Category News
Publication date
28 February 2024

Meet the Team: Frontend Developer Petr Illek

Time to read 8 minutes read

Petr Illek is an ecology master turned designer turned frontend developer. He is also spearheading a Drupal distribution for local governments in the Czech Republic.

Alison: What do you do at Annertech? 

Petr: I mainly do frontend development, but I have a background in design, so sometimes I do a bit of design work if needed. For example I have designed company T-shirts and hoodies, and created promotional videos. 

Alison: So you didn’t start out in development? 

Petr: Well originally I studied ecology, specifically freshwater algae, and have a master’s degree from the University of South Bohemia in České Budějovice. It’s far away from website design but I like nature and anything Earth-related. My degree was interesting and I loved it but the love for creativity won. 

I worked with computers from a young age. My mother is a designer, so when I was young we had an Apple Macintosh, which was unusual in the Czech Republic (known as Czechoslovakia at the time). There were almost no games on it. So I didn’t grow up playing Doom, I used to play with Photoshop. 

I started my career as a designer and desktop publishing operator – typesetting books. I gradually moved to websites because that’s what clients wanted and I was interested in it. I started my first HTML website at the turn of the millennium and then did some graphic design work while I was studying. 15 years ago, I found Drupal, and the rest is history. I’ve been with Annertech for 4.5 years now. 

Alison: It’s interesting that many people start out in completely different fields before taking up careers in the development sector. At Annertech we have developers who started out as astrophysicists (Stella Power), civil engineers (Anthony Lindsay), teachers (Mark Conroy) and even photographers (Daniel Pickering). 

Petr: I like the fact that not everyone who works in development started out in development. Our various experiences are all visible and lend themselves to a richer output for our projects. If everyone had a degree in development or website design the work would be much less enjoyable. This diverse knowledge helps us to think out of the box and come up with clever solutions. 

Petr Illek on a hike, out in nature.

Petr Illek while on a hike in Georgia with a friend. They were hiking through the Chaukhi Pass in Georgia. It is one of the country's highest (3341m) and steepest trekking passes.

Alison: They may seem poles apart, but have you found any overlap between your ecology study and the work you are doing now?

Petr: It might not be so obvious but the ecology aspect is very important in my work. We usually work on huge websites with a lot of traffic, so it is important to consider that factor. 

Imagine a standard homepage hero image which has 850KB of data. By using modern formats and the exact dimensions together with an optimal compression ratio you can get a 150KB result. 

You may say it's not much, the internet is fast, disk space is cheap, but if you multiply it by all the visits you see that, for example, with every 10,000 visits this one image may be responsible for almost 7GB of unnecessarily transferred and processed data, which consumes energy on every device it goes through on its path from the server to the visitor. 

Although our clients are able to upload images in the right file format with proper compression and correct dimensions, we do all this automatically for them. There are various other ways we can enhance the performance of their websites.

Alison: What does a typical work day look like? Are you affected by any time differences? 

Petr: The Czech Republic is one hour ahead of Ireland, so it’s not so bad. It was worse when I was working for an Australian agency – I was eight or nine hours behind. I enjoy this one-hour difference. Also, at Annertech we all don’t necessarily work within the same time frame – so everyone works the way they need to or want to. 

My workday usually starts with an idea about what I’ll be doing and then life happens and it usually doesn’t happen the way I thought it would. I think that’s normal and probably the same for lots of others. 

Usually I need to walk the dog a few times a day, walk the children to school and back, then try to work in between.

Petr Illek takes a rest on a rock above a river during a hike.

Petr Illek takes a rest on a rock above a river during a hike in Georgia.

Alison: Where is home? 

Petr: I was born in Cheb, in the west of the Czech Republic, near the German border. I moved to České Budějovice to study, and I thought I’d end up living there, but then I met my wife in Cheb (she was working in my father’s office), sold my flat, and moved back to my home town. 

