In Conversation with... Cai Willis
4 min read
I’m sitting with Cantarus developer, Cai Willis in a trendy coffee shop in the centre of Manchester. It feels like a suitable location. You never hear of journalists conducting interviews in their local Maccies or in an office stairwell, so I thought I should follow suit.
Cai Willis: A man well-accustomed to having his photograph taken.
Cai joined Cantarus as an Electronic Engineering graduate from the University of Manchester in the summer of 2016.
“I wanted to save the world.” says Cai, “I thought Electronic Engineering was the way to do that. I loved the study of e-agriculture from an environmental perspective, such as how to reduce the amounts of pesticides used in farming.”
So how did he end up working as a web developer at one of Manchester’s top digital agencies?
“I saw that Cantarus worked with a number of charities and non-profit organisations, and I thought that’s a really good way of helping large numbers of people.”
Due to wasting his time on an Electronic Engineering degree, Cai came to Cantarus without much in the way of web language programming experience. Fortunately, that was no hurdle in his path towards a career in computer science.
“I began life at Cantarus in the Customer Success team, which focuses on ongoing projects and solving issues for existing clients. During my time on the team, I was able to develop my programming skills through a number of professional development programmes.”
The commitment to learning paid off, and Cai was promoted to a developer position where he has worked with such clients as the Industry Parliament Trust and WHSmith.
“The training hasn’t stopped since becoming a developer either; I’ve been getting skilled-up on the Umbraco CMS recently, and it’s a great feeling to become the company’s dedicated expert on a particular product or service in a matter of months.”
At this point in the conversation, I felt we had sufficient material for the interview so without much else to say, I asked Cai his star sign.
“I’m a Leo.”
I nodded as though that would make good material for the blog, but I knew inside that this was meaningless and not at all useful to the conversation.
Next, I asked Cai what type of dog he would be, if indeed he had to be a dog at some point.
“Border Collie.” Said Cai almost immediately, “They get to go on long walks and they get fed a lot. That’s basically my lifestyle already. I’m all about that.”
One Man and his Dog, and a field, and some trees.
Walking, exercise, and general outdoorsiness were reoccurring themes during our hour-long interview. Like any good interviewer, I feigned some interest in these pursuits but in reality, I couldn’t have cared less.
“I just generally like being outdoors, whether that be: fell-running, rock climbing, or hanging about in trees. I’ll send you some photos to add to the blog.
Send me some photos he did; added to the blog they have.
“Although as much as I think I’d enjoy being a dog, if I was ever reincarnated as an animal – I’d much prefer to be an eagle.
I looked on, perplexed. An eagle is almost the exact opposite to a dog. A dog has no wings and four legs. An eagle has wings and barely any legs.
“I find the idea of soaring through empty skies very appealing. But I imagine most people do actually.”
I said that I didn’t.
With the dog topic exhausted, I went down a similar route by asking what type of ice cream would Cai be if he had to be an ice cream. He seemed unsure.
“Sorbet.” He finally mustered.
I told him that wasn’t an ice cream, bringing the ice cream section of the interview to a swift close. I thought it was time to prod at Cai’s past, before he joined Cantarus, to see if I could unearth some skeletons. Alas, no skeletons were to be found. Instead, I discovered that Cai used to live in a forest in Snowdonia. This semi-feral upbringing has possibly accounted for Cai’s distrust of cities and large urban populations.
This is actually a flat surface but we flipped the image to make it appear more impressive.
“I find it hard to sleep in cities. The streetlamps create this perpetual atmosphere of perpetual twilight – it’s eerie.”
Instead, Cai finds solace in nature’s streetlamps – the constellations above our very heads. This seems like a good topic of conversation, one that will both make me look smart and propel this humble blog into the realms of ‘enjoyable reading’. Unfortunately, I know far less about stars than my bravado claims. Cai quickly corrects ‘Ryan’ to ‘Orion’, and assures me that shooting stars do actually exist. Given Cai’s love for the night sky, I say that he must enjoy camping.
“I do enjoy camping.” He responded.
I reply by saying that one is required to bring a mountain of home comforts in order to actually enjoy a camping trip.
“You only need to bring three items to have a great time camping: flint, a knife, and a good coat.”
As he made no mention of a tent, I immediately question Cai’s outdoorsmanship skills.
“I will seek shelter in nature.”
Of course. We eventually manage to swing the conversation back around to work, and I discover that Cai genuinely loves his job and sees himself at Cantarus for the foreseeable future.
“I think people tend to leave jobs because they feel as though they are stagnating in some way. Because we have a structured professional development programme, I know I am constantly building skills and improving myself as a developer.”
What a pleasant, if faintly corporate, way to end the conversation. I stand and up and thank Cai for his time and we walk in silence back to the office.
Join us for another edition of In Conversation with… next month, if I can find another person to interview. Who knows – maybe it will be with Cai again…
Learn more about the team at Cantarus in our Meet the Team section.