Sam started coding when he was just 10-years-old. “The BBC used to make computers,” he says. “The first thing I worked on was a BBC Micro - we had it in the loft for years and I got it down. It had a green and black screen and the UI was about 80 characters wide,” he says. The first programming language he learned was the appropriately named BASIC (or Beginner's All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code).
By 14, he was writing software for an electrical engineering company, encouraged by his dad who develops accounting software. From then on, Sam spent all his school holidays writing software, something he continued throughout his university years.
He went on to study Natural Sciences (specialising in Chemistry) at the University of Cambridge. “At 18, I didn’t know that I wanted to be a computer programmer for the rest of my life so I chose to study a more general subject,” he says. “In the end, I spent a lot of my free time writing software. I digitised the May Ball - I wrote a ticketing and accounting system. It’s still running.”
Sam, 31, joined Starling in October 2016. “We had a restricted banking licence, no Faster Payments and no Bacs. The Android app hadn’t been started and we couldn’t open an account on a mobile phone,” he says.
Over the last two years, he’s seen a lot of Starling firsts. “I was the one that pushed the button for us to go live in the app stores with everyone gathered round my computer,” he says. Since launching personal accounts in May 2017, he’s written code for business and joint accounts, as well as many new features. His latest project was Round Ups. In 2019, he’s looking forward to launching in the Republic of Ireland.
Sam is spending Christmas in Derbyshire, where he grew up. “Every Christmas, we leave the house after breakfast to go for a walk all day,” he says. “It’s usually cold or wet or snowy and Christmas lunch is normally soup in the middle of nowhere in the Peak District. I used to complain as a child but now I love it.”