see each other in person lately and I’m looking forward to more opportunities soon to meet with colleagues from across our offices.

Early in my time at Stuart, I became known as “the whisky guy”. I’ve been a keen Scotch whisky enthusiast for many years, so I ran a social event at our 2018 offsite where people could come and taste a variety of bottles. This has become a regular favourite each time we do company get-togethers and I’m looking forward to us keeping the tradition going! 🥃

Sean Handley whisky photo

📌 What's one project you're particularly proud of? Why?

I’m really happy with the fraud prevention project we worked on at the start of 2021. This involved migrating payment service providers—a complex task when your business processes thousands of credit card transactions every day!

We had various issues with our previous payment service provider which made it difficult to prevent credit card fraudsters abusing our platform and this was costing the business a significant amount of money every month. As a result, we decided to tackle this by migrating to Stripe.

Stripe is a payment service provider which allows businesses to process credit card transactions from within their own software while Stripe handles the hard parts regarding regulation, security, and working with banks.

I’m very proud of the success of the project. The team worked really well together and we completed the migration seamlessly with zero disruption to our daily credit card transactions, meaning our users kept using our platform as normal without any clue the change had occurred.

After the project was completed, our credit card fraud rate fell by almost 100%. It was amazing to see the positive financial impact this had! 💸

📌 What is one personal or professional goal you’d like to achieve this year?

I have really enjoyed managing engineers and leading teams as a manager at Stuart. This year I set my sights on managing managers and overseeing multiple teams as an Engineering Director and was super happy to be promoted in September.

Stuart has been really supportive of this goal through the Talent Development Team’s Leadership Program where I’ve been assigned a leadership coach, training material, and other support to help me learn and grow. Our CEO Damien even sent me some books!

It’s a pleasure to work in an environment where your professional goals are supported 🙌

📌 If you could meet and work with Nikola Tesla, Elon Musk or Steve Jobs, which one would you choose and why?

Without a doubt it would be Nikola Tesla! Musk and Jobs are great examples of successful leaders but Tesla was by far the biggest innovator. Arguably his work gave birth to the electrical age through his research with alternating current and the electric motor. He even worked on wireless-electricity technology over 100 years before other scientists were able to develop practical applications for it, such as wireless charging technologies for mobile devices.

In the not-too-distant future we might see this evolve further into true wireless power, removing our dependency on batteries (over 6 billion of which are disposed of every single year).

I have a lot of respect for what Steve and Elon achieved but they can’t hold a candle to Nikola.

📌 If you could compete in an Olympic sport, which one would it be?

I absolutely loved watching the Tokyo Olympics earlier this year, particularly the new sports introduced into the programme. The one that appeals the most to me is definitely the sport climbing event.

Although the speed-climbing section is incredible to watch with competitors flying up the wall like Spiderman, the bouldering section holds particular interest for me.

Bouldering involves figuring out how to climb up a particular route (known as a “problem”) and really appeals to my analytical side—building software is all about solving problems.

The routes are set ahead of time by the organisers but the climbers only get to see them when it’s their turn to climb. This kind of event is a challenge for the mind as well as the body and you can see the satisfaction on an athlete’s face when they overcome the challenge. That’s the kind of sport I love! 🧗‍♂️

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