Coffee and catch up: Bill
Hi Bill, congratulations on your 2:1 degree! Tell us how you got there.
I had known I wanted to do something IT-based since I was fourteen or fifteen. I did a half a GCSE at school but it wasn’t very useful for the kind of things I wanted to do, in fact, it turned me off a bit and I didn’t do any IT courses at GCSE. In the sixth form, they offered a computing course that sounded more on the money. Things didn’t work out so great though, I’d found GCSEs easy so that when it came to A levels I found myself coasting a bit. I hadn’t really learned the skills for studying. In the end, I decided to do an apprenticeship instead. I was an IT technician in a school for two years, that was fun. It helped me learn a lot of things like working in a team but I realised that I didn’t want this to be my career. I wanted to do something that involved coding which led me to The University of the West of England and a Computer Systems Integration course that included a lot of C programming.
You were the first employee at Flexys, how did you get the job?
In the second year of university, UWE heavily recommended doing a placement year and Flexys accepted me. I quickly realised what I’d learned on my course was very outdated. For example, virtually anywhere you work you will be using Github or another version control system but they didn’t teach us anything like that. You do need to learn the fundamentals at university so I can’t say it was a bad thing but looking back I wish I’d taken a computer science or software engineering course. I like where I’ve ended up but I could have taken a more useful path where I learned more of the theoretical computer science side which I’m now picking up at Flexys.
As the first employee in a start-up, you must have seen some changes since you joined Flexys?
Yes, I’ve been in four different offices as the company has grown. There are certainly a lot more people, which is good. In the beginning, so early in the business, things were more up in the air as to whether we would be successful but now it’s like we are on a warpath! We’ve hit the ground running. Things have progressed very well and I’m enjoying my time here.
After your placement you stayed on and worked full time for the last year of your degree, how did you balance studying and working?
I think I balanced it poorly but I’m pleased with how things have turned out. There were a lot of times I stayed up late doing coursework and suffered at work the day after. It was due to my lack of preparation and time management. Moving from doing cutting edge things at Flexys to university coursework seemed like a step back, which was irritating. It was difficult to decide whether to keep my work at Flexys or my uni course at the forefront, I’d like to have concentrated more on work but that could have resulted in a lower grade. I like that now, when I get home in the evening, I don’t have to worry about coursework.
What is your daily routine as a software engineer?
My average day includes something like adding a new feature to one of the products or fixing a bug. We use a service called Jira to track what tasks need doing and what’s currently being worked on. I’ll use this or ask a colleague to figure out what I should do that day or find out if they need help with any of their tasks. Another common thing I might do is review someone else’s code.
What is your biggest achievement so far?
I wouldn’t say it was my degree, it was OK but there were a lot of elements missing. I think coming into work, you realise what’s important and what’s not; what to put time into to get results; when to give up and try a different technique and good ways of working in a team. From being in a professional team I’ve developed skills that help me learn quickly and work efficiently. I’m proud of the job I have and I enjoy it a lot.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Until now I’ve always been working towards an endpoint, either school exams, my apprenticeship or my degree. Right now it’s too hard to say what comes next because the tech landscape is so unpredictable. I expect to be programming for a living. I hope I’ll still be working on something interesting.