An Interview: Emyr Williams

An Interview: Emyr Williams

By Frances Buontempo

Overload, 25(138):10-11, April 2017

CVu has been running a series of interviews. Frances Buontempo interviews the interviewer, Emyr Williams.

First, introduce yourself.

I’m Emyr, I’ve been a professional developer for eight years or so, I’ve coded in Java, Python, C++ and I’ve been an ACCU member for the last four years. I have a keen interest in all things space related, I’m an avid reader, and my favourite Science Fiction book is The Martian .

When did you join ACCU?

I joined the ACCU in 2014, I think.


I attended the ACCU Conference for the first time in 2013, and met some awesome people there, who were passionate not just about C++, but about software development in general. And they were always willing to answer some inane question a C++ newbie had for them. I wanted to be part of such an organisation.

Has joining the ACCU been worth it?

Yes, without question.

Can you expand on that? What do you get out of it that makes it worth £45 a year?

Well, you get a discount on the ACCU Conference, which is always worth it, you also get two great publications in CVu and Overload , but more than that, it’s the sense of you belonging to a body of like-minded people who are passionate about being professional software developers. And it’s the community spirit that I enjoy as well. It’s a close knit group despite having people all over the world. I’ve never felt I can’t approach someone with a question I have.

What was the first thing you wrote for us?

The first thing I wrote was an interview with Bjarne Stroustrup, who I met at the ACCU conference in 2013, I happened to bump in to him and I rather cheekily asked if he’d be willing to be interviewed for my blog, which ended up working out slightly different.

How did getting something published feel?

Quite cool actually, if a little weird. I’ve not been in a publication before.

What tech talks have you given?

I’ve given some talks at work on moving to C++ 11, and I’ve given a couple of lightning talks at the main conference. I’m not confident enough yet to give a full technical talk, but I am building up to that.

Do you conduct interviews face to face or electronically?

I mostly interview via e-mail, the exception was the interview I did with Scott Meyers, I was fully intending on doing the interview via e-mail, but Scott suggested a face to face interview as I was on a training course he was running in London, which was pretty awesome if not a little scary. Especially as it’s someone I look up to and have read most of his books. I admit I was a bit star struck, but it was an awesome experience.

What inspired you to interview people for CVu ?

I originally intended to interview people for my blog, which chronicles how I’m trying to become a better programmer. I’d just managed to get Bjarne Stroustrup to agree to be interviewed, and I was telling Pete Goodliffe about it. He promptly encouraged me to talk to Steve about writing for CVu , and that’s how that started.

You mention ‘Becoming Better’. Is that an oblique reference to Pete’s writings? I dimly remember you giving a lightning talk about this. In fact, I found this link: Why this name for your blog?

The first time I was at the ACCU main Conference, Pete Goodliffe hosted a talk called ‘Become a better programmer’, which had a panel of people, I can’t recall the names of the panellists now, but it challenged me to improve as a programmer as I’d been on autopilot, not really pushing myself. And I thought I’d start blogging about it. I checked with Pete that he was ok with me calling my blog Becoming Better, and he was great and said he was ok with it. He’s also challenged me on some stuff over the years, and two years later, he asked me to do a lightning talk to show how I’d got better over the year, so it was pretty cool.

In what ways have you changed?

What’s changed in me? Well, I’m more keen to try other languages, whereas I only wanted to do C++. So I’ve learned to code in Javascript, Python and Java, even if they weren’t my first choices. For example, I found that coding in Javascript helped me to understand what the practical use for a lambda function was. I’ve learned that my mind works best when given real world examples of something, rather than abstract examples. I also read a lot more than I used to now, and I try to make sure that I have time in my day to read, whether it be the current book I’m reading, or a blog post. I’ve also learned to widen my skill set as well, for example the last few weeks I’ve been doing mainly sysadmin tasks at work, in which I learned to use Ansible and Bamboo.

How do you think of the questions?

I often look up the people I’m interviewing so I don’t ask pre-canned questions. There are some generic ones of course, but the questions I asked Scott Myers for example, would be very different to the questions I asked Kate Gregory. I think you need to show that you’ve done some research, otherwise it shows a lack of effort on your part.

How did the questions to Scott Meyers differ from those for Kate Gregory?

I’m not sure I can give a satisfactory answer to that question if I’m honest. I basically base my questions on stuff I’ve read from Scott or Kate, and their respective backgrounds. I also have a group of colleagues who are also ACCU members and I ask them “What would ask X if you could do so...?”

How do you find people?

It’s usually through a blog post I’ve read, or someone I look up to, and sometimes it’s “Wow, wouldn’t be cool if I could interview them?” sort of thing. I’ve also had people suggest folk to interview as well.

If a reader wants you to interview them for CVu what should they do? Or thinks of someone for you to interview?

Feel free to ping me an e-mail (, or ping me on twitter (@welshboy2008). I’m usually around

Why did you volunteer to run the Bristol group?

Ha ha, well I don’t think I stepped back fast enough, I think Nigel had a hand in that. I knew Ewan was stepping down after doing an amazing job, then Nigel suggested I take it over. I wasn’t too sure, but I thought I’d give it a go. Ewan was graceful enough to let me see how I got on by arranging a few evenings and work as a double act, a sort of long handover if you will.

How do you find speakers?

I’m not sure I’ve found the best way for that yet, at the moment, I mainly ask on the ACCU Mailing list 1 for volunteers to give talks. I’m also keen on getting more technically diverse speakers as well, so for example I’m hoping a friend of mine who runs a small ISP in rural Scotland will be able to come and give a talk on setting up an ISP but nothing’s confirmed yet.

When will you give a longer talk? What will it be about?

I’m not sure at the moment. I tried to do a technical talk a year or so ago at a local ACCU group which didn’t go very well. Mainly due to a lack of preparation on my part, or rather rushed preparation. And it shot my confidence a bit. I do get nervous when I give technical talks because I overly worry about people’s reactions. I will do a technical talk at some point, just not sure when at the moment.

If you could summarise the benefit you’ve got from being a ACCU member in a sentence, what would you say?

It’s a great community of like-minded people from all walks of life, from all corners of the globe who are passionate about professionalism in software, and you’ll be made to feel welcome.

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