Adrian Tuckwell is a freelance software engineer in Aberdeenshire Scotland. As owner of Udny Solutions, Adrian can provide bespoke software solutions, web design and engineering services. A recent CodeClan graduate gaining a Software Development Award and with over 20 years in the controls industry Adrian is uniquely equipped with the skills to offer quick and quality service. Adrian also owns and runs Udny Designs a craft business raising money to provide therapies for his Son Thomas.
Location: Udny Station, Aberdeenshire
Current Gig: Freelance Software Engineer and CEO of Udny Designs and Udny Solutions
One word that best describes how you work: Systematically
Current mobile device: iPhone 6, iPad mini retina
Current computer: MacBook Pro and 27” desktop Mac
First of all some background and how I got to where I am today.
I grew up in a small village of North Kessock across the firth from Inverness. I have always been destined to be an engineer, loving to take things apart, mending bikes and building contraptions with technical lego.
Some time in the 80’s I was lucky enough to get a computer from Santa. It was a Commodore VIC-20, with a whopping 3.5k memory. I remember my Dad and myself turning it on for the first time and waiting for it to boot. When complete it displayed a start screen, We looked at each other and the best we came up with was to type ‘Yes” which gave us an error.
After a few months I gained a tape player and a 16k RAM pack and started to learn to program in Basic.
One of the programs I was most proud of back then was a small 10 line script that I had memorised. When set running it would count down for a minute, play an alarm sound at full volume and then disable the keyboard. My friends and I found it hilarious to go into Boots the Chemist Inverness (yes they sold computers once) type in my program and set it running and wander off and hide. We would wait for the alarm and an assistant come and try to silence the computer and fail. The computers where in lock boxes so could not be turned off locally and someone would have to go get a key and open the cupboard below to find the master power switch. We thought this was brilliant.
I grew up and enrolled in Robert Gordon’s University Aberdeen to study for a BEng in Electrical and Electronic Engineering. I liked soldering circuits so this seemed a good fit and it had some computer programming too. Three years in I took a year out on an Industrial placement with Shell UK in Aberdeen. Here I got my first introduction to Apple computers and multimedia, and started my first company (EngTech Enterprises) making training videos using the multimedia for Shell. Irony was that the videos were providing training in using Microsoft Windows, but recorded on an Apple.
I went back to Uni to complete my honours year and then became a controls engineer working with SCADA and PLC’s in oil and gas for the next 20 years. Then last summer I enrolled in a Software Development Bootcamp in Edinburgh wanting to relearn coding and this is me back to present day.
What apps, software, or tools can't I live without.
My favourite app is probably boring and non business related, but I love Instagram. Ive been using it for years now and have a whopping 8173 pics uploaded. I love nothing better than to take pics of my boys in everyday life and applying filters and playing with colours and uploading them for a restricted list of family and friends. I actually have two accounts, I have one installed on my iPad too and this is dedicated to my Udny Designs Instagram account. Here I love seeing other crafters and engineers and what they have created and use this for inspiration in my work too.
What is my workspace setup like?
I mix locations where I work. If I'm out and about I have a EDC (Every Day Carry) office that keeps me working wherever I am, assuming I can get Wifi. Here I have my MacBookPro, various cables and PSU kept in a smart cable carry bag. I have a Moleskine notebook and a Maxpedition mini pouch which holds a few pens, screen wipe and my Leatherman Wingman.
At home I work from my study. I have a desk which I have made myself from two US Pro-Tools roller toolboxes with a top made from Oak kitchen worktop. I love how it looks and functions. Its really chunky has loads of storage and is really sturdy. It also has hidden storage for my backup drives (1TB and 2TB Western Digital my books) On top I have my 27” Mac and a slide out drawer for my keyboard.
I quite like the clutter in my study and have a number of toys and tech items displayed on a full wall of Ikea billy boy bookcases.
Whats my best time-saving shortcut or life hack?
Stop procrastinating and just get on and do things. Someone asked me when I was at CodeClan, how I managed to get so much done. I’d be finishing my lab, doing my home work, writing my blog, keeping my personal website up to date or fulfilling orders for Udny Designs. They asked how I managed all this? I guess the answer was just get on an do it. Use the spare moments to do something. I have two young boys so my daily routine revolves around their minute by minute demands. But in the small breaks I just get on an do something.
Whats my favourite to-do list Manager
My favourite by a long way is Trello. Its free and so easy to use. The best feature for me is the ability forward an email to Trello and it will create a new Trello card in my to do list. I actually have many Trello boards setup and use them everyday. When I read an email containing a vacancy for a job I fancy applying for I just forward it to my job hunt Trello board and then forget about it. When I have a few accumulated or I plan to do some applications I just go through my Trello board and apply for the jobs that are in my list. I apply move the card over to the applied list and set an alarm on it (yes I am still applying for work and setting up a company).
Beside my computer and phone what gadget cant I live without and why?
I love tools and gadgets. So I always need to be carrying some form of LeatherMan multitool. I have two sets of keys and each has a LeatherMan mini tool on them. As discus above I also keep my LeatherMan wingman with me most of the time. You never know when you need a tool yourself, or you need to help someone. Walking past folks trying to setup a PA system in CodeClan a few weeks ago. They were struggling with the setup as the phono jack had snapped off in the socket and the remains could not be reached. LeatherMan to the rescue. I failed with the pliers to reach the bit, but using what I imagine is a tool for cleaning horses hooves I managed to hook the bit that had snapped off and removed it.
What everyday thing am I better at that everyone else? Whats my secret?
Id like to think I have the knack. I seem to be able to quickly diagnose an engineering problem and come up with a solution or alternate way of doing something. I think my secret is I have been desert engineering (making do with what you have) for a very long time and find great reward in fixing and making something broken work again.
What do I listen to while I work?
Im not that big a music fan, but I quite like listening to podcasts when Im working. However if Im really in the zone, I can get to the end of a podcast and have no idea that I have just listened to. My top 5 podcasts I like to listen to are:
- Making it With Jimmy Diresta, Bob Clagett, and David Picciuto,
- Ted Radio Hour,
- The Infinite Monkey Cage
- Still Untitled: The Adam Savage Project
- Learn to Code With Me
What am I currently reading?
Since watching the movie Cocktail many years ago I have always been drawn to entrepreneur books. So its no surprise that the current book Im working my way through is “build a business from your kitchen table by Sophie Cornish and Holly Tucker”. I also like to listen to audio books when Im going to sleep and have been through most of the Bill Bryson collection.
How do I recharge? What do I do to forget about work?
My favourite place to recharge is my shed. Its quite a large shed and has been setup as a woodworking space. It has a large bench with table and band saws, pillar and cordless drills and many hand tools. Its where I like to escape to.
Whats the best advice I have ever received?
Keep being yourself. When I worked at Shell many years ago as a Junior Technology advisor, someone I worked with said to me after meeting with some managers, to ‘Keep being yourself’. When asked how, I was told that I came across really well, been polite and open and just to keep doing that.
I borrowed the idea for this blog post from lifehacker.com. I have read similar posts from other people and have imagined myself answering such questions. Who knows one day maybe Ill answer them for real For now thanks for reading and if you have any questions just email me.
And now that I don't see Edinburgh Castle everyday, not to be outdone. Here is Udny Castle. Yup we have a castle too...