What’s The Stack Episode 6: Nikki Williamson, Engineering Manager at Swyftx

Welcome to What’s The Stack! As tech recruiters, every day ask the question – “What’s The Stack?” and now, we’re bringing that question to life as we ask some of our favourite technical friends about their own tech stack all while enjoying stacks of pancakes in Brisbane’s most iconic church turned 24/7 pancake restaurant – The Pancake Manor!

So, what is What’s The Stack?

Every day our Technology and Product Recruitment Consultants, Carly Shearman and Emily Conaghan get the opportunity to work with some of Brisbane’s best tech companies and throughout this process, they also get to have insightful conversations with developers and tech leaders about how they got to where they are, where they currently are in their careers and what they’re trying to achieve. But what don’t they get to do? Jump on camera to capture these conversations with some of our favourite people in tech. Until…. Now!

The brainchild of Hunt & Co.’s Emily Conaghan and Carly Shearman, What’s The Stack takes a peek behind the curtain of the careers of Brisbane tech leaders and emerging developers to explore Brisbane’s Tech scene through a series of interviews with some of your favourite faces as well as some that you may not have seen before. 

Each episode of What’s The Stack will take you through three levels of conversation:

  • Tall Stack: Questions about our guest and their career history
  • Full-Stack: In-depth questions on tech-related topics
  • Short-Stack: Funny, short sharp questions that no one else is asking

Let’s get into it…

What’s The Stack Episode 6: Nikki Williamson, Engineering Manager at Swyftx

Nikki Williamson‘s career is incredibly impressive. Having started as a Junior PHP Developer in 2013, Nikki has since honed her skills as a Software Engineer at companies including Terry White, Culture Kings, Amart, and now as Engineering Manager at Swyftx! Dedicated to all things in Tech, Data and Development, Nikki loves when her technical side gets to play in tandem with team management. We were so excited to chat with Nikki about her career journey, various learning curves and how she went from wanting to be a Psychiatrist to working in technology! Not to mention… life at Swyftx!

Few companies have made as big of an impact in the Brisbane tech scene as quickly and dare we say… swiftly.. as Swyftx. Since its inception in 2018, Swyftx has grown its userbase to numbers in the six digits, employee numbers in the triple digits and received a number of accolades along the way including the High Growth Award at the Lord Mayor’s Business Awards and being recognised as a finalist in the Digital Workforce: Skills For The Future award at the 2021 Women in Digital Awards!

What we learnt about Nikki from our conversation with her is that she’s not one to shy away from a challenge and we think that’s the key to her success! There are so many brilliant insights in this conversation with Nikki – she’s a go-getter, an inspiration and we are big fans!

We hope you enjoy this macadamia pancake-fuelled chat with Nikki as much as we did.

Interview Transcript:

Carly Shearman: Welcome to What’s the Stack. Every day as technical recruiters, we’re asking the question of, “What’s the stack?” So we thought, “Why not bring that question to life and ask some of our favourite technical friends in Brisbane what their stack is over a stack of pancakes in Brisbane’s iconic church turned 24/7 pancake restaurant, the Pancake Manor?”

Emily Conaghan: Today we’re meeting with Nikki Williamson. Nicki is a singer, dancer, actor, magician…

Carly Shearman: None of this is true. It’s not true at all.

Emily Conaghan: It’s not true. Nicki is the Engineering Manager at Swyftx, one of Brisbane, and Australia’s fastest growing and most exciting companies at the moment. Nikki has a really interesting background in eCommerce and working with a number of eCommerce brands growing her tech career so far. She’s recently included cryptocurrency into that sort of realm.

Carly Shearman: Mix bag!

Emily Conaghan: Yeah! What we want to find out about Nikki today is what does it take to manage a growing team all while adding a new feather to your cap in your career?

Carly Shearman: Yeah. So let’s go meet Nikki.

Emily Conaghan: Amazing. Well, Nikki, welcome to What’s the Stack. What stack do you have in front of you today?

Nikki Williamson: We have Macadamia Madness going on here today.

