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Hello! Thanks for a crazy first month on DEV :)

miketalbot profile image Mike Talbot ・5 min read

I joined DEV on May 18th and in the following month I've learned a bunch of stuff and used that learning to find answers to a few problems I've had hanging around for a while.

I can't remember where I read about DEV but someone said it was the smart developer's front page for the Internet. "Well that sounds good," I thought. On May 18th I introduced myself by posting about a cool way of doing React async components, since then I've written a DEV themed game for a tutorial, written and published the first 4000 words of that tutorial, been inspired to write a widely valuable library that already has 170 stars, ran out of bandwidth on my ScreenShare account because I posted a comment to a Ben H article with a video of me talking about non-tech companies pivoting to tech. I seem to have also written a bunch of other things - this month has been "productive".


Figure 1: DEV Apples: I had no idea I'd write this game for my Inversion of Control tutorial until 2 weeks ago

When I started on DEV I didn't make an intro post, though some of you will know me as "that idiot that woke 30,000 people up at 4 am by merging the wrong branch" or also "the closeminded a**hole that likes Macs and you can't convince him otherwise" if you've seen some of my comments around here. So I might as well introduce myself, rather than barging around the party spilling drinks and talking loudly in a drunken voice to anyone who'll listen, stating that "Inversion of Control" is absolutely the best movie ever - sorry "Inception" is about the best movie ever, but "Inversion of Control" is how I build software.

This is me

Hi, I'm Mike. I'm a 52-year-old CTO and software developer. I've spent most of my life founding and building software companies, but for the last 2 years, I've worked at Alcumus, a fantastic organization that is seeking to ensure that those people who do more than "type on a keyboard" for a living stay safer and healthier for their whole lives.

I first touched a computer when I was 13. In 1981 I finally convinced my parents to buy me a Sinclair ZX81. I'd failed a year earlier. Back then all you could find to learn from was a scant few books, but I bought them all and buried myself in my bedroom slowly pulling together the BASICs.

2 years later I'd managed to upgrade to a BBC Model B and I wrote "Community" a resource sharing game for my school and "Bridge to the East" a graphical arcade adventure that I sold by advertising in computer magazines.

My father died during my A-Level exam season and I failed every last one. I probably wasn't going to do that well anyway, but with those results, there would be no university for me. Especially back in 1985.

In the summer of 1985, I'd upgraded to an Amstrad CPC 464 and 2 friends and I decided to make a two-player collaborative arcade game based on the "Gauntlet" arcade game. It was picked up by a publisher "Mastertronic" and they put it everywhere. It went on to sell more than 300,000 copies. Which was BIG in 1985-87.

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Over the next few years, I worked for Ocean software making probably my best game "Shadow Warriors". And some notable failures like "Superman Man Of Steel" for which the review read "Is it a bird, is it a plane, no it's a pile of crap".

I ended up in France living in Bretagne and then Paris working for the Guillemot brothers at UbiSoft, but team sizes were getting bigger and budgets being pushed down, so I quit and came back to the UK.

In the UK I got a job at a direct marketing company and realized that my game coding experience could be applied to data analytics so back in 1993 we started building a big data system that modelled information in a different way.

Those initial ideas turned into a couple of businesses that were very successful (and are still going today). The second of which, Alterian, we IPOed on the London Stock Exchange, raising £35m just before the dotcom bubble burst in 2001. Despite difficult market conditions we managed to push through and the built an organisation that had offices on 5 continents and revenues of £45m a year.

In 2011, after the sale of Alterian, I turned back to my roots and founded 3radical, a company focused on gamification. We built out a platform there which has shown incredible engagement rates. During that period I really started contributing to open source projects and getting involved in the online community around Unity (the game engine), I still appear to be user 6 in regard to Karma. I published any number of packages and tutorials (on my Unity Gems website) for Unity and benefited massively in return with fixes, enhancements and motivation.

Since 2018 I've been working at Alcumus. I've now been a CTO since 1997, but I'm a engineer first. I have a fantastic team with me that now spans Canada and the UK and we are doing some very cool stuff I think.

