Ian Sharpe MBCS

Software development services, Bath UK

My background

In the eighties I spent seven years in railway civil engineering. I did track design, surveying and on-site technical support during maintenance and renewal works.

With a notion to make some money on the side, I bought a computer and printer. I was quickly gripped by programming and became good enough that I determined to make my living from it.

So I quit British Rail with little to go on except optimism that somehow it would work out.

After training in C courtesy of the Government (thank you… it's still useful) I was probably employable as a developer. But the first thing that came up was very different.

Publishing

I had been submitting articles to my favourite computer magazine and recently had a couple printed. I was also commissioned to write games for a promotional cassette tape to be given to subscribers.

Computing with the Amstrad needed an editorial assistant. After an interview featuring beer, I went to work for entrepreneur Derek Meakin.

Derek was a demanding boss but what a dynamo. He introduced free newspapers to the UK, started one of the first computer magazine publishers, founded a successful software house, started one of the first online systems, created an exhibitions company and more. Although I didn't fully appreciate it then, working for Derek was an education and a privilege.

Sixteen years later, I had a track record as a technical writer and editor on popular UK magazines of the time, such as Future Publishing's PC Answers and PC Plus. Back-of-envelope calculations suggest that I had around one million words published in newsstand magazines.

At Future, I worked for another entreprenur, Chris Anderson (now 'curator' of TED), though somewhat more remotely than I did for Derek.

Notable during my time at PC Plus was my long-running technical Q&A columnn, Help Desk, which I wrote for more than 100 issues.

Software development

Magazine work was great, mostly, but I maintained a strong interest in software development and still harboured ambitions beyond having freeware I'd written published on cover CDs.

The new millennium brought cold winds to the publishing industry and I decided I wanted to change track.

Shortly after, I was installed in a factory office, programming industrial printing machinery and associated workflow systems. Yes, quite a change!

That was more varied and interesting than it may sound. I like hardware and seeing my software make useful things happen. Yet after five years I had solved the big challenges in that role. I need challenges so I moved on.

Next stop, in 2012, was Dot Software, a technical software and electronic engineering company in Bath, South West England.

That gave me opportunities to work with a surprising range of languages, systems and project types, for clients ranging from tiny to blue-chip. No shortage of challenges there! I even learnt some electronics.

I still spend a lot of time with Dot Software. Depending on the needs of a project, I may work directly for a client or, if appropriate for reasons such as areas of expertise or staff resource, collaboratively with the company.

Software developer since 1985  •  Professional member of the British Computer Society (MBCS)