Developing the VE: Meet Software Engineer Tom

Date Published

11th Feb 2015

John Goucher
Digital Marketing Manager, IES

In this week’s blog post we go behind the scenes at IES and meet one of our software developers to find out what it’s like working at IES and being part of the team that creates the Virtual Environment. So everybody meet Tom, our Anglo-French software engineer who has been working at IES since July 2013. We sat down with Tom to ask him the following questions…

What attracted you to this profession and how long have you been a software developer?

Growing up I was always interested in graphic design, 3D imagery and computer games. I loved being surrounded by gadgets and technology – which was encouraged by my dad, who as a photography lecturer would bring home photography tools and computer programs that I could spend hours inspecting and working out. I also loved animated films like Toy Story and I was fascinated by how computer code could be used to create this striking imagery. I was keen to find out how it was done…

It was this interest in the technical side of things that influenced my decision to get into computing. I went to the University of Angers in France to complete a degree in Computer Science and then followed that with a Master’s in computer graphics at the University of Lyon I. My Masters in computer graphics allowed me to specialise in software development applied to 3d computer graphics, 3d geometry and image processing. I finished it in 2008 and have now been working as a developer for 7 years.

What does your role at IES involve?

At IES, I work as a software engineer as part of the “Urban” team. In a nutshell, my job is to design and implement software components and algorithms which fulfil a set of requirements for a given project.

In practice, this also involves:

  • Reviewing requirement and specification documents and providing feedback.
  • Writing technical specification documents and reports.
  • Prototyping given features or technologies.
  • Taking part in development and project meetings.
  • Providing input and reporting progress to project managers.
  • Reviewing other team members’ code.

What project are you currently working on?

At the moment I am working on a R&D project called INDICATE, which is a prototype for a new interactive tool to help transform cities into smart cities. It will provide assessment of the interactions between buildings, the electricity grid, Electric Vehicle grid and Renewable/ICT technologies so the knock-on effect of changes can be understood within the urban context

It’s a really interesting time to be working at IES as we go from looking at the energy of single buildings to also analysing cities and communities. I enjoy the technical challenges that arise in this area, as working with a group of buildings means more data to handle and visualise, more calculations and more complex interactions.

What tools do you use?

The main tools I use at IES are Microsoft Visual Studio, Perforce for version control and Sublime Text as my text editor. We work for the most part in Windows. In terms of languages, I use mainly C++, Python and JavaScript.

What software/tools/website could you not live without in your role?

It would be near impossible to live without a good debugger such as the one in Visual Studio or those available now in modern web browsers for JavaScript.

Also, an excellent resource when faced with a specific technical problem is the Q&A site stackoverflow.com. Often someone else will have faced the same problem before you!

What contribution to IES are you most proud of?

I’d have to say my work on the Glasgow Future Cities Project, a web platform and app that was developed to allow building owners (domestic and commercial) in Glasgow to understand the energy consumption of their buildings and to suggest ways of reducing this consumption. The app and web portal, which are coming soon, will show the city’s energy performance at both district and building level.

I was responsible for how these energy performance results were viewed by the user. I created an application to view the results over the whole city in 3D and to display the energy performance of the buildings at district and neighbourhood level.

What do you like most about working at IES?

The best thing about working at IES? It has to be the opportunity we get here to create innovative software. There are a lot of new projects and products being created at IES at the moment. It’s also very rewarding to know that these tools we create can then be used to make a real impact on the planet’s future and the fight against climate change.

I really enjoy the R&D aspect of the job as well. I like the problem solving involved and having time to go and research the best course of action or technology in order to make something work for a particular project.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a software engineer?

Firstly, it’s a very good time to follow this career path as there are lots of opportunities available and
interesting technologies to work with.

My advice to someone starting off would be to not get too fixated on a specific language or tool. First understand the concepts, then you can apply them effectively in any language.

Outside of IES, what do you do for fun?

I enjoy hanging out with friends at the bars and restaurants that Glasgow has to offer and taking the time to explore other parts of Scotland, whether it be a day at the Fringe in Edinburgh or a trip up north to the highlands.

I also like to cycle, travel around Europe and at the moment I’m learning German – tschüss!

Interested in becoming a software engineer at IES in a position that gives you freedom and flexibility and allows you to work with the latest technologies to develop new and sophisticated products? Keep an eye on the job section of our website for upcoming positions or feel free to send your CV over to careers@iesve.com.

Latest from DiscoverIES