Software has been good to me

I've lived for years in the UK, France, US (Westport CT, Chicago IL and Valencia CA), Singapore, Vietnam and a few months in Romania. Chasing the startup dream has taken me to more than 65 countries and put me in teams with some of the most inspiring people in the world.

Finding DEV has been great, hopefully there is an outlet and community here that I can be a part of.

My key learnings

  • Trust that you might have a different way of doing things that is good
  • Uniqueness drives value, so long as it has benefits
  • Show humility, it's very likely someone else knows more than you about almost everything
  • Make sure that you learn as much as possible from everywhere
  • Try not to reinvent things
  • Build what you must, not what you can (everything else buy or use open source)

Other stuff

Discussion (18)

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justaashir profile image
Aashir Aamir Khan

Hey Mike, Your story looks like Forestt Gump 😌 Sorry bad comparison.

But yeah!
really want to be like you, you travelled 65+ countries and you were the part of the Dot-com history and some of the great startups. You made games, in 80's (Super Cool)

Love 💞 your life journey

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miketalbot profile image
Mike Talbot Author

Thanks :) It's odd to look back sometimes (anyway I kinda live in the now), but yeah I have been very lucky I think. That said, it wasn't all fun and plain sailing at the time haha. I have enough screw ups and bad choices to fill a bookshelf.

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Raphael Habereder • Edited

Hey Mike. I'd like to extend another warm welcome to DEV! I've read a few of your posts. Excellent work, even though I am very rusty in JavaScript and the common frameworks nowadays. I hope you stick around!

I especially liked to read about your view from the employer side, there is probably a lot of experience and inspirations I can shamelessly soak up from you :D
Reading your story so far, I do think I have a few more goals for my roadmap now.

Keep on posting! :)

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miketalbot profile image
Mike Talbot Author

Thanks! I think being an employer and a member of the team at the same time is a good balance for me and helps me drive for fairness, but I'm sure I'm not perfect at it. I am lucky I have great colleagues, some new and some I've worked with for years, who cover my weaker points!

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John Peters

Thanks Mike, your articles are great. You've taught me a lot.

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miketalbot profile image
Mike Talbot Author

Thanks John, you have been hugely supportive and I've also learned a bunch from reading your work.

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zoedreams profile image
☮️✝️☪️🕉☸️✡️☯️

Thank you for sharing, Nice to meet you. I enjoyed your writting.. Fascinating experience you have.

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Ben Halpern

You’ve had a great influence on the community since joining. Thank you Mike!

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Mike Talbot Author

Ben, firstly thanks for saying that, really appreciated. You've built a very interesting community here that is satisfying on multiple levels. Firstly it is a community I can tell, it's also very supportive and I'm sure that's down to the hard work of yourselves at DEV and the moderators. Secondly it's very informative.

I'm not going to be writing things aimed at beginners, other people here are doing sterling work with that goal already, but this site is suitable for a wide range of skill levels.

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Renato Ruk

Hello Mike, thanks for sharing your story. Your articles are really next level in terms of quality and depth, I've learned a lot already. 👏

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miketalbot profile image
Mike Talbot Author

I'm glad to hear that! I'm always keen to not reinvent things if I can help it.

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Rob OLeary

Thanks for sharing!

"Is it a bird, is it a plane, no it's a pile of crap" 😅 It's cool you navigated failures and successes, and still love it today. C64 games were my introduction to computers.

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Mike Talbot Author

Yeah, that one was a disaster. Short timescale, no source material until late in the day... All of that probably doesn't explain why Superman had a third leg only when he flew right! Failing is part of learning they say haha...

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Farhan Hasin Chowdhury

You're great. You were the first person and the only person to comment on my first post. That comment was a great inspiration Mike. Your articles are awesome as well.

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TutorialsMate

You have provided great stuffs 👍

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shane profile image
shane

Thanks for sharing Mike and welcome to the DEV community 😀

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spiritbro1

you're welcome mike