Adam Howard - Lead engineer

I build digital products for startups and large companies. I have a lot of experience in modern web development, alongside the product mindset that startups need to succeed. I like working with smart people, bringing my experience to the table, and learning all I can from those around me. I’m comfortable with tricky tradeoffs and knowing just the right amount of engineering needed to solve a problem.
So how can I help you? You can contact me at loading...

The three roles of product engineering

I typically work in one of three stages in the product development lifecycle:


When you know what you need, and you need to get it done
This is my bread and butter as a developer. I’m familiar with a range of tools and stacks, and specialise in TypeScript, React, and Node. I’ve released a number of iOS/Android apps


Making the proposition more compelling than the competition
Product design experience taught me the value of talking to customers, cross-functional teams, experiments and willingness to change direction


Being a force multiplier for the team, executing on a strategy
As an engineer: architectural decisions, pairing on tricky tasks, reviewing work and establishing good practices. Externally: communication, planning, and reducing distractions for the team

My current focus

After years of full time work, I’ve returned to freelancing and have been focusing towards gen AI-based features and products. I’m also available for “special projects” at established companies: maybe there’s an experiment you’d like to run, a tool you need built, or some other task that your existing team doesn’t have capacity to take on.

5 years building Penfold

Penfold is a digital-first pension. When I started at Penfold we had two founders, some mockup designs in a Word document, and me. I wrote the first versions of the website, backend, iOS and Android apps. I left as a staff engineer.
Our first customers were family and friends; 5 years later, we had:
  • 50,000+ customers
  • £300m+ assets under administration
  • 4.8 ⭐ App Store rating
  • 4 engineering teams


  • Evaluating, establishing, and deeply understanding a tech stack
  • Moving fast on key “table stakes” projects
  • Understanding requirements and communicating with non-technical colleagues
  • Managing risk and bringing a methodical approach to tech incidents
  • Establishing team principles and practices
  • Mentoring developers and building a blame-free learning culture
  • Reducing daily distractions through process changes


  • Languages: Typescript, Swift, Kotlin, HTML/CSS, some Python and bash scripts
  • Frontend: React, Next.js, Xstate, Chakra UI, Formik
  • GraphQL: Apollo server and client
  • Data: Prisma, Postgres and Elasticsearch
  • Testing: Jest and Cypress
  • Mobile: Custom Capacitor fork, with bespoke Swift/Kotlin modules
  • Hosting: AWS (w/ Terraform) and Vercel

Key achievements

  • Went from git init to thousands of PRs, adapting to the needs of a changing team, and a greenfield project becoming legacy code
  • Built a short notice POC to wrestle a large web project into an iOS/Android experience, while maintaining a single codebase. From a technical perspective it was a real hack, but it became a huge win for the company. It let us move quickly, build a competitive advantage, and hire devs of all levels without mobile experience. After 4 years, the temporary solution is still in use, and the iOS app has maintained a 4.8 star rating
  • Jumped over to another team to rework a financial calculation blocking their release. Built a performant goal-seek algorithm which could handle negative inputs
  • Built “Penfold Admin”, an interactive CLI to run developer tools for development, testing, and resolution of customer issues
  • I was consistently the most active PR reviewer, and was often the person that people reached out for when they needed to pair on a problem or understand a technical detail in depth
  • As workplace lead, took over an ingestion system where >70% of customer-uploaded files required human correction. In the space of a quarter we dropped that to ~20%. This had a significant impact on customer experience, support staff burden, scope for human mistakes, and B2B2C expansion through intermediaries


Adam has taken on a wealth of responsibilities this year and excelled at being a Tech Lead for the Workplace Team. His strong technical skills along with his very clear communication style is a winning combination that makes Adam very adept to leading the team.
Throughout penfold I've always seen Adam provide such a methodical, logical approach to everything he does - no matter the chaotic environment, which has been outstanding and brought me new perspectives on engineering.
Adam is an absolute superstar engineer and is great fun to work with, he was with us from the very start at Penfold and I would highly recommend to anyone!
Just to say that I've especially enjoyed working with you out of all of the engineers at Penfold. You’re a brilliant engineer and I’ve learnt a lot from you in my time at Penfold, about design patterns, novel solutions, and also you have helped tune my attention to detail hugely. You’ve done a stellar job as tech lead in the Workplace squad and it isn’t going to be the same without you.
I don't think Adam quite realises the impact he’s had on me / my career, but I am incredibly grateful to him for not only immeasurable mentorship, guidance, and knowledge impartation, but also just excellent chats / vibes and friendship.
The best tech lead I’ve ever worked with (from a product manager)
Consistently being a total badass at ferreting out incredibly difficult problems and unpicking logic like some kind of demi-god

Prior work

AI startup

A stealth stage startup, iterating though big picture product ideas to find opportunities in automation through AI. Key responsibilities included GitHub integration for AI tools and simulating user behaviour through browser plugins


A recurring engagement with a pre-seed startup. The key priorities were a magazine-level website quality, efficient no-code processes to iterate on content, and extensive use of notion and WhatsApp to drive the business.

The Beano

Brought in as an extra pair of hands for six weeks, I ended up being the consistent thread in the technical team for nearly a year. I led development on a large React codebase deployed across web and React Native iOS/Android platforms. We used Rails for an API and CMS built to the needs of a content team. The project had various UX and compliance challenges specific to the child audience, and was handed over to the safe hands of a full time team.

The car manufacturer

A short innovation project exploring a potential business model for the automotive industry. Hired to act like a founder, I was empowered to explore and de-risk the business as if it were my own. Problem space exploration, smoke tests, prototypes, customer interviews, iteratively designing and validating a proposition.

The bank

Working on a “shaking things up” product for a C-level executive at a major bank. A change of focus one week in, a 12 week project cut to 6, an organisational web to navigate, physical and organisational impediments, handover to a team in China... if you were trying to sabotage a project it might look like this. Yet we still delivered a working prototype and delighted very senior stakeholders such as the Global Head of Digital.

ITV general election

Using customer development techniques to decide how best to cover the UK general election while minimising expensive platform changes. Included collaboration with integration partners, time with journalists and editors, and a focus on retained functionality for future political coverage.

Skype in the Classroom

Led development in a phase focused on discovery and search, long before Zoom! I continued in this role as Skype partnered with, working with a subcontractor in fast, iterative sprints. The project helped teachers deliver lessons, boosted Skype’s brand, cleared serious technical debt, and won IXDA and Webby awards.

ITV publisher

ITV’s publishing system allows them to break news faster than other news organisations while supporting their 700k daily uniques. As the system grew, small race conditions had begun to appear. I used the advantages of their existing redis technology to implement a smarter representation of data; meaning we could remove the unreliable job queue performing future work that could fail.


Audited and refactored an early version of the (now quite successful!) Ghost blogging engine.

Tinie Tempah

I built an app with custom Shazam-like technology for Warner Music Group. When the app detected one of Tinie’s songs, it dropped you into a video of his lips rapping along in perfect time. Users would hold it to their mouth to “rap like Tinie”, and its viral success with fans and celebrities like Nick Grimshaw (Radio 1) drove new sales for the album.

NOW Running

A promotional app for the “Now That's What I Call Music!” brand. The app would scan your local music library to build a playlist of tracks that matched your desired pace. It would play through the app as you ran, and track typical running metrics like calorie burn.


My final year university project was a mobile-driven authentication system, an approach which has since become ubiquitous with the likes of WhatsApp Web and smart TV apps. It got me a first class degree (Bournemouth, 2012).

Sounds good?

You can contact me at loading...