Kim Diep — Associate Software Engineer

codebar
codebar
Sep 17, 2019 · 9 min read
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Kim is an Associate Software Engineer at M&G Prudential. She has been a member of the codebar community since September 2017. Read below to hear all about her journey into tech, and how her early memories of playing around with a computer sparked her interest in tech.

You can find Kim on the internet at:

thekimmykola | kimdiep.github

  1. What did you want to be growing up?

When I was 5, I got my first computer and wanted to be a computer hacker. I imagined myself working undercover as a secret agent, making potions and hacking through computers, like Disney’s Kim Possible saving the world from monsters! I quickly realised this wasn’t a ‘real’ job; although I wished it was! :)

At school, there wasn’t much of an emphasis in tech, so I focused on exploring careers in Law and Medicine. I didn’t know what I wanted to do after college; making decisions felt like the end of the world. Growing up, it was drilled into my brain that university was the only logical option. I thought about going to Medical School or applying for a shiny training contract in Law. In the end, I chose to study Geography at university because I was curious to learn about what makes the world tick. I felt Geography had a good mix of arts and sciences shedding light to environmental, social, economic and technological interactions, which could lead me to becoming a climate scientist.

2) When did your interest in tech start?

I was fortunate to have access to a computer at home from a young age and played a lot of games on it. The sound of a Dial-Up Modem was so cool; I thought it was a way to communicate with aliens and the computer was some sort of way to ‘connect’ with non-human beings. At school, tech was a big thing! Things started to change very quickly; from CD players to Sony
Walkmans, MP3 Players, Nokia phones, flip phones with polyphonic ringtones and innovations towards touchscreen phones with built-in music players. Technology was part of my life! When Bluetooth came out, my friends and I shared our photos and compared what music we had. Technology was so interactive — I loved it!

At university, I wrote my first line of code whilst trying to find a better way to extract some climate data for my project; back then, coding was merely a tool for me to get to the final answer. In the past couple of years, I found myself wanting to know more about how something works rather than just receiving the end output.

After graduation, I still didn’t know what career was right for me; many of my friends took on great Graduate Schemes. Instead of comparing myself to others, I bounced back to forge my own path. I eventually landed a full-time role as an Energy Industry Analyst and wrote loads of reports for a market intelligence company, whilst working at my part-time tutoring job too. My gut felt that job wasn’t for me and after 6 months, I moved onto a sustainability consultancy focused on accelerating the evolution and productivity of sustainable building management in cities, where I had the chance to work on the sustainability consulting team and eventually moved onto a
business-technology role.

Technology was so interactive — I loved it!

3) How did you make the transition to being a developer?

My friends at the sustainability consultancy were a bunch of fantastic people, who inspired me to come into work everyday to do my best. After a year as a Junior Sustainability Consultant on the consulting team, I was given the opportunity to put forward some ideas to grow the company’s proprietary technology solution, which was focused on the sustainable real estate industry. The solution had a data-driven approach to support on environmental data management and reporting for commercial real estate sector clients. I was so grateful that the company put its trust in me and offered me the chance to be part of their new technology team. It was pretty much a blank slate at the time and something felt ‘right’ about it. Though I hesitated to leave my sustainability consulting days behind, I was elated at the
prospect of being part of something special. For over 2 years, I grasped with the concept of Agile and engaged with the team on the software development of the sustainability software through the implementation of agile product/project management strategies, business requirements gathering
and specification. I learned about scrum iterative software development and how to use Atlassian’s JIRA tool. Bridging Business and Technology
With my multi-disciplinary background, I spoke both the language of business and technology. I wore many hats to bring together the details of the technology to something meaningful at the business level. I secretly enjoyed it whenever a bug appeared, as it would mean I could have a chat with the developer to try and debug something and ask them questions. I had loads of fun at . work, everyone was very supportive and had good ideas to bring to the table. Wearing many hats was challenging but rewarding when you were transforming the way the user approached technology-driven sustainability. Connecting to my Passion I wanted to connect with my childhood self to get away from what my mind thinks I should do, to seek what I really wanted to do and link it to my passions. I’m passionate about sustainability and smart cities and how technology brings people and the environment together, changing how people perceive and inhabit their environment. At the same time, opportunities at work and curiosity to know more about the inner-workings of technology made me realise that a career in Software Engineering would be a good fit for me.

My switch to software engineering built on the opportunities I had as a Business Application Consultant, where I engaged daily with developers to adopt the best practices of Agile, testing, continuous integration and iterative software development from scratch from a business requirements perspective. Outside of the 9-to-5, I was also inspired by Code First: Girls, where I
attended their Web Development and Advanced Ruby courses at Twitter UK and M&S Digital from Autumn 2017 to Spring 2018. I have also enjoyed being part of codebar and the technology community in London too!
Earlier this year, I received a scholarship to attend a 16-week intensive Software Engineering Bootcamp at Makers, with the eye to fast-track my career in technology over the course of the next 12 months with M&G Prudential, where I am currently an Associate Software Engineer.

