The second of an occasional series, where we ask some of our women in engineering to share their experiences of working at FreeAgent:
What was your career journey like before coming to FreeAgent?
My academic background is in the Humanities, but I spent years working in web publishing. This work wasn’t particularly techy, as I was using a CMS to publish content to sites. I was curious about the stuff that went on in the layers beneath my work, so any time our tools failed us I’d learn just a bit more about what made it all tick. I finally decided to take the plunge and go all in, so I enrolled in a conversion MSc in Software Development and joined FreeAgent as a Junior Software Engineer shortly after graduating. – Katie Nelson (Software Engineer, Front end Architecture)
I’ve worked in a variety of technical roles throughout my working life, from pure hardware to pure software! My career has been very haphazard. My first tech job was as a PC maintenance teacher for a City and Guilds course in London. After that, I worked for quite a few years in end user support, and on-premise networks. A move to Scotland for my husband’s job coincided with the start of a family and so I decided to take a break from tech and focus on looking after the kids for a while. After what turned out to be 8 years and looking for more flexibility than a job in support would give, I taught myself how to build websites and worked as freelancer for 8 or 9 years. Finally, in 2019, ready for a bigger challenge, I joined the CodeClan software development course and became a full stack developer. FreeAgent is my second software engineering job. – Carme Mias (Software Engineer, Marketing Platform)
I studied chemical engineering and organic chemistry and then went on to have a successful career as a scientist for 11 years developing and commercialising diagnostic products. I got to the point where I was managing a lab and a lab team and decided I needed a new challenge. I went on to retrain as a data scientist and started my new career as a data scientist at FreeAgent in 2020 – Delphine Rabiller (Data Scientist)
What key challenge is your team working on?
For the Marketing platform team, the main focus is the website and all its integrations with a myriad other systems, both internal and external to FreeAgent. Apart from our day-to-day tasks and responsibilities towards our stakeholders, our job involves constantly seeking to improve both from the end user’s point of view, in terms of website accessibility and performance, and from the engineering perspective, looking at ever more efficient and secure build and deployment systems and pipelines – Carme
The data science team’s main work is to help our customers nail their daily admin by using automations. We have a machine learning model, Banquo, that classifies our customer’s bank transactions. We work on continuously improving our automation performances. – Delphine
What is your greatest accomplishment as an engineer?
It honestly just feels surreal to have made it this far. Working as a Software Engineer is both way easier and way more challenging than I ever anticipated. Easier in that I used to think that software was basically magic, and thus impossible to just sit down and learn. It’s not. It’s absolutely learnable. The difficulty for me really springs out of moving away from spending my time doing work that I know like the back of my hand to having every problem I encounter feel brand new. But I get up and put myself in that space every day, and everyone here has been incredibly supportive and patient. It gets easier and more familiar every day and I’ve got zero regrets! – Katie
My greatest accomplishment has been managing to get back onto the tech treadmill after a 8-year stint as a full time mum! – Carme
I would say my greatest accomplishment is to finally call myself a data scientist. I went from not knowing how to write code to be part of a team that develops, deploys and maintains machine learning automation. – Delphine
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Don’t get so caught up in all of that left-brain vs. right-brain, creative vs. logical personalities stuff. We’re all capable of all kinds of things and if you want to do something, just do it. This work is very creative, social, and communication-heavy. Sure, there is a lot of analysis and logic involved as well, but those skills can be improved over time with effort and patience (and you’re probably already better at those things than you think you are). Just get on with it. – Katie
Nobody’s born with all the knowledge. Stay curious, and take every chance to challenge yourself. Both at work and in life, treasure the golden nuggets learned from failures and mistakes – Carme
I would tell my younger self to stop doubting herself. You can do whatever you set yourself to achieve, regardless of what other people can tell you! And don’t forget to celebrate your achievements. – Delphine