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ClearPoint people: Robin Southgate, Web Developer and Toaster Inventor

rob2Formerly an ad agency Art Director, Robin turned his creative talent and interest in engineering into a career developing cutting-edge consumer technologies, including a clever weather-forecasting toaster.

What’s your role at ClearPoint?

I’m a Senior Web Developer and have spent the last four years as a consultant to Air New Zealand in their Innovation and Ventures group. Prior to that, I was in-house at ClearPoint doing front end web design for San Franciso-based start-up Anaplan. At Air New Zealand, my focus is on consumer interaction with mobile technology and developing applications to engage and help customers. I also do hardware engineering and prototyping work for emerging technologies, and help maintain key applications such as the booking engine.

What’s your background?

I’m originally from the UK and studied Industrial Design at Brunel University. After graduation, I earned an internship from the British Design & Art Direction organisation to study integrated art direction at some of London’s top ad agencies. I eventually landed a permanent job at global ad agency TBWA and became an Art Director in their digital advertising department. I’ve always been interested in the technical engineering side of things, so it was exciting to be involved with digital advertising as it was considered a new frontier for the ad industry at the time. Then the London train bombings happened in 2007 and I had an epiphany:  I wanted out of London. I had visited New Zealand during my gap year when I was 18 and thought then that I’d like to come back to live someday. In 2008, I packed a backpack and set myself the goal of getting to NZ without flying. I spent seven months travelling over land via Europe, the Baltics, Russia, China, India and Southeast Asia, then took a boat to Australia. In the end, I had to fly to Auckland since there were no cheap boat alternatives from Sydney.

Why did you choose to work at ClearPoint?

I landed in New Zealand broke and jobless, and found work at a web design agency. After a while, I knew I wanted to pursue something more technically challenging and heard about a front end web developer position at ClearPoint. I met with Phil and learned about Anaplan’s cutting-edge, consumer facing self-service tools. It was exactly the sort of challenge I was looking for and a week later I came on board the Anaplan team.

What keeps you at ClearPoint?

Anaplan set the bar for me in terms of working on an interesting, challenging project that really pushed limits. I joined a group of top notch creative, innovative, extremely knowledgeable developers from whom I’ve learned an incredible amount. I was fortunate to move onto Air New Zealand after Anaplan where I’ve been given the opportunity to work on multiple, forward-thinking projects. Although I’ve stayed at Air New Zealand, it is reassuring to know I have the option to switch projects if I want to because of the diversity and range of ClearPoint’s clients. I work with a mixed team of ClearPoint and Air New Zealand staff and I have immense respect for my fellow colleagues at both companies.

What do you get up to outside of ClearPoint?

I married my Kiwi partner of six years on Valentine’s Day this year.  We have a four and half year old son and three year old daughter, and time outside of work is spent with them.  When I had more spare time, I used to play the saxophone in a jazz band and a bit of interclub squash.

Tell us something we don’t know…

As part of my Industrial Design degree, I built a toaster that imprints the weather forecast on bread, e.g. cloudy, sunny, rainy, etc. The toaster used a hard coded number to dial into a server and then burnt the weather forecast onto the bread. The Internet and laser technology have come a long way since then, so I’ve been tinkering with a new prototype that can access live weather feeds and imprint the weather forecast along with personalised messages. If the kids stop bothering me for long enough, I’ll get the new prototype finished and up on Kickstarter.com so that everyone can enjoy personalised toast!

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