4) How are you finding your first job as a Software Engineer?

I am currently working as an Associate Software Engineer at M&G Prudential on Investment Management Technology, specifically technologies to support investment processes. I am focusing on the backend side of things and databases, with a bit of devOps. I am learning all the time; every day presents a different challenge! I love the thrill of finding solutions to problems; it is so refreshing to make an impact from day one!

5) Whilst learning to code what was a fun project or thing that you built?

During my masters in Environmental Modelling, I learnt Python and Met Office IDL to do some cool climate modelling analyses on the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation. My project explored the existence of Multi-Decadal and Centennial Modes of Variability in the Atlantic Meridional
Overturning Circulation and Nordic Seas Overflows in Forced-Simulations across The Little Ice Age . to Modern Transition.

6) What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?

For the final project at Makers, I chose Art/Music AI as as my category of interest. I was assigned to a team called ‘AJAK’ to build a project within the category. For our project, we ended up using a Convolutional Neural Network Machine Learning model to classify doodles. The aim was for the user to input a doodle and the model outputs a prediction on what the user has drawn. In our app, the user can draw a camera, crown or rabbit. It was brilliant to share the love for Agile! Having daily stand-ups, retrospectives and valuing
communication over processes helped us to apply Agile theory to Agile practice! This made our team gel a lot better and made our project more engaging to create with the end-user in mind! We all came into the project with no/little knowledge on Machine Learning. We only had one and a
half weeks to complete the project, so it was a big achievement for us when we delivered our product on Demo Day!

7) How did you get involved with codebar?

I was doing a lot of coding tutorials online, but I wanted to hear and learn from role models in the industry. I wanted a space to go to after work to focus on my coding; whilst having a fun environment to meet like-minded people. I did a bit of googling and came across codebar through
a Twitter feed. I remembered my first ever codebar was at the Twitter UK office; it was amazing to be paired with another student and a coach to learn at my own pace.

8) Why do you keep coming back to codebar?

I love the codebar vibe! The coaches are really patient and supportive to help me learn. codebar is a safe environment to experiment to things and learn quickly. Did I mention the food as well??? Yummy! When learning to code, I think it is important to surround yourself with a community to
support you on your journey. At codebar, you can make friends, ask questions, get them answered and have loads of fun meeting the coolest people in town!

9) What are your plans for the future?

In the near-term, I would like to be focus on backend programming and devOps. I want to learn the technologies used in my current role at M&G Prudential and contribute to making an impact to end-users in Investment Process technology. I have signed up to do more volunteering with the tech
community in London, as well as STEM mentorship for aspiring technologists. In the future, I would like to speak at conferences and be an advocate for Agile within organisations.

10) What advice would you give to aspiring developers?

  • Be yourself! You are yourself, be the best version of yourself and you will succeed! Success is without failures. Take risks — don’t be scared to grasp an opportunity When learning something new, you will fail. Failing is not a bad thing; it shows that you are curious to experiment and take risks. Bounce back from failures and learn from them. Sometimes risks pay off, sometimes they don’t. But you will never know unless you try. Respect yourself and respect others
  • Make time for self-care and ensure you are listening to your true self.
  • Respect others and create a positive environment.
  • Track your progress — celebrate successes whatever the size!
  • Set achievable goals and give yourself a retrospective at the end of each day. Celebrate your achievements and be grateful for what you have right now.
  • Find yourself a community online or in-person or both!
  • Surround yourself with like-minded people. When you’re learning, it is important to ask questions and explore what’s happening in the technology industry. Technology teams collaborate all the time
    to generate ideas, so it is important to mix individual learning and group learning.
  • Don’t compare yourself to others. Stay on your own lane! Comparing yourself to others is unhealthy, because the time you spent
    focusing on someone else is taking away the time you spend on your personal development. Comparing yourself to others could also lead you to becoming self-critical and you won’t be able to reach your full potential. Go out there and make your impact! :)

Final Thoughts

Take the time to think about why and how you would like to become a developer. Starting something new is always risky and an opportunity cost; if you think it is worth it, make the jump and take the time you need to ease yourself in. Everyone is different, you know yourself better than
anyone else. Change doesn’t happen overnight, you have to have grit and patience to see it through. If you fail at something, it’s natural to get frustrated, but get back up again. If it’s not right for you, then find something that makes you tick. Successes are without failures; they go hand-in-
hand. Remember to go easy on yourself and get plenty of rest! I speak from experience of burning out so many times! Most of all, there are some things which don’t work out in life; c’est la vie!

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