Future Leaders: Maggie Allen, Developer

‘Future Leaders’ is a series of blog posts by the Financial Times in which we interview our team members and ask them how they got into technology, what they are working on and what they want to do in the future. Everyone has a different perspective, story and experience to share. This series will feature colleagues working in our Product & Technology teams. You can also connect with us on Twitter at @lifeatFT.

Maggie Allen

Hi Maggie, what is your current role at the FT and what do you spend most of your time doing at work? I’m a Developer on the ‘Customer Products’ team, working on FT.com. I spend most of my time writing or thinking about code and finding solutions to technical problems with my team. At the moment I’m helping to build a tool called Anvil which will replace a lot of the front end code that underpins FT.com. It’s a really exciting project because it will be used by all of our user-facing apps and improve the developer experience for the whole team. A lot of the challenges have been new to me so there’s been a big learning curve and a lot of space to grow.

How did you get into the technology industry? Originally I studied English & Linguistics and pursued a career in publishing. I still love books and linguistics but after a few years I was ready for a change and left the industry to start a three month coding bootcamp with Maker’s Academy. Towards the end of the course I met some developers from the FT and shortly after was offered my first job as a Junior Developer.

It’s been a life changing move! Growing up I didn’t ever consider programming as a career option, it wasn’t until I was much older that I began to see the tech industry as the right fit for me.

It’s really encouraging that you said you saw it as a ‘fit’ for you, rather than something you want to break into but aren’t sure how. We know being a woman in tech can seem daunting but you felt confident that you immediately belonged? Yes! Girl power! And seeing so many incredible women in the industry helps.

Love it! What made you want to leave the publishing industry for tech? I knew some people who worked in the tech industry and really it was seeing the ways that they worked and their day to day routines that appealed to me. I think the culture in the tech industry is really progressive and my job now allows me to have a much better work-life balance.

Flexible working in action.. Maggie working from a local cafe

How do you prefer to work? I like to work on one thing at a time if I can. Within project teams at the FT we’re usually focussed on one or two big goals at a time so being able to break work down into smaller steps helps. Work in progress is a killer, I like to finish things!

Agreed! What did your first role at the FT involve? So, the first team I joined here was working on the myFT platform. I was still very new to coding so I spent a lot of time with the Senior Developers in that team learning about modern JavaScript, web accessibility, performance and coding standards. The first project I worked on for that team is still a part of the website! It’s a dismissible banner that encourages new subscribers to start following topics and getting personalised myFT emails.

The ‘UK’ topic section on FT.com

What is the project you’ve worked on at the FT that you are most proud of? I’ve been part of a few different project teams at the FT. There’s my current team, of course, and the time I spent working with myFT. In between I spent three months on secondment with the Operations & Reliability team which gave me a chance to learn about a whole new part of the business and get to know a group I wouldn’t normally work closely with.

Each project has taught me a lot but I’m probably most proud of the six months I spent working on GDPR for FT.com. It was an incredible cross-departmental project requiring collaboration from several different disciplines and input from so many people. The challenges were brand new and while we solved them we had a chance to pick up some new technologies which is always nice.

That’s a big project, well done! So, what is the biggest lesson you have learned? The most valuable practice I’ve learned over the last few years is around adopting a ‘growth mindset’. Working in an environment that promotes continuous learning has helped me to recognise how capable I am. If I find something challenging at first I know that I’ll get support to work through it and it’s amazing to realise how far you’ve come when something that was originally quite difficult becomes second nature.

Maggie and fellow FT-ers at JS Conf 2018 in Berlin

What would you like to do in the future? I definitely want to keep developing my technical skills but recently I’ve become more involved in mentoring and supporting new developers and that’s something I’d definitely like to do more of. I find that incredibly rewarding.

Thank you, Maggie!

Interviewee: Maggie Allen Interviewer: Georgina Murray