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Carl Millar's 25-year journey with Sandfield

Carl enjoying a doughnut

Carl started at Sandfield as an intern in his last year of uni. Off the bat, he got involved in web projects, back when Notepad was considered a development environment.

Carl spent his early career working across a number of projects. He found himself mentoring a new person, and then he was mentoring a few people. All the CV’s were getting out of control so Carl hired Nicola (Director of Team and Talent) to take care of the Sandfield team and incoming talent.

“One day, I realised I hadn’t written code at all that day. I thought “I haven’t done any work today”, and that’s when I realised that my “work” had changed. Today, I don’t write code anymore, but stay relevant by using lots of buzzwords.”

What do you do at Sandfield?

I am the Chief Technology Officer of Sandfield. I also lead the Edge custom software team, have the pleasure of being on the ISMS Committee, and when 2 developers are arguing over which standard is better, it’s my job to say which is the winner.

 

What would people never guess you do in your role?

I like to test my English skills against Kaitlyn (Project Coordinator). There’s nothing like an English major sitting next to you to make you self-conscious of your ability to write good words.

 

Carl’s graduation.

 

What is your proudest moment at Sandfield?

I think my first proud moment was when Jono (Chief Security Officer) asked me how to do something. That’s when I knew I had made it.

My second proud moment was when I had written a decent chunk of code and it worked the first time. I looked around wanting to say “did you just see that!”.

Putting a hell of a lot of work into a pitch and it coming off is always up there - Henry and my efforts on the Foodstuffs eXchange system were one of those moments.

Seeing interns rise through the ranks to become senior members of the team is always very rewarding.  

 

When you think back to year 1, what stands out?

I had finished 3 years at uni. I wasn’t cocky but thought “I must know something”. I was blown away at how little I knew.

 

Carl and the Edge team.

 

What's your Sandfield legacy?

The original “Work With” framework. It was one of my first ASP.NET web projects. I had to build a franchise and job management system, and 2 weeks to get it done. I wondered “what should this look like”, and boom it was born.

 

What have been some of your greatest accomplishments during your 25 years here?

There have been a lot of great projects I’ve been involved in, and it’s always pleasing to see so many of them still active today.  One of those is Crossfire, which today is one of our leading business units, led by Henry Payne and his team.  But like all good things, it actually started as a project in the Edge team.  EDI had long been a capability of Sandfield, and Crossfire was to be the the latest EDI platform on the latest tech stack.  

We were aiming to complete the first release of Crossfire in time for the launch of our new shipping agency platform.  As the deadline to complete the Beta of Crossfire crept up, so did my overseas skiing holiday, and so I ended up skiing in Colorado during the day, and finishing the Crossfire platform by night.

Crossfire was launched and it was a success.  Soon after I dragged Henry in, and the rest is history as they say.  

When new people join the Crossfire team, I like to tell them that sometimes late at night when Crossfire is processing away, if they listen carefully they might be able to hear a faint whisper, “Carl was here”.

 

What advice would you give to recent new hires?

There is such a thing as asking a dumb question. But sometimes it’s dumber not to ask.

 

“It’s that ability to create something from just an idea. Collaborating with others in the team, having a joke, colluding on a plan, and then enjoying the success at the end of it all.”

Best part of work life here?

It’s that ability to create something from just an idea. Collaborating with others in the team, having a joke, colluding with a plan, and then enjoying the success at the end of it all.

 

What has kept you at Sandfield all these years?

It’s exciting to see us grow. Success breeds success, and that’s what I want to be part of.  We all have the opportunity to contribute to that, and that’s enjoyable.

 

How have you seen technology evolve over the last 25 years?

Starting as a grad, I went from knowing very little to a few years later knowing a hell of a lot more.  I remember feeling quite proficient, having built up reusable function libraries and best practices.

And then in 2002 Microsoft released .NET Framework, and I felt like a grad all over again.  We had to come up with new best practices, new tips and tricks, and new reusable libraries.  Fortunately experience counts for quite a bit, and although .NET Framework had new languages and paradigms to learn, we were able to quickly come up with our own libraries and best practices to use.

I think that’s a big part of Sandfield’s success, the effort we put into getting the frameworks right, and making the right technology decisions.

In the IT industry there have been a lot of technology failures over the years.  With so many technologies to choose from, and the temptation to use the latest (both by developers and clients), it’s easy to choose a technology that within a few years is no longer supported.  Through a lot of careful decisions, Sandfield has stayed on the side of good technology choices.

I see it now as part of our secret sauce, finding that right mixture of knowing when to adopt a new technology, and when to say no.  It’s a never ending exercise though, as a new library or framework is launched every other day.  

AI tools in the last 6 months, most of which will probably not be here in 2 years time. It’s exciting and fun to play with these, but knowing which to use in your trusted business system is the hard decision.  Never a dull moment!

 

 

How do you balance your career and family/personal life?

I try to work hard and improve in both. I don’t want to do either half-arsed.

 

What is your remote working situation?

I come into the office every day. But when I do need to work from home, I put clothes on. 

 

You’re happiest when?

My kids laugh.

 

What’s your favourite way to unwind after a busy day at work?

I’m pretty busy at home, so I go, go, go. If I’ve got time, I try to sneak in a war movie. Not The Pacific though, too much talking.

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