Curious at Prolific: Rare insights from the tech minds behind Prolific

Meet the people who make Prolific look and feel like it does: Stephen O'Malley (Backend Developer) and Andrew Cox (Frontend Developer & Designer)!

Stephen, what is a Backend developer? And Andrew, what does a Frontend Developer do?

Stephen: A back-end developer builds and maintains the technology that powers those components which, together, enable the user-facing side of the website to even exist in the first place.

Andrew: A front-end developer is responsible for the user-facing functionality of a website, traditionally working as the bridge between designers and backend developers.

Andrew, what did you do before joining Prolific?

Andrew: I’ve worked in a number of different roles – most recently in the publishing industry making children’s books – but I have been involved in web development for the majority of my career and have probably worked in every capacity in this field, from my own tiny two-person startup, to freelancing/contracting roles and also as an employee of large multinationals.

Stephen, you’ve got a PhD in Math from the University of Glasgow. How did you get into programming?

Stephen: Pretty boring really, I've done computer science in my undergraduate and didn’t fancy doing any mathsy type jobs like accountancy.

How did you find out about Prolific? When did you join, and why?

Stephen: I read about the vacancy on Hacker News and was looking for work at the time. I joined in October/November 2016. It looked like fun and interesting work, Phelim and Katia seemed friendly and laid back and there seemed to be a good plan for the future.

Andrew: Phelim contacted me directly on AngelList. It was good timing because the company I had previously been working for had just gone down the pan so I was looking for the next opportunity. I thought it sounded like an interesting and worthwhile project and remember being impressed by how much Phelim and Katia had already achieved while both also working on their PhDs. I saw the huge potential for growth and the chance to be part of a team which shared my values, and the value I could bring myself – so it was an easy decision.

What’s your favourite part about working at Prolific? What excites you the most?

Stephen: The freedom to get on and do stuff from a development view point. It isn’t a stuffy software house or a bureaucratic company that makes developing software difficult. The development environment is relaxed and people can build solutions in a way they enjoy without some overbearing authority figure/architect forcing the way we design and write code to match their preferences.

Andrew: Freedom and flexibility. The autonomy to come up with creative solutions independently, but also being part of talented team that I can bounce around ideas with – I'm always learning something new.

Why do you think should people care about research?

Stephen: It is a difficult question to answer. In all honesty people shouldn't intrinsically care about research. They should care about improving the health and well-being of themselves and our planet. If research helps further that cause then that is why they should care. They should also care and be cautious about taking part in research that seeks to use their information to exploit rather than improve.

Andrew: Research enables us to see the world as it really is, rather than through intuition or authority, which is absolutely essential for providing evidence that furthers knowledge.

Having been with Prolific for ~2 years, what were the biggest changes/milestones in Prolific’s short company history? What will Prolific look like in 3 years?

Stephen: Expanding as a team and also the launch of a completely new site for both participants and researchers.

Andrew: A personal one for me was launching the rebranded version of our researcher site, since it's the first thing I worked on at Prolific. The 1M approved submissions milestone was also quite significant (...and we are now over 3M). I'm totally confident we'll continue this growth over the next three years to become the number one platform for scientific research.

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