My incessant ramblings
On Monday 16th February Roger Allen, the managing director of Zeta came in to talk to use about his company and his journey of how he ended up there. As a managing director, Roger doesn’t run the company, instead he brings and understanding of business to Zeta.
Roger’s long journey started in 1948, the year he was born. He went to a good school, but was not clever enough to get into university, as so he left school in 1966. Before leaving school he went to careers advice and said that he was interested hairdressing and journalism, but was told that these areas were not for boys, and so was forced into applying for the army, though he was not accepted. Instead he started working in a textiles company in Leicester.
At the age of 23, he was working as part of the sales team selling textiles machinery and was given Africa and was ultimately head hunted by an Anglo-American company for a similar role but to sell to the south-east Asian market. While working in this department, Roger received the first orders for a British textile manufacture in India and Pakistan since their independence from the United Kingdom.
Eventually, Roger was fired from his position and returned to retail in Leicester, got divorced and moved south where he bought a bar. He then sold his bar and went back to retail. Until finally he moved to Weymouth in Dorset, where he came into the world of computers. He studied at night school and learnt how to use computers to design conservatories, and went on to own part of a company designing them.
In 1998 Roger was asked to start an IT contractors recruitment agency in the sale team, working here he was able to hone his IT skills even more.
Roger then went on to found Zeta in December 1999, and registered the company in 2000. Zeta is the sixth letter in the Greek alphabet, and he thought the name would be good for e-commerce and e-zines. Six months in, the company was in huge debts, mainly from advertising. Roger took over as the managing director and stood behind the debts. Zeta then began offering websites for £99, and as demand started to increase, they increased their prices to £299 and then £499. At this point, making websites was earning Zeta the smallest part of their income.
By 2009, Zeta were turning over good money with a large staff, though 2010 brought in a change of government to the UK. In 2011-12 Zeta experienced a huge down turn, almost collapsing the company resulting in losing some of their most important clients. At the end of 2012, Roger was forced to refinance Zeta. During 2013-2014, Zeta were determined not to lose any more clients. To do this, they decided to over deliver on projects and care more about their clients. Most recently in 2014, Zeta, with the help of previous Bournemouth University students, Zeta restructured themselves for mobile development. Roger is a big believer of business tapping into academia for talent.
While giving advice to the students about leaving education and entering into the industry, Roger had a lot of valuable advice to give which is backed up his many years of experience. He suggests we learn about the realities of the business that we are wishing to enter in to. The business actually pays more national insurance to the government on behalf of the employee than the employee pays. Note taking isn’t something that should end when leaving education, Roger advises to take a lots of notes, and more importantly, to listen. When looking for a job, remember than the public and private sectors are very different. In the public sector, such as governments, every decision they make is heavily scrutinised, and strict ethical standards need to be abided by. However, the private sector apply ethics that suit themselves, some good and some bad. When applying for a job, Roger advises that we never lower our standards to some low standard agencies, we should keep self respect and change jobs if needed.
On Monday 9th February Nick Stocks from Internet Dept came in to talk us about search engine optimisation (SEO).
Nick is the Director of Internet Dept Expert on SEO and online marketing, his website can be found at http://internet-dept.com.
During his talk, Nick gave us some advice on how we can improve the SEO on our own portfolio websites. Google search ranks blogs very highly, and WordPress has good SEO built into it already. When used in conjunction with a free WorpdPress plugin names Yoast, the user can have an even greater control over the SEO their site offers. Another thing Yoast offers is an automatic sitemap creation tool. A sitemap is an xml file that can be submitted to Google to help the site index easier and faster.
A sitemap can be submitted to Google via another tool that Nick recommended, Google Webmaster Tools. This service shows webmasters how visitors reached their website or what the user had searched for in order to find their website.
For a while I had been planning to remake my portfolio site because the design had not changed since I first created it in the first year. Taking in all of Nick’s advice, I decided to create a WordPress theme for my site and install the Yoast plugin. Since using the recommended tools I have had some success in Google, for example if you search for something in my portfolio page, such as Pi IP Cam tweeter or Driver Timer Pebble app my website shows up on the first page of Google.
I recently visited the Google store in London to get some ideas in terms for layout etc for my final project exhibition show. I took my Google Glass with me to take some photos and videos, and then played around with the things they had on show.
From the outside of the store, which is located inside a Currys PC World store in Tottenham Court Road, Google have an interactive installation that consisted of a lot of different moving parts. These included some cogs, balls and a bicycle from Google’s headquarters in California. From the inside of the store, the bicycle had handle that could be turned and a big button could be pressed to release balls that ran along a Rube Goldberg esque series of ramps. It has had a series and small displays which showed the most popular current Google searches.
Inside the store there was a small table with seating that had some devices set up to use, ranging from Chromebooks, smartwatches, tablets and phones. The was my first time trying the Nexus 6 and 9, and I was impressed with both. For the past few years I have bought each years Nexus phone on launch, but with the 6 being £150 more than the usual £300 and being a student, I wasn’t able to get in last October. I particularly like the fold up tables in the seating area.
There was a large interactive screen which allowed you to graffiti over the Google logo with a digital spray paint can. I didn’t recognise the PCB within the clear can, it wasn’t an Arduino, Pi or any Beagle board I had ever seen, but I could see an SD card reader located on it.
In one of the corners was a large Google Earth display with custom controls. The controls featured a touch screen, a joystick and a Leap motion. The leap was mainly used for hover above a location to reveal more information about it, such as longitude, latitude and population. The device was also able to play Pac-man on a custom maze, very similar to the Pac-man Google doodle from a few years ago.
A common theme with the store was the use of rounded corners, diagonal lines and exposed wood. These aesthetics don’t really follow Google’s material design, but still looked great nonetheless.
A while ago my Driver Timer Pebble application broke the 100 current installs and currently sits at 121 with 5 hearts.
I am very pleased with the success of this application and it is far exceeding my expectations.
I was also contacted by a van courier service from London via the Pebble app store who requested I added a feature to support van driving hours laws, which differ to HGV. I implemented this via the use of a settings screen in which the user can quickly switch between the two modes, even on the fly.
The number of installs has increased again today to 27 and I finally have received a “heart” rating. Interesting, yet unsurprisingly, the number of install per day has been dropping as seen in the chart.
To more of my surprise, the install number for my app went up again today to 23. I have still yet to receive any “hearts” or feedback though.