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Q & A with Sam Thomas, Software Engineer

Q & A with Sam Thomas, Software Engineer

We sat down with Sam Thomas, Software Engineer, to find out what his day-to-day life looks like, what significant milestones he has had at Vortexa, and what he really thinks of our company culture…

19 August, 2022
Jessica Irvin
Jessica Irvin, Head of Operations & People
I used to be an academic, using satellite radar to study the Arctic Ocean. Since then I worked as a data scientist, but have gradually moved toward the engineering side of things.
Fun fact: LinkedIn doesn’t tell you everything – I have also worked in a brewery and a forest.
We wanted to find out what inspired Sam to join Vortexa, what some of his biggest milestones have been to date and what day-to-day life really looks like for a Software Engineer…

What inspired you to join Vortexa? 

It’s an interesting, real world problem: real ships moving real stuff around, each one playing out a little story about the global economy. If you want to check our predictions you can drive down to your nearest port and have a look! Plus, I get to use my special expertise in satellites, radar and geospatial data.

What would you say is the most interesting aspect of your role? 

I’m a details guy, so I like learning all the nitty-gritty stuff about our problem space: how does an AIS transponder work, what does the signal look like? How do you charter a ship? How do you measure underground gas storage from space? Why do certain vessels behave weirdly? Why is LNG important? Every day is a school day!

What have been some significant milestone moments for you at Vortexa? 

Shortly after sanctions on Russia kicked in this year, I was tasked to investigate one vessel which was behaving weirdly – we thought it was a bug. But it turned out that weird behaviour was real, and the Vortexa platform had got everything right: the diversion, the destination prediction, the resulting ship-to-ship transfer of (sanctioned) oil. The ship was up to something, and you could see the whole story right there on the screen. It made me really proud of what we’ve built!

[The culture] is very strong. Everybody knows their stuff, but is also very open & supportive. You can ask anyone anything, and they’re always happy to help.

What does day-to-day life look like for you as a Software Engineer?

I prefer working in-person, so my day usually starts with getting on the bike and trying to beat my personal best along Cable Street, before showering at the office, grabbing a large coffee and joining our team standup. I then get stuck into whatever I’m working on that day; usually it is one of our quarterly objectives, but it might be something operational that needs investigation. We encourage pair programming and teaming up on problems, so I’ll often find myself on a call or around a desk with a colleague if one of us has gotten stuck on something. Lunch at Petticoat Lane offers a good chance to hang out with people outside my team. At the moment I usually have an interview or two in the afternoon (we are always hiring!). After work we have a couple of informal social groups (climbing, football etc.), or we might go for a drink at the local.

What key qualities make a Software Engineer successful? 

Curiosity, taking pride in your work, and the ability to work with others. A sense of humour is also very helpful!

Curiosity, taking pride in your work, and the ability to work with others. A sense of humour is also very helpful!

How would you describe the culture at Vortexa?

It’s very strong. Everybody knows their stuff, but is also very open & supportive. You can ask anyone anything, and they’re always happy to help. Everyone wants to see things done well. The socials are good craic too!

What advice would you give to people hoping to join Vortexa? 

Aptitude and attitude count for a lot. Sure, you’ll need some core skills, but I’m much more interested in someone who’s sharp, a quick learner and nice to work with than a CV as long as my arm.

Describe your working life at Vortexa in three words!

Ships, ships, ships!

Jessica Irvin
Head of Operations & People
Vortexa
Jessica Irvin
Jessica is Head of People & Operations at Vortexa and is responsible for hiring, learning & development, culture, engagement, performance management and leading expansion plans.