Pioneering People: Zak Henry

Vinny Hoddinott
November 6, 2023
Pioneering People: Zak Henry

In business, a lot can change over a 6-year period, especially as you transition from Series A to maturing into a scale-up.  In our blog we hear from Zak Henry, one of our Principal Software Engineers on his journey with us at CloudNC and what motivates him for the future.

You have recently celebrated your 6-year anniversary with CloudNC, how have you seen the business change over that period?

I joined as employee number ten, and we are now over fifteen times that size so we’ve gone from small startup to growing medium business in that time. A lot has changed (growing is hard!), but it’s actually the things that haven’t changed that are the most important things. We all still care about the mission, we hire good people, and we’re well looked after.

The expansion from not even having a CNC machine, to having a full-scale machining factory has been impressive, and has brought so much opportunity in terms of building a trusted name in the industry, professional development and direct access to the kinds of problems our external customers might face. 

How do you measure the impact that you have made?

My role has me developing software that supports and enables our core intellectual property, so in terms of hard impact, it is fairly measurable by my output connecting customers to our machining engine to make CAM programs for them. In terms of soft influence, I have the opportunity to set a relatively high bar of code quality and testing and do what I can to foster a culture where developers can be proud of their contribution.

Tell us about your experience before joining, and what motivated you to join our mission.

I’m a software engineer generalist, so I’ve worked in all kinds of industries including advertising, banking, nutrition, commercial industry. The one thing in common with these prior experiences was that while I cared deeply about the software quality that I was writing, I did not care for the company's mission. That all changed when I encountered the CloudNC job ad way back. I was working with an amazing team, on a very high quality product and really liked my job. When I came across the job listing for CloudNC I realised I had to give it a shot because it was the first time my profession had intersected with my hobbies.

What sets CloudNC apart from other other tech industries?

We are genuinely working on a hard problem. The dynamics of a set of cutting tools removing material to manufacture the desired part involves the intersection of physics, metallurgy, mathematics, computer science, metrology, and multiple other fields. Then wrapping that complexity of inputs and outputs up into a software package that is intuitive to end users is a serious challenge.

Another aspect is that we have an interaction with the physical world, and that is where the advantage of our factory comes to bear - we can run physical experiments in real world situations. As we’ve learned, the ideal world of a simulation rarely is a perfect substitute for testing the real thing. 

How have you developed in your time with CloudNC?

I joined as a frontend developer, who really only worked with Typescript (Angular stack). I’ve since expanded my breadth of skill to being far more full stack, I rarely touch frontend code now. Kotlin is our bread and butter language for the supporting services that I develop, and have also picked up Python for some other software. 

In terms of domain knowledge, I’ve developed a wealth of machining knowledge which supports my role in planning software user experiences, and designing the software architecture to back it.

What is the secret ingredient to our culture?

We hire adults, and treat them like adults. It’s really that simple. From this arises a culture of trust, willingness to admit mistakes, and a personal drive to make good decisions.

What excites you for the future?

I’m excited about the period that is right on the horizon where we are delivering products to customers that love it to the point that they are our best brand ambassadors. For years we’ve been deep in the weeds of building something incredibly capable, and are just beginning to share that with the world.

If you want to join us - check out our current vacancies!

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