Meet the brains behind our school App
In today’s tech-savvy world, many of us rarely go a day without relying on handy Apps to chat with friends and family, post on social media, check our bank balance or transfer money, book a taxi and carry out all sorts of other routine tasks. It’s easy to forget the teams behind these Apps, working hard to develop new and innovative ways to enhance the user experience.
The ParentMail App is used by millions of busy parents to manage school life every day and we often hear from people that it makes receiving school communications so much easier! We want to shine a light on the brains behind our brilliant free parent App and learn a little more about the thought and work that goes into developing one of the education sector’s most popular parental engagement solutions.
Introducing ParentMail’s Front-End Developer, Richard Shergold!
How long have you worked at ParentMail and what does a front-end developer do?
I have worked at ParentMail as a Front-End Developer for nearly two years.
We have recently built a new version of the application to give us greater flexibility in delivering updates and improvements across all these platforms. This new version has been developed using the Ionic and Angular web frameworks.
What does a normal day look like for you?
I work remotely from home in West Sussex so I’m lucky that my day never begins with a commute – other than a very short walk to my office at the back of my garden! I usually try to start work at half past seven in the morning, which is also the time that most of my colleagues in the Development team arrive into the office; we are all early birds!
What I do on an average day depends on the current project we’re working on and what phase of that project we’re in. Most of the time, I am writing and testing code, but I also regularly have meetings with the Development team and other business colleagues at the ParentMail Head Office to discuss new requirements for the application.
If the initial phase of the project has finished and requirements have been signed off then I will be busy making the required changes to the App, sometimes working with other members of the Development team. After the testing process, the changes are released to our testing team. The ParentMail application needs to work across multiple platforms – all the major desktop and mobile browsers, as well as the range of iOS and Android devices – so both the development and testing processes can be quite challenging!
How does the development roadmap for the App take form?
We listen very carefully to feedback from parents and schools and also keep an eye on the market to see what innovations and developments are taking place. All feedback, whether positive or negative, is very useful to us. To ensure quality, we prioritise certain areas of development at a time. For example, currently, we are working on delivering Advanced Bookings functionality into the App which will allow parents to book and pay for their children’s dinners and club attendances in advance. This development will include a number of system enhancements to support schools and parents, and the release is fast approaching, so keep an eye out for it!
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Everything changes so fast in Information Technology, particularly the skills and technologies required for App development. As developers, we have to keep learning, otherwise, the industry speeds ahead and it’s so easy to fall behind. I love this aspect of the job, the fact that I am probably learning more now than I have ever learned in my life! Every day is a school day (which is quite appropriate for a ParentMail employee)!
This results in the other part of the job I love, the challenge of developing and enhancing the ParentMail App to be even more useful for parents and schools.
Can you tell us an example of a challenge you’ll (regularly) encounter as ParentMail’s Front-End Developer?
The biggest challenge for me is making sure that the code I write is going to work across all of the platforms that we support. As I say, that’s several desktop browsers and a large number of mobile devices. It’s very frustrating when something will work for 99% of users but could prove problematic for the remaining 1%!
What does the future look like for the App?
The challenge over the last year has been to get the new version of the application built so that we are in a position to better deliver regular updates. We have achieved this now and I am looking forward to our team being able to deliver some fantastic enhancements and updates to the application for all our parents to enjoy!
ParentMail is bridging the home/school gap with industry-leading technology! If you’re a school looking to improve parental engagement, we’re sure to have the solution for you – get in touch to find out more.