What Do 8 South Wales IT Employees Look For in an Employer?

( Post 22 of 25 )

Last week, we published this: What Do 16 South Wales IT Employers Look For in an Employee?

Now it’s time to turn the tables…

WDYLF in an Employer montage“What do you look for in an employer?” We asked this question to 8 developers, engineers, consultants, etc. native to the South Wales region. Some work for small, up-and-coming startups while others work for medium-sized agencies and large companies.

We hope that employers (not just in South Wales, but anywhere in the world) will read the responses and take them into account when they are employing for IT staff of their own.

All of the answers are below, sorted alphabetically by surname. And just like last time, right at the bottom of this post, we have summarised our findings based on the most commonly-given answers – a roundup summary of sorts. Have fun reading them…!

Mark Bird photoMark Bird, Graphic Designer at Buy As You View

Buy As You View provides finance for household goods such as electricals, furniture and appliances. Mark also has a personal porfolio site at designmb.co.uk.

Having recently joined Buy As You View, I was looking for an employer where hard work and results were recognised and rewarded. In previous jobs I felt that very often working extra hours and going beyond the call of duty had become the norm and, as such, had become very much a one-way street. At Buy As You View I still have the same work ethic and I do go above and beyond what is expected of me but it has been recognised and rewarded. I enjoy a great relationship with my line manager who is very flexible with me should I need to do the school run or leave early occasionally, because he knows that should he need me to stay late or work in the evening, I will. I think it is important to have that mutual respect and flexibility because it creates a positive atmosphere within the team of wanting to work hard for the cause but with a good work/life balance too.

I think it is important to have that mutual respect and flexibility because it creates a positive atmosphere within the team.

I was also looking for an employer who would listen to my ideas and who would offer me a career progression if I wanted to move up. This is important to me so that I have something to aim for rather than feel as if I was stuck in my current role.

Finally, I think it is important that you enjoy your job because I think the best way to ensure an employee performs at their best is if they are passionate about what they are doing and they enjoy doing it. I feel lucky that I have found this at Buy As You View.

Peter Carless photoPeter Carless, Front End Developer at Big Mallet
@xanthestudios | @big_mallet

Big Mallet is a digital agency specialising in Drupal. Peter also offers branding, design, and development services in his own right at xanthestudios.co.uk.

Common questions that I have been asked in interviews are “What are your aspirations?” and “Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?”

The answers I have given have always been the same and based around the following points:

  1. An environment that I enjoy going to
  2. Work that I enjoy doing
  3. The ability to support my family
  4. The chance to develop both professionally and personally

Many people may see this as a lack of ambition but I’m at the point in my career where these are the important factors to me in choosing an employer; this isn’t to say that I would automatically turn down an offer of leadership and responsibility. But I’m a developer and hacking code – especially HTML and Sass – is what I enjoy doing.

Gavin Davies photoGavin Davies, Automation Engineer & Consultant at Radify
@gavD_UK | @radify

Radify offers web application development consulting. Gavin is also a freelance software developer: gavd.co.uk.

In choosing to work with a company, I look for flexibility first. I’m someone who is ill-suited to the starched collar of the corporate world, so remote working and flexible hours are an absolute must. What drives me is building efficient systems with smart people; to me, the corporate world simply seems to get in the way of that with its endless bean-counting and lumbering movement. As such, I’m absolutely delighted to have found Radify.io – we are a tight distributed team who solve interesting problems with technology. I love to be fully engaged in an organisation rather than being compartmentalised – so full stack development, as well as opportunities to speak at conferences and contribute to blogging output and so forth is essential to me.

What I love about Radify is the continuous improvement. We are very intentional about what we do and frequently take a step back to look at what we do, why we do it and how we can do it better. There’s a clear sense of progression and to me it’s very important to always be improving.

Andy Hopkins, ‎Web Development Manager at Legal & General

Legal & General is a multinational financial services company offering products including life insurance, general insurance, pensions and investments.

I have found that the best employers have a culture that encourages a good work/life balance, personal development and workplace collaboration rather than competition. These companies respect and trust their staff and are always willing to listen to their ideas. In my experience this results in companies that are enjoyable and rewarding to work for, even when workloads are high and deadlines tight.

Owain Lewis photoOwain Lewis, Senior Developer at the BBC
@owainlewis | @vacancyio | @BBC

Does the BBC really need an introduction..?! The UK’s international public service broadcaster. Owain is also a freelance Scala developer who has launched a job recommendation platform for developers called Vacancy: owainlewis.com and vacancy.io, respectively.

As a developer I am always looking for opportunities to work with interesting technology (languages and frameworks) and, perhaps more importantly, with great teams. One thing I’ve learnt over the years is just how valuable a strong team can be when working under pressure and in stressful situations. You learn a lot by working with people smarter than yourself, so I always look for places that employ talented software engineers. Like the quote says: “if you are the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.”

In my experience, software developers want to feel like they are working on worthwhile projects that will have a real impact. If you get to work with interesting languages and learn new things, that’s another big plus.

