We sat down for a chat with Peter Ashford, one of our Senior Software Engineers and remote team members, who has been with the company since July 2022. This piece has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
How did your passion for tech start?
When I was a kid, computers seemed like these really serious business things. It always tickled my imagination that people would subvert computers to make trivial things like games. That really appealed to me. One of my childhood goals was to create games, and I did eventually work in the gaming industry for a few years; I worked with some truly excellent people and I had a lot of fun but I also came to realise that it's a difficult industry to have a long career in.
What attracted you to work here at Comet?
I told the recruiter I was working with that I was looking to find my tribe – people who were interested in technology and motivated and excited about software engineering.
I have definitely found the right place. I couldn't be happier with the kind of people that I'm working with, not just the software developers, but the whole company exceeded my expectations for working together collaboratively.
What is your favorite thing about working at Comet?
The people are the greatest thing about working at Comet. I genuinely like everybody that I work with. And there's nobody here I don't feel comfortable talking to and asking a question.
That's a big deal because we’re working on a complex product. So having an environment where everybody feels comfortable and free to ask questions is a big deal. Comet is an extremely collegial kind of place to work. Everyone is genuinely interested in helping everybody else out.
You are one of the full time remote team members, how do you keep connected with the team?
I live in Dunedin, so I’m one of a handful of remote team members at Comet. I knew that being remote full time was going to be a different kind of challenge. But Comet has been really proactive with that right from the outset.
We have events like CometCon, our company-wide conference, where twice a year everyone is flown in for a week to ensure we get some face to face time as an entire team.
The other thing that Comet does, which is really cool, is that we have a virtual coffee break over Slack where we just get together and chat on a video call. All of our team meetings happen over Slack as well, so our normal way of working effectively works for people who work remotely.
Inevitably there's always going to be the occasional discussions you miss out on because you're not in the office, but there's lots of opportunities to catch up with people outside of physically having to be in the office. So it works out pretty well.
Tell us more about CometCon and what you enjoy about it.
CometCon is a fantastic initiative. They’re awesome and I hugely value them for two reasons:
One, sitting down and getting a chance to hash through issues or hear talks about how things work on the technical side is really valuable. Comet is a big and complex piece of software, so it's always great to learn more about how things work and have cross functional training in different areas of the product to disseminate knowledge throughout the team.
But also for me, because I'm working remotely, that chance to catch up with everybody and just have a bit of fun and focus on those sort of human relationships. I can't overstate how much I value that in terms of having time to catch up and chat to people in other departments.
What do you think of Christchurch?
I’m super enthusiastic about the Riverside Market, it’s a fantastic jewel in the crown for the city. There are a lot of eateries with different options, I’ve made a habit of eating there every time I travel to Christchurch for CometCon. I also love seeing the Southern Alps in the distance on a clear day, it gives you an emotional boost to see the mountains from the office windows.
What keeps you passionate about moving forward in the field and what keeps you inspired within the industry?
I really like the fact that I can learn new skills. I really value that. It's important for people who want to stay in the industry to keep learning. That's been great for me because I've picked up Golang programming, which I didn't know at all before working at Comet. I really like coding and making stuff and learning new ways to make stuff, that’s where it gets to be fun. That’s the joy of software engineering.
You’ve also had the opportunity to mentor one of the junior developers, what has that experience entailed?
During my interview process, we discussed various ways I could contribute to the team and the idea of mentorship came up. I absolutely love working with people and talking about code, so mentoring a junior dev is an awesome fit for me.
Each person approaches problem solving differently. It’s cool to see what someone else comes up with. I love the whole process of imparting knowledge and discussing various ways to solve a problem.
When Rhane (Junior Developer) came on board last year, I was paired up to mentor her. At Comet we have a pathway for junior developers to join our Support Team. They work on dev tickets between support tickets. With guidance from other team members, they graduate into a full developer after a year. It’s been a fantastic initiative.
What are some of your other hobbies?
I'm very much a family man. I've got a bunch of kids. We are currently doing tons of work in our garden. Because I'm working at home, I'm quite careful about making sure that I take breaks. So it's really nice to have a space in my backyard to wander around my garden and see what's growing and how it changes over the years. It has become quite a nice little zen environment to spend some time sitting in the sun, listening to birds.