Passion and a plan

For a young boy growing up in rural New Zealand in the early 1970s - London and New York seemed like distant planets.

In the case of Modica’s Delivery Squad Lead, Mike Lace, passion and a plan would take him round the world. At the age of 13 years, Mike developed an interest in computers, which was lucky, because the regular subjects bored him to tears. With the support of a teacher, he started a computer club, and at the first opportunity, left school to work as an office junior at a budding IT company. It proved the right place at the right time, as the business worked on a precursor to the internet and in 1985, boasted one of the earliest versions of email. Within six months Mike was running their mainframe.

The next role was at a big insurance company working on their mainframe. He loved the team, but soon realised that running mainframes would be a dead end job, because most of his efforts at automation would make his role redundant. He watched the engineers go about their work and wondered how he could join their ranks on the hardware side. Concerned a stint at university would be like his boring school days, he opted for a different path - the military.

Learning electronics with the New Zealand army proved an exciting ride. “They trained me, paid me, and when I wasn't working hard enough, there was always someone nearby to kick me in the backside.” As an Electronic, Instruments & Radar (EIR) Technician, the skill development proved superb, covering a wide range of experience on repairing equipment including; radio, radar, laser warfare, bomb disposal robots, night vision sights and much more. His training complete and passion increased, he left the army with a plan to utilise his new found skills focused on computing.

A few years repairing PC hardware components in NZ was followed by a leap to London. Working for some of the big banks for several years, he honed his skills in network engineering. In 1994, he was asked to write a course on, what was then, the burgeoning World Wide Web. He then contributed to his employer becoming one the first banks to undertake commerce using the Internet. This was a wildly exciting time, and he was determined to use his new found skills to the full. He was soon poached by another bank, this time in New York, who were keen to explore the new field of eCommerce.

Another stint in London followed, but by then it was time to return to his beloved homeland. Rewarding roles within a graphics company and at leading classified site TradeMe, emboldened Mike to start a tech consultancy and return to Martinborough where he would buy a home, marry and raise a family.

As his kids and business grew, he developed a passion to help pass on some wisdom and passion to the next generation of tech talent. After a stint at Xero, Mike found the perfect partner in Modica Group. 

As Delivery Squad Lead, Mike helps development teams love their work and plan for their future. “I’m incredibly fortunate because I help our team to enjoy what they do, and guide their career progression. Helping team members find or unleash their passion, makes them more motivated, and of course adds value to our company.”

Mike encourages devs to plan for their career and develop their talents. One approach has been to set stretch goals, but with simple ways, to measure progress and hold one another to account for achieving them.

“It’s more important to create a simple mechanism to track progress, than to have 10 or 20 KPI’s to try and meet or report on. I want our devs to spend more time getting to the desired outcome, than on reporting to me on their progress. Empowering them to be accountable for that progress is the key!”

So what advice would Mike give to management or colleagues outside the tech realm? “Some people think that devs just sit in front of a computer writing code to meet client requirements, but it’s so much more than that. Our dev team is incredibly creative, and are true problem solvers. Don’t just give them a task or a solution, share the problem and give them space to find an elegant solution.” Mike also encourages squad or tech leaders to provide a career path for devs, “At Modica we retain the best talent because we provide pathways into other areas of our business, whether you come into our dev team from customer support or move from development into people management, product or security roles. It's all about following your passion and having a clear plan for the future. We enable careers, not jobs”.

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