Craig Marvelley photoCraig Marvelley, Head of Platform at Bipsync
@craigmarvelley | @BipsyncApp

Bipsync is a research management tool that helps analysts, portfolio managers and CTOs to do their jobs better. Craig also has his own software blog: marvelley.com

I’d say the thing that I look for most in an employer is one who will give me a challenging remit, and put their trust in me to carry it out. I enjoy my work most when I have the freedom to be creative – to solve problems in the best way I can devise. I’ve been lucky to have had a few such employers through my career, and I think this has been one of the biggest contributing factors toward me enjoying my work, and looking forward to getting started each day.

Cheralyn Nadal photoCheralyn Nadal, Web Developer at Uprise Marketing
@cheznie | @MarketingUprise

Uprise Marketing offers web design, marketing and print design services. Cheralyn also freelances: [link coming soon]

I think it’s helpful for employers to have a general understanding of both the job role advertised and the sector. Although I appreciate that this isn’t always achievable, I think it’s really important in regards to both parties. Web development is such a broad sector that, without knowing what you require, you could potentially end up employing the wrong person for the job, or even pushing away perfect applicants.

When personally applying for jobs I always check to see if they are realistic. If the job role is titled ‘junior web developer’ and the description is basically a list of languages taken off Wikipedia, I wouldn’t apply.

When personally applying for jobs I always check to see if they are realistic. If the job role is titled ‘junior web developer’ and the description is basically a list of languages taken off Wikipedia, I wouldn’t apply. This makes me assume that the employer doesn’t know what type of developer they require, as a person with 5+ years of experience in each of a long list of various languages is most probably not going to apply for a junior role (although there are some wizards out there who would want to I’m sure).

When seeking employment I like to see that there’s room for self-progression and learning. Obviously this depends on the type of person applying and what they’re looking to achieve, but I personally seek companies who either already have developers working for them specialising in different languages and frameworks or (if a small business or startup) are open to opinions and ideas and prepared to try new technologies. I also look at the quality of work being produced by the employer and the areas in which the employer operates.

[Cheralyn has also written a separate, standalone blog post for us, detailing her experiences in her career and giving advice to jobseekers – check it out here!]

Richard Palmer photoRichard Palmer, UX Developer at Nudjed
@rdjpalmer | @nudjed

Nudjed is digital service that offers tailored health advice based on the user’s fitness goals and lifestyle. Richard also has his own portfolio website: rdjpalmer.com

Having been in the employment rat race quite recently myself, I found myself looking at employers who’d allow me to get to the next level in my own development.

Something that’s always been on the cards for me, is going “solo” and getting into the business of running my own startup. Before I take the plunge, being able to experience the excitement of a startup first hand is key. Being able to see the inner workings of a successful startup, and learn from people going through the same scenario as what I’d like to do in the future is important.

I pride myself on taking criticism well, in addition to always giving constructive criticism. Being part of a culture which fosters this kind of attitude is essential. I believe everyone’s at their best in an environment where they can share their opinion without any fallout.

More immediately, something that’s always mattered to me is the company’s culture. I pride myself on taking criticism well, in addition to always giving constructive criticism. Being part of a culture which fosters this kind of attitude is essential. I believe everyone’s at their best in an environment where they can share their opinion without any fallout.

Day-to-day, I find encouragement to experiment to be highly rewarding. Being able to try new technology or push new design concepts forward – even if they don’t come good – is super valuable from both an employer’s and employee’s perspective. What must come with this encouragement is a level of autonomy. Being able to make key decisions on my own. Being able to take a situation forward without consulting the “higher powers.” Doing these in an (almost) risk-free environment means that everyone benefits.

Aside from the typical stuff, having a few perks helps too. Flexi-time is the big one for me. I’m part of the Design Stuff Cardiff team, and have to take a little time to help run the monthly event. Realistically, flexi-time lets me progress in more than just a “work” way, making me a more rounded employee. Another is having access to decent kit. No one enjoys working on an old XP machine, and all it does is slow you down while you’re working.

[Learn more about Nudjed – their processes, their favourite tools, etc. – in this earlier CR 25 post]


In the opposite post to this one, some of the most important attributes that employers look for in a potential employee included attitude, being a team-player and having good technical and communication skills, amongst other things. But what about the employees? Here’s what we picked up on the most:

  • An employer who listens to their employees’ ideas is very important – it’s the factor that we spotted being mentioned the most amongst the respondents. Employees like to feel that their contributions might be able to help the company further beyond them simply carrying out a task for them. If anything, an employer with an employee that wishes to share information, ideas and suggestions should be viewed as a valuable asset, not a burden.
  • A good work/life balance that offers flexibility (such as flexi-time) is a big plus. Admittedly, there are times when employees have to work long hours on a project, but it’s no good if it’s all the time – and especially if they aren’t even respected, appreciated or thanked for it.
  • Even if we’re working for someone, we all want to develop our skills as individuals, so it’s key that employers welcome and encourage the personal development of their staff.
  • Lastly, and perhaps most importantly: they have to enjoy the work that they do!

There’s something else that’s interesting to point out though: how many of the 8 employees mentioned salary? Only one (and they mentioned that they want to “support [their] family” – not that they want to be rich). That’s not to say that money isn’t important – perhaps it’s simply the case that it goes without saying. But there are other factors that are also very important to IT staff… and if anything, it suggests that financial remuneration is not the be-all-and-end-all when it comes to who you work for/with.