Catching up with George

We find out more about this developer and his journey from theology to computer science.

By Mia Cerfonteyn

When George Deeks set out to study an MA in Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Cambridge in 2009, he never imagined that eleven years later he would end up working as a Full Stack Developer and Linux Administrator at The Sainsbury Laboratory.

“What drew me to Theology and Religious Studies was taking strong ideas and worldviews and seeing how they could be applied in the real world.” explains George when asked about what drove his interesting career journey, “That’s also one of the things I like most about my current role in the Bioinformatics team: translating a Lab member’s creative idea into a solution fixed in code.”

Photo of George Deeks in a red sweatshirt against a background of hills

George pursued an MSc in Computer Science at the University of East Anglia because he wanted to combine his analytical skills with the engineering of practical solutions. Now, as a full stack developer, he gets to see website development projects through from beginning to end.

“My job is actually very diverse,” he says, “It incorporates website and software development, administration of the High Performance Computing cluster, project management, research, and assisting TSL staff and students with their projects.”

Many would imagine that as a programmer you spend hours behind a computer screen, frantically typing away in a dark room while isolated from humanity, but George explains that this is not the case at all.

“My job is first and foremost to support the researchers here. That means talking them through what they need and translating that into feasible solutions. You need great communications skills and an understanding of people. I work with code, but in the end it will be people at the receiving end of my designs.”

As George continues to talk about his other passions: sports, boardgames and the piano, it is clear that creativity and strategy are major drivers in his life.

“I love music. It has a way of letting you say things you wouldn’t otherwise find the words to express.” he reflects, “Sport plays a similar role in my life, a physical expression with an intense focus that clears your mind.”

The Bioinformatics division, while critical to research, is not always the most visible part of a research institute.

“I guess that’s what success looks like for support roles such as ours. A quiet day is a successful day. Our ultimate goal is to help and train researchers so effectively that they eventually don’t need us anymore. Luckily for me, the fast pace of technological development means that there will always be new things to learn, and so, I’ll always have work to do.”

While George never foresaw that he would end up working for a plant health research institute such as The Sainsbury Laboratory, he can see how his interests and skills led him here.

“I’m really motivated by the goals of TSL and want to help ensure food security and sustainable agriculture for our future. I’m inspired by the drive for excellence here and the diversity of projects I get to participate in. TSL has also been very supportive in my career development and I’m excited by the potential to grow here.” he says.

Despite starting his role during lockdown last year and working fully remotely since then, George still got a good sense of the supportive and welcoming culture at TSL.

“I think a big part of my job satisfaction comes from the fact that everyone here is just really lovely. That always helps.” he smiles.