Biography

Introduction

Hello, and welcome to my personal website. My name is Will Appleby. I live in Workington, Cumbria, UK, but I’m originally from Norfolk and still return regularly to visit family and friends.

From January 2015 to June 2021, I worked for Aviva as a Senior Software Architect. In July 2021, I began a career break, spending 2.5 months travelling around the Greek islands to figure out the next chapter of my life. I moved to the Lake District with my girlfriend but avoided full-time work until I began contracting again in November 2022.

During that period, I returned to Greece again for the summer of 2021, spending nearly three months exploring more islands and generally relaxing in the sun.

If you’re feeling generous, consider supporting me by watching YouTube videos on my Greece Travel Guide channel.

Living my best life exploring the Greek island of Sifnos in 2020
Check out my latest YouTube video on my favourite Greek island, Sifnos.

Background

I was born in June 1982 in Norwich and grew up in Dereham, where my parents still live in the same house. At 23, I moved out of Dereham, living briefly in Toftwood, then Easton and Cringleford. In 2019, I bought a flat in the city centre of Norwich. Having grown up in rural surroundings, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy city life, but the convenience of being within walking distance of cafes, shops and restaurants was surprisingly appealing. I definitely helped boost the profits of Caffe Nero, my favourite coffee chain, with regular visits on my way to and from home.

At the age of six, I joined my local swimming club, Dereham Otters, following in my elder sister’s footsteps. When she moved to a more competitive club (City of Norwich, formerly Norwich Penguins) in her early teens, I stayed at Otters as I enjoyed the relaxed but competitive nature of the club and made several good friends that I’m still close with today.

I began my education at Toftwood First School, then Toftwood Middle (now combined into Toftwood Junior School). According to most of my teachers, I was good at most sports and somewhat academic, too, if a touch on the lazy side! I took my GCSEs at Northgate High School, where I achieved a reasonable set of results: three A’s, five B’s, three C’s and two D’s – but who cares about Spanish and English Literature!!

My first experience with computer programming came at the age of 11. At the time, my parents had a Sinclair ZX Spectrum+, and we mainly played classic games such as Manic Miner, Daley Thompson’s Decathlon and Chuckie Egg.

One day, bored with playing games, I noticed that the instruction manual had a selection of BASIC scripts to generate various animated patterns on the screen. I recall carefully typing away at the keyboard, line by line, as the program slowly took shape on the screen. Once I hit return on the final command, the resulting image was drawn on the TV. It was laborious work, but the joy of seeing all my effort rewarded (albeit with a relatively simple graphic) had a profound effect on me. There was no ‘save’ function either, so if I made any mistakes or were untimely power cuts, it was back to line one!

With my interest in programming established, I moved on to an Amiga 600 and, shortly afterwards, an Intel i386 PC. At the age of 15, I started teaching myself Visual Basic and also began learning the ‘C’ programming language. By the time I was in Sixth Form, I had become proficient in VB6 and modestly skilled at C, resulting in an unofficial role as the classroom assistant, helping my fellow students with their Computing coursework.

Having achieved the required grades to continue my studies at degree level, I opted for a Computing Science course at the University of East Anglia, where I went on to achieve a solid upper-second class BSc Honours degree.

During my three-year course, there were many choices about what modules to study, ranging from ‘internet technologies’ to ‘database systems’. I decided to push myself as hard as possible by taking several Computer Graphics modules, as well as Artificial Intelligence, Human-Computer Interaction, Networking, and Data Structures and Algorithms. I found all the modules very enjoyable, although the graphics modules, in particular, were exceptionally challenging, owing to the complex maths involved – way beyond my GCSE level skills!

By this time, I had also taken an interest in web development – with the increasing popularity of the internet – and had taught myself HTML, CSS, some basic Javascript and ASP as my first server-side web technology.

To practise these skills, I set up an interactive website for my local swimming club, Dereham Otters, with whom I’d been a member since 6. It gave me great satisfaction and vital experience running the site successfully for several years.

Following University, I was lucky to return to a local company I’d had a summer job with the previous year. Initially, I was tasked with rebuilding their internal support website as I had proven web skills. Given the choice between building it in classic ASP (which I knew pretty well) or what was, at the time, a brand new technology called ASP.NET, I naturally opted to push my skills further and chose .NET, which has perhaps been the most crucial decision in my career so far! Choosing ASP.NET allowed me to learn C#, and reasonably soon, I had the new support site up and running and exceeding the expectations of the business.

Having learned C#, I was the only business employee with any .NET experience, which resulted in my taking over the development of two essential products, which had, until that point, been developed by an external contractor at great expense to the company. I could take both products and continue developing them over the next 12 months. Both applications were released into production on several client sites, proving very successful and becoming a significant new revenue stream for the business.

Using my increasing .NET experience, I was able to move first to another small family-run business – where I spent 12 months writing VB.NET for both Windows and Web environments – then onto a slightly larger company where I spent the next 5 years refining my development skills; firstly as a Senior Developer, then Development Manager before finally being promoted to Technical Director in recognition of the hard work, expertise and leadership skills that I had demonstrated.

By this time, I was firmly back in the C# camp and working with the latest technologies, such as LINQ, Entity Framework, and MVC. Along the way, I’d also become proficient at database design, deployment and maintenance, primarily with Microsoft SQL Server and using MySQL in my spare time.

In 2012, I decided on a significant career change and set up my business, Fastcode Ltd, to offer my services as a consultant/contractor in the IT marketplace. My first client was an old employer who needed some extra resources on a flexible basis. I spent a very successful 15 months with them, enhancing their online gaming platform and gaining additional experience working on Linux systems and using technologies including Rabbit MQ, Elasticsearch, haproxy, Nginx and more. I then moved on to a much larger client – Aviva Plc – whose main offices are in Norwich. I joined their MyAviva team, instrumental in rolling out their online products to France, Italy, Poland and Canada. Due to a change in personal circumstances, I decided to stop contracting in 2018, taking up a permanent role at Aviva as a Software Architect.

In April 2021, I put the wheels in motion for a new chapter in my life and handed in my notice at Aviva. On the 30th of June 2021, I was officially unemployed for the first time in my adult life! I’d decided to take a career break: renting out my Norwich flat, returning my financed BMW and jetting off to Greece for three months. I had a good pot of savings to tide me over, and it felt like a good time to take stock of my life and see what the next chapter would look like.

Outside of work, I joined a local masters swimming club, East Anglian Swallow Tails (EAST), in 2019 and became Membership Secretary later that year, a role I held for two years. I entered around four or five competitions a year and have been ranked as high as third in my age group nationally in my best event, the 50m freestyle, with a personal best time of 24.41. Since moving to Cumbria in 2021, I joined the masters’ squad at my now-local Workington Swimming Club.

I train regularly at the gym to aid my swimming and aim to attend at least three weekly weight sessions. In 2022, I started an online course to become a qualified Personal Trainer, building on my 20 years of experience in weight training and hoping to share my knowledge and enthusiasm for fitness with the local community.

Aside from work and fitness, I’m an avid PC gamer. I used to play a lot of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, but my friends and I eventually got bored of it. I’ve been playing Overwatch since season 2, as well as various other games such as Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, Sniper Elite, Ghost Recon Wildlands and recently the latest COD: Modern Warfare.

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Last modified: 07/09/2023

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