Hi, I’m Tom Walsh, a software engineer here at Redgate. Everyone has a different story of how they got into software development, so as part of Redgate’s #NewJobJune, I’d like to share mine.
I first become interested in computers in the early 2000s when my grandad offloaded his old desktop machine onto me (to this day he still uses a high-spec gaming PC to run Firefox and his email client, but moving on). This interest continued on through my education until it came to choosing my A-Levels. At one of the open evenings I attended, I headed straight off to the IT rooms to see what was on offer.
It quickly became apparent that my interest most certainly did not lie in learning to write fancy Excel macros, and I was redirected to the Computing teacher, who I chatted to for what must have been close to an hour. I left that room knowing programming was something I had to pursue.
The first few months of learning were, to be brutally honest, very difficult. I was struggling with the whole concept of programming and was all set to drop Computing at the end of the year and apply to study Mechanical Engineering. Then, one day, something just clicked. Honestly, I can’t remember what it was, but from that point on, all plans for mechanical engineering went straight in the bin and before I knew it, I was at university studying Software Engineering.
As I approached the end of my third year at university, I was all set to extend my stay for another year to convert my Bachelors into a Masters and then I’d be off into the big wide world of software development! The University of Sheffield also makes a concerted effort to introduce students to the skills and problems associated with working within a team, with large group projects focusing on agile software development making up a core part of every year’s curriculum. I’d also tried my best to stay up to date with as many of the latest developments as I could while studying, so I was reasonably confident about entering the industry.
Then, however, the offer to take on a PhD in software testing came along and it sounded like a really good challenge. After seesawing on my decision for a couple of weeks, I decided to take the offer. Fast forward three and a half years and I’m living in Cambridge (on an income of £0 per month I might add) and working to get my thesis ready for submission, which as anyone who has foolishly thought “how hard can a PhD be?” will tell you, can be an almost all-consuming task (12+ hour days were not uncommon). Whilst I enjoyed my PhD immensely, I knew academia was not for me and starting looking around at my options for once I was free from my PhD. I’d remembered seeing Redgate being touted as an excellent place to work back in my undergraduate days, so decided to check it out.
Browsing round the website, I immediately decided it was worth a shot, although I was quite concerned that I’d never programmed in C# before. I needn’t have worried. Redgate allowed me to do all the coding stuff in a language of my choice (I picked Java) as the code wasn’t they were after — it was the thought process! I somehow managed to get an offer and I accepted it on the spot. Looking back, here’s three little tips I found useful in preparing for my interview:
- Don’t be scared of your interview — I was nervous heading into my interviews here. Try not to be. No-one is expecting you to simply sit down at a keyboard and produce perfect code first time. We’re far more interested in how you work.
- Learn to work well with others — I was fortunate in that my university course gave me opportunities to work in teams. Search out these and try to make the most of them.
- If you want to try a new language, Google is your best friend. Even the most obscure languages have plenty of great learning resources.
The 15 months since I joined Redgate have been a bit of a whirlwind, but it’s been one of the best experiences of my life. They invest heavily in all their new starters, regardless of experience and make sure you’re set up with everything you need to have/know, from a choice of hardware setups and a desk assessment on your first day to thorough on-boarding covering everything from how to write your first pull request (which I did on my very first day) to how to get involved in our communities of practice.
I’ll end with this. Redgate is a truly great company, filled to the brim with friendly, intelligent and funny people who make coming to work every day a pleasure.