Online fashion retailer Net-a-Porter is looking for talented software developers who can help it deliver an unrivalled digital shopping experience to its customers.  

The company, which is headquartered at Westfield shopping centre in Shepherd's Bush, West London, invited Techworld to find out why several of its existing developers joined the company, what they’re working on and what it’s like to work for one of the fastest-growing retailers in the UK. 

©Flickr/Chisel Wright

Despite being a female-founded fashion company, the three Net-a-Porter developers that Techworld was introduced to were all young men. However, it’s understood that at least 20 percent of the 200-strong IT team are female. 

The developers - Kerr Miller, Matthew Green and Virenda Doshi - are at various stages in their career with Net-a-Porter and were therefore able to paint a broad picture of what it’s like to work for the company at different levels. 

The Net-a-Porter Group includes: women’s fashion online retailers Net-a-Porter.com and theoutnet.com, and men’s online fashion retailer MrPorter.com.

KERR MILLER, 26, SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT GRADUATE

Education: BSc Computer Science, Robert Gordon University. MSc Artificial Intelligence, St. Andrews University

Bio: Kerr is on Net-a-Porter’s graduate programme and has been with the company since September 2013.
 

How did you get into tech?

It all started with me when I was quite young playing games on my dad’s computer. I'd try to tinker with them to see if I could hack them and improve my chances of winning.

It wasn’t until I began studying computer science at university that I started working with apps and mobile apps and really found that that's when I was properly drawn to the industry.

I think what really got me into it by the end is the fact that I don’t know any other industry where I could launch a multi-million pound idea from my basement with a laptop. I could write an app today and be super-successful tomorrow. 

Why did you join Net-a-Porter and what do you like about working here?  

I just wanted to work for an innovative hi-tech company. 

I think a lot of people here at Net-A-Porter are quite entrepreneurial. So I’m quite lucky that my hobby is also my job, to my girlfriend’s despair. 

We have regular parties in the office, roughly every few weeks or every month. 

There’s a lot of very smart people who are very passionate about what they do. They're very friendly and they've made me feel very welcome. It’s relatively flexible too; I'm usually in at 9am and out of the door at 5pm-6pm. Sometimes I go to the gym at lunch.

Tell us about your role? 

My role changes every three months while I'm on the graduate scheme. I started on QA, then moved on to do Java development, web development, and now I’m working in mobile operations.

At the moment my day-to-day job is to monitor our services, provision the environments for our teams to do their jobs.

But mobile apps is really where my passion lies and that extends to wearables. I’m looking forward to the Apple Watch coming out and having a play with that.

I’m also looking forward to joining a mobile app team and learning as much as I can from the people there. There’s a well-defined ladder here to climb. Once I’ve done that…it's taking over the world I guess. 

Where did you apply to work after university?

I applied to loads of tech companies, mostly in commerce. I didn't apply to Google or Facebook but I did, for example, apply to Amazon. My background is in artificial intelligence and my masters thesis was in recommendation systems so that bodes well with ecommerce. Based on someone’s purchases, AI technology can be used to recommend new products for them. So if you buy this handbag maybe you’d like to buy these shoes as well because they compliment each other.

MATTHEW GREEN, 25, DEVELOPER

Education: BSc Maths and Computer Science, University of Oxford. MSc Mathematical Modelling and Scientific Computing, University of Oxford

Bio: Matthew works for the Net-a-Porter tech team developing the main customer-facing website and has been at the company since September 2012. 

 

How did you get into tech?

It was probably around the time I went to university that I realised I was interested in tech. I did maths and computer science at university and if I’m being completely honest I can’t actually remember where the desire to do computer science came from.

I was always very good at maths in school so I knew that it was a logical thing to carry on studying it. There’s a lot of overlap [between maths and computer science]. I think you can apply a lot of the applied maths to the theoretical side of computer science.

Why did you join Net-a-Porter and what do you like about working here?  

