5 minutes with…Tom Coppens – Senior .NET Developer & Team Lead

  • Good afternoon Tom – could you tell us a bit about your career at Energy One?

Twelve years ago, I started working as Junior Developer at Energy One in Belgium. Over time I’ve grown into senior developer roles, and as of 2016, I have also been a team lead. Currently, I’m growing towards an ‘architect’ role, so you may say I have been keeping busy!

  • Having spent most of your career with Energy One, what has kept you engaged?

The constant change makes things interesting. The industry and business requirements are constantly evolving. However, it is the IT landscape that has evolved the most the past decade. At Energy One, we have always been progressive in adopting new technologies, best practices and IT standards. We keep up with trends and update our ways of working, developing and deploying software over time.

As a developer, this really keeps the job interesting, which in turn keeps me engaged. On top of that, I have been able to grow into more senior roles, taking up additional tasks and responsibilities over time. The professional and personal growth make it really rewarding.

  • Could you share some of the biggest changes in the IT landscape you have seen and their impact on software development at Energy One?

We put a lot of time and effort into adopting best practices in software development, some of which became a bit of a ‘gold standard’ in IT development in the past decade. For example, we embraced the ‘agile methodology’ within our software development teams and across the organisation, from business analysts to product owners.

Other examples of methodologies or technology we have implemented are the move to a cloud-based software-as-a-service model, improved software deployment and implementation sequences, and software version reviews.

These are just a handful of changes over the years that not only make everyone’s lives easier, but they also ensure we deliver better solutions. The impact for our development team is that we are able to deliver consistent quality in a timely matter. It is really rewarding to see the positive results of these changes.

  • Did you see any impact of moving our solutions to the cloud?

Our solutions have been web-based since 2012, which meant the customers did not have to run them locally. But they were still running on our own server infrastructure. The first moves to run our application servers in the cloud happened around 2015-2016.

We definitely saw a positive impact of moving to the cloud, such as improved security, increased uptimes and the option to fall-back to a second data center within an hour, as detailed in our blog about the disaster recovery exercise in 2020.

  • What are you and your team currently working on?

One of the things we are currently working on is IT integration towards a shared infrastructure with our colleagues across the group. We are always looking for ways to combine our strengths to offer a better service to all of our customers. For example, we are currently merging our market communication infrastructure, such as AS2/AS4 connections, to enable unified messaging between market participants and market operators (e.g. TSOs and SSOs).

On top of that, I’m involved in working on updating one of our custom solutions – a CMS (Contract Management System) – which is used to handle the day-to-day management of a gas-fired power plant for a big industrial company. Finally, another big project we are working on is a custom solution for an offshore gas grid in Europe which handles nominations, capacities and prices.

  • So you’re working closely with the development teams at Energy One in France?

Definitely! We work really closely to combine our expertise. We have reorganised our IT teams around core solutions and the functionality we offer to the market, headed by our CTO for France and Belgium, Jan Corluy, and our Product Owner, Thomas Van Buggenhout.

Personally, I have worked with Belgian and French colleagues in a cross-functional team focused on developing our TSO (Transmission System Operator) solutions. This collaboration allows us to exchange valuable knowledge. Thanks to the forging of one development team across both locations over the past two years, we communicate openly and collaborate efficiently.

  • Forging a unified development team out of two previously separate organisations is probably not easy, right?

Periods of change and transition do pose challenges, but it was a very positive experience. In Belgium, we have strong expertise in the natural gas side of the business, while solutions from Energy One in France are more advanced in functionality for power markets, auction bidding and algo-trading. The main challenge was balancing day-to-day IT development while also managing projects to integrate teams, align ways of working and bring functionality in our solutions to the same standard.

One of the benefits of working closely in cross-functional teams is that we can help conquer any challenges together and use previous experiences to help each other out.  Similarly, we are bringing our solutions to the next level by sharing knowledge.

The past 24 months have been an enriching journey. Forging one team has proven crucial and I’m very happy with where we are today.

  • What excites you the most about the future at Energy One?

I really like that we are exposed to different cultures across Energy One. When people visit our offices, it’s great to exchange knowledge and chat about various topics. I find it very interesting to discover the little quirks of each culture and learn about people’s daily lives, hobbies and careers.

The international mobility within Energy One also excites me. This makes it possible to work for a few days from another office. I’ve already worked in France a few times and would love to visit our UK or Australian offices as well. There is a real benefit to exchanging ideas with developers in the UK or Australia and hearing how they are handling specific challenges.

  • Many thanks Tom!

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