Carly Shearman: Amazing.

Nikki Williamson: Yes.

Emily Conaghan: And tell us about your tech stack. What’s your tech stack?

Nikki Williamson: Ah, okay. At Swyftx, we are using Node.js TypeScript, JavaScript, Angular, to which we are decommissioning and going towards React Native for our app and React for web, Terraform, AWS, Redis, Datadog, LaunchDarkly, and Kubernetes.

Carly Shearman: Wow. Impressive. You remember them all?

Nikki Williamson: I remember them all.

Carly Shearman: Give us a bit of an overview of your career to date.

Nikki Williamson: Oh, okay. I’ve been in the industry about nine years. I think I started as a Junior Developer at Terry White to a global eCommerce Developer at Absolute Board Co. And then Software engineer at Culture Kings and then into management at Culture Kings as well. And then Technical Manager at Amart to now Engineering Manager at Swyftx.

Nikki Williamson: Well, I’ve got to be honest. It was not in my vision when I was growing up. I wanted to be a Psychiatrist. So kind of quite far away from where all of my plans were. When I was 19, I went and lived in London, just decided that it was time to get away. And when I came back, someone told me that I just sort of was naturally good at it in an office once when I was helping the IT team out. And that’s all it took. And from there I just got into it myself. So yeah.

Emily Conaghan: And your career to date has been quite eCommerce focused. So starting in, I guess, Terry White and then moving through a couple of different eCommerce platforms. Has it just been sort of by chance that you’ve made that transition or is there something more to it?

Nikki Williamson: It definitely wasn’t deliberate. I think it’s sort of that general… You’ve started in somewhere as a junior. You’ve obviously worked there for a little while. You get used to those skills and expertise that come with Commerce, and then it makes it easier for you to move along in that same direction on that same path. And after you’ve been a junior for one, and you’re looking for the next step, you’re going to start looking at the skill sets that you’re feeling comfortable in. So naturally it’s just a general progress along eCommerce.

Emily Conaghan: And do you see Swyftx as a departure from eCommerce or is it sort of still in the same realm?

Nikki Williamson: Look, when I was first reached out to for the role, I was really nervous about it not being eCommerce, and I started to really doubt myself around how I was going to handle all of that because it wasn’t Magento and it wasn’t Salesforce or anything like that. I didn’t know all too much about apps in a working environment and had never traded before either. So the whole thing felt pretty…

Emily Conaghan: Big learning curve.

Nikki Williamson: Big learning curve. But the more I sort of thought about it, it’s actually still quite relatable. There’s still customers that you’re trying to obtain. There’s still customers you’re trying to retain. There’s still money involved. There’s still Marketing, Customer Service, UX teams. So it’s pretty similar. It hasn’t been as big as a learning curve, as I thought it would’ve been.

Emily Conaghan: And do you have any advice for developers who might have a niche, whether it’s eCommerce or something different and they’re looking to, I guess, diversify or move into something that’s got that big learning curve?

Nikki Williamson: I would say really to just step outside your comfort zone. I think most people don’t realise how their skills can be transferable and relatable to other different jobs as well. So I think you need to step back a little bit and broaden that search to what you’re looking for.

Carly Shearman: Now, something that Em loves as pastime is stalking people, and she’s just done a bit of research on you [inaudible]. You read one to two novels a week? Firstly…

Emily Conaghan: Out of control…

Carly Shearman: Where do you find the time? What’s the motivation? What’s going on there?

Nikki Williamson: I don’t know if there’s anything actually there. I’ve never thought about reasons why I’ve always read. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always read, I’ve been the person that used to read in the shower. I would put my book outside the shower on a basket and then sit on the floor and clean the glass windows so I could see it and read. I have left parties and events because I was like, “I’m reading a good book. I just want to go home.” So there’s been no particular reason or importance that I’ve really thought about it. It’s just what I… I love it more than most things.

Carly Shearman: So what technology development is exciting you the most at the moment?