Net-A-Porter’s got a huge IT team for its industry. The percentage of people that work in IT is really high compared to a lot of other companies. A lot of that is down to the fact we write almost all of all our our applications in house. So there’s a huge number of really skilled developers here and loads of people to learn from.

Despite being a large company now there’s a still a bit of a startup mentality about it in that anything that comes along in terms of new projects or new ideas, people just go at it, run with it and see where it goes. A lot of the time we get some really great creations out of it. 

Tell us about your role? 

I’m all about web technologies and specifically web performance. A lot of things we’ve been looking at in my team are around ways to improve the performance of our website and our applications. So we do a lot of work to really streamline how our applications work. We’ve had a big boost recently, with the Christmas sale coming up, towards making sure our website stays up and running during heavy traffic periods.

We do loads of things to optimise the website. We’ve recently started moving bits of it from a legacy application to a new application that’s hosted with Amazon in the cloud. It gives us high levels of performance and scalalbity that’s needed for peak times.

In two or three months we moved the whole sale section of the site onto a new platform - a brand new technology that no one in the company had used before. We just gave it a go. And, it just so happens, this is the first time in three or four years we went through an entire sale without the website falling over once.

At the moment I’m specialising in mostly javascript. We’re using a lot of server-side javascript technologies to write new applications. 

Where did you apply to work after university?

I was sending off CVs left, right and centre. I applied for a lot of tech consultancies, a few financial companies, including some of the big banks, as well as some other web-only commerce companies. To be perfectly honest, I was happy to keep my options open as I didn’t have a clear destination in mind or clear industry. I kind of just went with it and it was only when I came down here for the assessment days and was a little bit wowed by the location, the offices, the team and the culture.

It’s not all about money. If I was at a bank doing 12-14 hours a day, regardless of how much I was earning, I’d probably just want to be straight out of the door. I was offered a consultancy role at IBM after a lengthy assessment process. At the end I got an offer but thought it was the wrong move because the company felt too big and I might not be able to get the chance to shine out there like I have been able to here. 

VIRENDRA DOSHI, 30, SENIOR JAVA DEVELOPER

Education: Computer Science (BSc) from Brunel University

Bio: Virendra is focused on building product recommendation services at Net-a-Porter and has been there since June 2012. 

 

How did you get into tech? 

At school we had a software programme called Logo where we typed very basic commands about how many steps forward to move and when to turn left and right and move forward again. That software would control a robot and we put a pen in that robot. So we put in lots of different commands for the robot and we draw a picture with it. That’s my earliest memory of any programming.

I guess it was the idea of me doing something and then seeing the results that I quite liked. I learnt Basic when I was 12 after finding a blog post on it. It was also the year I got access to the internet. I found something online where you could programme [the song] Sweet Child of Mine and it would play the theme.

Why did you join Net-a-Porter and what do you like about working here?  

I felt I outgrew the startup [Faculty of 1000] I was at and needed to work somewhere where there was a bit more scale and where there’s a lot more traffic to the websites so I could learn about deploying at scale and the complexities and challenges that come with that. I want to stay here for the next two to three years.  

We get a discount, the extent of which depends on the product. Even with the discount the prices are still quite pricey. 

There's also table tennis and fussball at the other Net-a-Porter office. 

Tell us about your role? 

My job today is developing product recommendation systems. These are systems that can be used by our customer-facing websites or some back end service. 

We’ve been doing the full development lifecycle, going from analysing requirements, getting those clarified and agreed to, designing the system and implementing it, and getting it tested and pushing it into production. We’ve been mostly using Java.

Where did you apply to work after university?

After uni I joined Fujitsu Services on their graduate programme - it wasn’t everything it could have been but I finished and stayed for a year and a bit more. 

After that I went to a small startup for a couple of year, called Faculty of 1000. Their website invites people to feedback on peer-reviewed publications and science journals like Nature. 

I enjoyed my role there…very small team…got to learn, whereas Fujitsu is global with big projects and you only get to do a tiny bit. 

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