Oomph! Wellness

I was waiting for the right time to blog about my latest job. As it has now come to an end, I guess that’s overdue! So let me tell you about where I spent the past ~8 months: Oomph! Wellness.

They’re a company providing training and content to care homes in the UK. Activities and exercises for old folks! They’re not a tech company, or at least not until recently. For many years they’ve been doing face-to-face service provision, with teams of people going out to care homes to train staff in how to run activities and exercises. Another service involves sending bus drivers to take residents out on trips.

And then there’s a third service “Oomph on-demand” providing activities and exercise related content on the website by subscription. This side of the business has been expanding rapidly, particularly during the pandemic lock-downs. By “content” I mean videos, or just written instructions/inspiration on activities. Also things like puzzles. There’s quite a variety, and they’re constantly building it into an extensive library. The nice thing is that they’re drawing upon all their experience of working in care homes, and it really shows. That kind of grounding in the real world is something that is so often missing in tech up-starts, and of course their past work gave them a foot in the door to sell this web-based service to many existing clients.

So it’s a low-tech company transitioning into a subscription web content company. In fact they’d made that transition and were already selling on-demand subscriptions on a site built within wordpress. That was done by an agency with many wordpress plugins and not much coding. It’s quite impressive how far you can push that approach, but the agency had to say “no” to some of their newer ideas. They were going to need coding, actual data-modelling, and development. They were going to need me!

Obviously looking at a wordpress set-up with a tangled mass of plugins, I was quick to tell them this whole thing was going to need re-building (Ruby On Rails was my suggestion!), but I’ve done a fair bit of wordpress tinkering over the years so I wasn’t afraid to roll up my sleeves and implement some of their feature ideas in PHP.

I added a surveying and reporting feature, which had some enjoyable data aspects to it. I’ve had fun with c3js graphs in the past, so brought that in.

That whole thing turned into quite a rich interface. I probably should’ve taken the chance to learn a rich javascript framework. I did learn the way of wordpress a little bit. For example wordpress developers have a particular way of doing database querying, and AJAX requests. I also learned more than I wanted to know about how to persuade IE to print graphs correctly! Maybe I should blog some more about these learnings.

I was doing these things to meet the clamouring needs of some existing customers, to make the sale to a large new customer, and to lay the foundations for a grant funded project. I gradually settled into a role which can best be described as “the one-man tech team”. I quite enjoyed the challenge of always designing solutions and solving problems single-handedly, and presenting the solutions and options to a less-techy rest of the organisation, but I did miss having fellow developers to bounce ideas off. I was always a little out of my comfort zone in that regard. Enjoyable challenge but… I’m looking forward to re-joining a developer team for my next job I think (although I’m keeping an open mind)

While juggling php features and bugs, I started to look at doing a big website rebuild project for them, and I had got as far as architecting this as a Ruby on Rails project. I planned out how I could do the work single-handedly, however this was going to be lot to take on. The alternative for them, was to bring in an agency to do the rebuild, and I think it was sensible for them to go with that approach in the end. A better way of getting it done in time to meet some grant deliverables, as well as to do some Salesforce work which I certainly didn’t want to go near! It makes a lot of sense, and I wish them well with it. They’re a nice bunch of people and they’re doing good things. So… if you run activities in an old folks home (not sure that’s my core blog readership, but you never know!) be sure to check out Oomph Wellness!

It also makes a lot of sense for me to move onto something different. It’s been an interesting time, but as I look for a new job I’ll probably look to get back into ruby, probably within a larger tech team. That’s more my comfort zone. I have a few other ideas about what I’m looking for, but I’m also pretty flexible and keeping an open mind.

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