Chris Márffy

BE (Hons) (Software Engineering) 2017

Product Engineer, Generation Home

Chris Marffy

Can you tell us a bit about your journey? What led you to where you are now?

I studied Software Engineering at UC from 2013 to 2016. While I was at UC I met my good friends Edward Armstrong, Jake Crouchley, and Nick Russell, and together we started Lab3 Apps in our 3rd year. Our first project as a company was an app for the Student Volunteer Army.

We spent 4 years running Lab3 out of a central Christchurch office, making apps and websites for a variety of clients and solving a lot of interesting problems along the way. Starting up a software company taught me so many invaluable lessons from a business perspective as well as from a software development perspective.

Having always wanted to live there, in 2020 I moved to London to start a UK office for Lab3. My girlfriend and I touched down in London in March 2020 having done 3 months of travelling through Africa – we’d been pretty out of the loop in regard to news, and Covid wasn’t really on our radar at all. Within a week of arriving, we were in lockdown; not ideal timing, especially when trying to establish a new business and find UK clients. We managed to make the business work though, and some of my co-founders came to join me in London over the next couple of years.

In 2022 we decided to take stock of where we were as a business and decided that while we had learnt a lot and had a great time along the way, we were all keen to try new things, and so we wrapped up the business. In June last year, I started working for Generation Home – a start-up mortgage lender trying to overhaul the UK housing market – as a Product Engineer.

You were previously the Co-Founder and Director of Lab3. What was it like founding and running the company?

Truth be told, we kind of fell into founding the company – the SVA wanted to hire us to make them an app, and we thought that registering a company was the easiest way for us to structure the delivery of the work. As we were approaching the end of our degrees at UC, we decided that we were keen to give running the business full-time a go, as it would be much harder later on in our careers once we had more personal responsibilities. Without much of a business plan (or any plan at all), we started meeting people and trying to get some clients.

We were very naive as we got started – none of us had ever worked anywhere else apart from summer jobs and internships. We had the technical skills to build the apps we were selling, but we had to learn the business side of things on the fly. I remember being asked for a Statement of Work by an early customer and responding that we’d send it through shortly, and then frantically googling ‘How to write a Statement of Work’.

We had some great experiences and were fortunate enough to work on some awesome projects over the years we ran the company. A lot of our clients were introduced to us by friends from UC who were now working for these companies, and we were really lucky in how so many people believed in us and trusted us to deliver on these projects. 

What have been your biggest career highlights to date?

The journey we took and the people we met with Lab3 is definitely the main highlight for me – but my post-Lab3 career is only 7 months old still! I’ve been really lucky with my job at Generation Home though, they’re a great values-led company with a fast start-up pace, some great co-workers and the work is never boring.

Did you always want to study engineering? Was this an industry that had always interested you

From a young age, I’d always liked tinkering and building things. I always wanted to study engineering, but was unsure of what discipline to specialise in. I went into UC thinking I’d choose Mechatronics, and luckily the general first year meant that I could choose Software Engineering, as I really loved the computer science papers.

What were your fondest memories of your time at UC?

In my degree I particularly enjoyed our full-year group project, SENG302. We were put into teams and simulated being a professional development team, with a real-world problem to solve and a list of requirements to meet. My Lab3 co-founders were in my group for this project, and it’s a big part of what made us sure we wanted to start the business together. Outside of the degree, I have a lot of great memories with the friends I made while at UC. Social events, flatting with friends, and even battling through all-nighters trying to get an assignment in were all part of the fun.

What motivates/ inspires you?

Like most engineers, I love solving tricky technical problems that have no clear solution. People often asked us when we ran Lab3 what kind of apps we liked to build. We never really had a good answer until we realised it was more about whether the app was solving an interesting problem that was also challenging for us to solve above all else. Software development (especially on brand new products) gives you a great opportunity to understand a problem that someone is having and try to work out what the most efficient way to solve it is that still results in a nice experience for the user, which I find very motivating and satisfying.