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Aire Life

Q&A with Aire’s Software Engineering Manager — Tara Hofton

Heading up our team of Software Engineers, Tara Hofton joined Aire in June, 2017. Here’s a quick snapshot of her work, and life beyond.

| We’re currently hiring Software Engineers! Apply here.

1. Coffee count so far today (11.15)

☕️ so far, with a daily average of ☕️☕️☕️.

Aire-time

2. Tara, tell us about your career prior to joining us.

I’ve worked in engineering for over twenty years. I studied computing at university and, once I graduated, I took a number of courses in web development. This gave me the skills I needed to get into my first real job in the field, where I spent my days creating HTML pages. A move to London followed next where I contracted as a Web Developer in a wide variety of places, from e-commerce to broadcasting and press monitoring. I quickly progressed from HTML into scripting languages and then backend server side development which I found most interesting.

Some of the groundwork for my interest in working at Aire was laid during my earlier work for not-for-profit organisations: it was much more satisfying completing work that I knew was helping others. At the same time, things were changing at home. With twin boys came maternity leave and that meant I experimented with working part-time for a number of years.

Next I joined a new business focused on delivering credit insights to small businesses. I loved the start-up environment there — identifying the customer need, building the product and delivering the necessary insights was highly rewarding. That desire to have that experience again from scratch led me to where I am today at Aire.

3. Tell us about the day to day activities of an Aire Software Engineer?

We start with our morning scrum where the team reviews work already in flight, highlighting any blockers and agreeing what is to be worked on that day. Typically this involves collaborating with key stakeholders such as a product managers and peer reviewers to deliver features and bug fixes.

We have regular sprint ceremonies that help us to deliver new features: together we discuss requirements, scope out and design solutions that can deliver value iteratively. On the job learning is a key part of the role of a software engineer at Aire, we are continually learning about new technologies and using that knowledge to improve our product and processes.

Everything we build needs to be able to scale and keeping that in mind as we build makes our work more thoughtful, more thorough and ultimately better for our customers. It’s this area of my role I’ve always found so interesting: learning and testing forms a critical part of the job.

My role also focuses around the management of our team — supporting and encouraging them in how they choose to develop their careers at Aire. A shift from my previous experience to date, but a challenge which I’m really enjoying and embracing.

| We’re currently hiring Software Engineers! Apply here.

The shift to virtual has meant new learnings for Tara in managing her team remotely.

4. What’s been your biggest accomplishment since becoming a Software Engineer at Aire?

I’ve got a number of things I’m proud of since starting at Aire and my shift into a leadership role is certainly one of them. Another area I feel huge pride in is our ongoing work with digital retailer, N Brown. This was an early project for me when I joined and so I look back on it fondly. Executing on that project was a real pleasure because I saw it from the early stages of work to it going live, and I’ve found that experience so rewarding. More recently, as we continue to deliver value to the business, it’s great to see us expand our insights for them in response to the recent Covid-19 changes.

5. What uncomfortable forest* are you glad to have taken a walk in since arriving at Aire?

* At Aire, we’re not afraid to take the hard path. Even if it takes more time or creates more pain. We want to ensure we do it the right way.

My arrival at Aire definitely required a leap of faith — on both sides!

Before finding Aire (which I did during a chance encounter at Silicon Milkroundabout), I felt quite limited by my skills as a Microsoft trained engineer. I was keen to learn a new technology stack but was worried this would limit me in landing my next role. But what I loved about Aire was their determination to hire for mindset and an enthusiasm and a willingness to learn. This really chimed with what I was looking for.

My first six months required me to take the hard path and get outside of my comfort zone — I felt like I was starting from scratch, learning many new technologies. But I’ve always felt well supported here and three years on, I’m learning brand new skills once again as I learn to lead.

6. What are you most looking forward to getting your teeth stuck into next at Aire?

For our engineering team, it’s now all about learning to scale effectively. Delivering product updates as efficiently as possible is crucial for us and so I’m now focused on helping our engineers to do this in the best way possible.

We’ve recently made exciting updates to how we think about our work, shifting to an outcome over output focused approach to our OKRs. This means we’re framing our work around the behaviour change of our customers and that’s an exciting step change for our team to adapt to.

Longer-term, I’m also focused on how we build out a diverse and balanced team of Aire software engineers as we grow.

Tara enjoying some downtime with her sons, Cooper and Harrison.

Downtime

7. How do you stay up-to-date and keep your skills sharp?

While I’m still keeping up to date with new technologies, I’m increasingly interested in learning about personal growth, productivity and time management to improve my skills.

Having spent so much of my career in engineering, the change has allowed me to switch up my thinking from constant delivery to keeping one eye on the future of where we’re heading, and as a manager, what I need to be putting in place for the team in order to get us there.

8. What’s the podcasts/ blogs/ books you swear by?

Accelerate is a brilliant read about how we can apply technology to deliver value faster. I’d also recommend Radical Candor which teaches you how to give feedback effectively. For tech skills, I particularly like Medium which has some great blogs to follow such as better programming and towards data science. I have always enjoyed reading Friday Forward which is a weekly newsletter that provides inspiration around the concept of improvement and growth.

And, like so many of us at Aire, I love a good TED talk. One of my favourites is Never, ever give up by Diana Nyad.

9. Any personal projects outside of work?

Away from work, it’s currently my renovation project: my husband, two boys and I have been doing up our 1950s family home for quite a while now. We’ve faced a couple of interruptions during lockdown, but I’m pleased to say we’re back on track and I’m hoping we’ll be fully completed in a couple of months…

— Thank you so much, Tara!

Update

In recognition of her contribution to the industry, Tara was included in the Innovate Finance Women in Fintech Powerlist — joining a list of just 20 women selected in the Technology Professionals category.

| We’re currently hiring Software Engineers! Apply here.

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