Case study

Software engineer — Geraldine Abbey

Geraldine studied mathematics at Brunel University and mathematical biology at the University of Nottingham before joining FDM Group's Software Development Programme and landing a job with one of the largest investment banks in the world

How did you get your job?

While in the FDM Academy, there were two roles presented to me. The first involved a technical Java interview. I was only a few days into my Java training, so I struggled to answer some of the questions and I didn't get the job. The feedback that FDM gave me was really helpful and the academy managers and my account manager reassured me that the interviewers were focusing mainly on my potential in the role rather than my technical competences, and they were fully aware that I am still training.

The next placement I interviewed for was the one I secured - a role with a leading investment bank. Although I wasn't feeling super confident, I was open to learning on the job, which helped the interviewers see my potential. I used the notes my account manager gave me regarding the role and the knowledge I had gained in my training, and the interview went well.

What was the interview process like?

During the phone interview, they asked me questions in relation to the information on my CV, to get to know me personally, and they gave me a brief overview of the role.

The in-person interview involved me going into the office to meet the people from the first call, plus the technical lead of the team. We worked through scenario-based interview questions, logical reasoning and problem solving, and I explained what I learned from the various FDM training courses.

Once successful, I was sent a list of technologies and frameworks that I would be using as part of the role and some resources to read before my start date.

What were your first few weeks in the role like?

My account manager put me in contact with an FDMer who worked in the same building as me, and they supported me throughout my initial weeks. Having a support network onsite was extremely helpful and comforting. I was able to meet more FDMers in my firm - we shared our experiences, tips and also celebrated each other’s successes.

FDM provided me with access to online upskilling platforms, which I utilised heavily in my first few weeks to deepen my understanding of the technologies I work with.

At the beginning of my placement, I was asked to undergo a series of training courses. My advice is to not rush the training but take your time with it and absorb as much information as you can.

What's a typical day like as a software engineer?  

  • Working with support personnel, product owners, operations, QA testers and engineers.
  • Collaborating with the engineers and operations in improving our infrastructure.
  • Designing applications with product owners, UX designers and business analysts.
  • Working through improvements with QA testers, engineers and operations.

What part of your job gives you the most satisfaction?

I get immense satisfaction when passing a code review and merging the code into the repository. Additionally, there is a sense of achievement when my work completes UAT and is secure and subsequently goes to production without problems. Above all, it's most rewarding when stakeholders appreciate the team's efforts.

What qualities do you think are important for a software engineer?

  • Innovation and a willingness to learn and improve.
  • Time management and ability to prioritise
  • A critical eye.
  • Ability to quickly understand your clients and what they require.
  • Effective problem-solving skills for debugging code.

How is your degree relevant?

Having studied mathematics, I am able to see a problem and approach it from different perspectives. I approach problems rationally and strive to see things from the client's perspective. Also, mathematics has improved my attention for detail, which is useful in code reviews.

What are your career highlights to date?

I am proud of my contributions to the firm over the years, my commitment to recruitment drives for diversity and inclusion and my volunteering activities.

One career highlight involves creating a one-time password interface for clients. More than 1,000 users per week use this OTP interface to improve the user's experience.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?  

I have become an integral part of the team, with people often asking my opinion, and I'm grateful that they trust in my judgement based on my FDM training and on-job experience.

Improving my technical skills is a primary goal for me. I want to be able to support people who are new starters in software development and help deploy stable and secure software code that meet our clients’ standards.

What do you wish you'd known before you started your job?

When I joined FDM and started my placement I was working among highly experienced professionals, and I developed 'imposter syndrome'. I did not have the same experience and background as my colleagues, but FDM had prepared me for on-the-job learning, which was very effective in my case. Today, I deliver as much value to my team as everyone else. I no longer feel like an imposter and I’m fully qualified for the job.

The biggest lesson I have learned in my career so far is to have confidence in my own work and findings and remember that my perspective and expertise are just as important as other people in my team. Also, be willing to learn, adapt and understand. Knowledge comes from the resources and network of people around you.

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