Nikki Williamson: At the moment, there is a lot of new things coming hard and fast at everybody. It’d be wrong of me if I didn’t say cryptocurrency. I know it’s been around for a while, but I think where it’s going currently, where people are actually using it as tender, whether it’s for coffees or houses or cars, I think that aspect of it is really cool to see where it goes.

Carly Shearman: It’s kind of that curve, right? Like the early adopters, and we’re now going into more acceptance. It’s exciting to think about.

Nikki Williamson: Exactly. It’s exciting. Especially for me. I need this to continue on an upward trajectory.

Nikki Williamson: Blockchain, but also again, outside of the crypto space, I think it’s really interesting to see what it could do to revolutionise traditional banking.

Emily Conaghan: You mentioned that you weren’t into crypto before and you weren’t trading before and now it’s something that’s part of your life. But I know on the other side of the fence, there’s lots of people who are at Swyftx and have a real passion for it coming into the business. That’s a bit of a draw card for them. Do you think they’re… I guess, how does that fit into finding the right people for your team? Do you think it’s important to have a passion for what you’re developing in the product that you’re putting out there?

Nikki Williamson: Look, yes, definitely yes. I don’t think that they need to necessarily trade, but if they don’t have an account and frequently log in and perhaps pretend to be a user every now and again, then I think there are some shortcomings there. As I said before, yes, you could a hundred percent be a brilliant engineer and smash out the tickets that are assigned to you. But I feel like there’s that little bit of, I don’t know, passion missing sometimes if you’re not thinking about the customers or using it as a customer yourself to truly understand the features that we’re building and the roadmap or interested even in the user research that happens. So yeah, I do…

Emily Conaghan: Or the why behind it, I guess.

Nikki Williamson: Or the why. Exactly. So I do think it’s important with every place that you’ve been. And every job I’ve been at, I’ve been a customer, even if I’ve not particularly been a skateboarder or into street wear or whatever, I’ve always had the website open constantly and at random points during the day, we’ll pretend to be a user and just click around. Yeah.

Emily Conaghan: So Swyftx is named after a bird. If you were a bird, where would you fly?

Nikki Williamson: Russia. Oh yeah. Carly Shearman: Don’t question it. Just lean into it. If you could only recommend one book to the world, what would that book be?

Nikki Williamson: Women, Men and the Whole Damn Thing.

Carly Shearman: Cool. Emily Conaghan: When was the last time you thought about Fran Drescher from The Nanny?

Nikki Williamson: Probably only a couple of weeks ago. I re-watched the whole series.

Emily Conaghan: Oh my God. Amazing. It’s like you knew.

Emily Conaghan: If you could pick any superpower, what would it be?

Nikki Williamson: Read minds.

Emily Conaghan: What’s the superior flavor of M&M?

Nikki Williamson: Oh, crispy. Crispy. I’m a crispy.

Carly Shearman: Have you ever solved a Rubix cube?

Nikki Williamson: One side. Emily Conaghan:

What would you do if there were 26 hours in the day?

Nikki Williamson: I think I would just continue reading. Yeah haha.

Emily Conaghan: And finally, what do you love about having a career in tech?

Nikki Williamson: The people. It is the people. They are autonomous. They are driven. They are creative and I admire so many of them. So it is the people.

Thank you for watching What’s The Stack! Looking to hire new talent, seeking new opportunities, or just loved this episode and want to let us know, go ahead and connect and email Emily Conaghan (emily@huntandco.io) and Carly Shearman (carly@huntandco.io).

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What’s The Stack… roll the credits

Powered by: Hunt and Co. 

Executive Producer: Emily Conaghan

Producer: Carly Shearman

Hosted by: Emily Conaghan & Carly Shearman

Support Crew: Elise Le-Galloudec and Matthew Hunt

Video Production by: BITL

Location: The Pancake Manor

Special Guest: Nikki Williamson, Engineering Manager at Swyftx

A special thanks to The Pancake Manor team and everyone that played a hand in making this project possible.

Industry & Career Insights, What's The Stack

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