We were married in 2014, and have two daughters – aged eight and one. We split our year between a house near a lake in a small village, and a flat in the city of Cheb for winters, mainly for our eldest's schooling and to be near our parents who help us.

Petr Illek and his wife Pavlina holidaying in Egypt. Behind them is a desert.

Petr Illek and his wife, Pavlina, on vacation in Egypt.

Alison: What do you love most about your job? 

Petr: The variable work options. It’s not repetitive work – every project is different; challenging. A repetitive job would kill me. I like that I’m not limited to the frontend. If I can do something else, it’s possible. For example I can take on small bits of backend work. You can evolve over time. 

I like that the company is open. We all work remotely, it’s a calm environment, and I like the team. It’s always great when we meet up in person. 

Alison: What do you like least about your job? 

Petr: That there is not enough time. There isn’t an ideal end point. We do very good work but it always could be improved and polished. 

Another thing is that my colleagues who live in countries such as Ireland or the UK, where there are a good number of Annertechies, get to meet people, co-work or get together. For me, the Czech Republic is so far away to meet up with people. 

The Annertech team at DrupalCon Prague

The last time Petr Illek (front, right) met up with a large group of Annertechies was at DrupalCon Prague in 2022. 

Alison: Was there a favourite project that you worked on? Could you tell us a bit about it? 

Petr: Dublin City Council. This was my first project. I was surprised because I’d just started at Annertech, and I was nervous because it was for Dublin, the capital. It was a nice project to start with, and I’m proud of what we achieved with it. 

The National Library of Ireland was a really nice project to work on. The result is that it seems like a simple website but that’s because in the background a lot is happening to turn the complex stuff into simple stuff for the user. I think we did a good job.  

I worked on a project for Glanbia, which was incredible. It is a large company that does various things and the project was a huge, multilingual site (14 languages) — which posed another set of challenges. We kept having to think “will this work in all these languages”. I liked it.  

Alison: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself outside of work? 

Petr: I like nature and being out in nature. My hobby is photography. I have a camera with few lenses. It’s bigger and heavier than a mobile phone, but the results can be more impressive even though mobile phones have improved over the last few years.

A black and white, close crop, image of a sunflower.

Petr Illek took this stunning image of a sunflower in his backyard in the Czech Republic.

A fisherman casts a net into a Georgian river.

Petr Illek captured the moment when a fisherman casts a net into a river in Georgia. He was swimming in the river (around 10 °C), when he spotted the man, and  followed him for few hundred meters. “He only caught two tiny trout. But his technique was great,“ he said. 

I’m an ambassador for Česko.Digital – a non-profit organisation with one of the largest communities of expert volunteers, representatives of nonprofits, public administration and other fields in Europe, which guides NGOs and public administration organisations through the process of digital transformation. 

As part of this, I’m working on my own Drupal distribution for Czech (and Slovak) local government It’s similar to LocalGov Drupal in that it targets local governments but it’s not as complex. It’s currently undergoing a complete redesign. We recently finished an acceleration programme under to redesign the csgov project. 

Alison: You sound really passionate about it. 

Petr: I am. There is nothing open source in this area in the Czech Republic. Most of the cities have proprietary systems for their websites. And the towns had no other option; no way to move away from proprietary systems – until now.  

There are 6,000 cities and villages in the Czech Republic and each has to have its own website. So there is a big market and every city essentially ends up repeating the same things, just with their own information. It’s expensive to have 6,000 times everything. 

Our design is based on the official Czech design system (government design system, which was open-sourced last year) and we are hoping to go live with it as soon as March.

Do you fancy having a frontend developer like Petr on your project?

The Annertech team is versatile, and the members bring a diverse set of skills to the table. If you'd like to see what we can do for you, get in touch.

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Alison Visser Head of Content

After more than two decades in journalism, Alison now collaborates with Annertech's clients to ensure that their content is the best it possibly can be.