The Sennen Roundup | Article 3 | 31.03.2023

A founders story

BY: Paul Grimshaw, Sennen Co-Founder & CTO

In this round, our CTO, Paul Grimshaw, shares his journey on how pivotal events led to the rise of Sennen.

When I began working in a technical engineering team at a pioneering renewable energy consultancy, I thought I’d achieved my dream. In the early days, there were many manual processes to undertake. As we worked to improve the way we worked we began to automate as much as we could. I soon realised that my passion lay in developing software tools, rather than the work itself.

Initially, I struggled with unwieldy Excel Workbooks filled with spaghetti VB macros. But it didn’t take me long to discover the world of ASP.NET and SQL Server. Armed with this new knowledge, I felt like anything was possible. I began coding at a feverish pace, taking on increasingly complex challenges.

Working in the renewables industry proved to be an excellent learning opportunity, allowing me to take on an array of previously unsolved challenges. Collaborating with operations teams exposed me to the challenges of SCADA data, control room systems, safe working protocols and more. Joining forces with expert engineers to solve one problem after another was exciting and rewarding.

I soon realised, however, software development isn’t just about achieving the desired features. The hard bit is keeping the code simple, understandable and maintainable. While my new tools were supporting key aspects of the company’s processes, the code was becoming increasingly difficult to extend and modify.

So I immersed myself further, learning about clean code, good architecture, unit testing and design patterns. I did this through courses and guidance from experienced peers, while continuously developing tools to solve increasingly complex problems. Like many early-stage developers, I gained a growing appreciation for how much I’d yet to learn – something that I still feel keenly to this day!

During this time, I also began exploring the world of open-source software and the cloud. The migration of some of our systems to AWS opened a further world of possibilities that wouldn’t have previously been achievable.

In 2016, I took the plunge and founded Sennen with an ambition to drive the transition to renewables using the latest cloud technology with a node.js/react stack. My belief was (and is) that, through a shrewd combination of platform techniques and a modern UI, we could set new standards for automation and efficiency in the renewables industry.

Soon after the company’s inception, we developed a close relationship with the team running London Array, the world’s largest offshore wind farm at the time. With some excellent early hires, we began solving their operational challenges at an increasing pace. We were very fortunate to have a team at London Array who shared our digital-first vision of wind farm operations. This provided a solid foundation from which to move the company forward.

Together with my co-founder, Gaby Amiel, we focused on the wider growth of the business, onboarding new clients and developing the brand. While we welcomed the growth, this inevitably came with its challenges. Working with a larger software team, which was also new to me, presented its difficulties. This drew focus to the importance of code quality, code reviews and trust in others. Developing a strong hiring and onboarding process to make sure we had the right people in the right places became crucial, and our early investment in this was key to forming the incredible team we have today.

I won’t sit here and pretend we haven’t made our fair share of mistakes along the way. Indeed we still bear plenty of scars to remind us of this. A rogue script led to an email being sent every second (yes, you read that right) to a large distribution group, which taught us the value of proper sandboxed test environments. Another time I was hiking in the Pyrenees when a call alerted me to the fact I was the only one who could renew a recently-expired SSL certificate. This resulted in us conducting a thorough review of our business continuity processes. Lesson learned!

Today, with multiple clients, a team of 25 staff and 20GW+ of renewables under management, we’re continuously faced with new challenges. From change control, testing, release processes and continuous integration to account management, support and keeping up with clients’ ever-evolving needs, there’s never a dull day. But I wouldn’t change it for the world.

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