Meet Simon – Software Development Undergraduate

"I have grown so much in just a short period of time at UKCloud"

What’s your background?

I have always had a passion for programming and making things. I’ve always been into video games so I wanted to be able to pass that passion on and create games for others. Before university I was sure I wanted to go into games design, but I decided that doing a Computer Science course was the best path for me to keep my options open. Fortunately for me, there was a unit dedicated to software development where I learnt a lot about Ruby, Java, Git and how Agile teams work together to achieve great things. This is when I knew Software Development was for me.

I’m currently studying software development at the University of Sheffield and I’m currently the tech officer for the gaming society there. This year in particular we’ve had major growth in membership, so I’m doing a lot to improve our infrastructure, website, and social media content. I also enjoy spending a lot of my spare time to work on personal projects. I am currently working on an automation tool that enables me to manage my finance more effectively using the API available through my bank and I’m planning to make the source freely available so others can use it to do the same.

What brought you to UKCloud?

My big drive in joining UKCloud was about putting my knowledge into practice. I have learnt a lot from my own personal learning and at university, but it doesn’t compare to putting what I’ve learnt into practice to build real software for real customers. When I was looking for a placement I had my mind fixed on pushing for a role at GitHub or one of the big Silicon Valley firms and I saw this potential in UKCloud. I first came across UKCloud at an SME networking dinner where I met their Head of Product Management and an existing placement student – the conversation went well and I saw a lot of potential in a career at UKCloud. When I attended the assessment day I saw the way the team operates, the way they interact and that really stuck with me. It was clear from the interview that they were as passionate as me about development and the exceptional talent within the team at UKCloud.

What work are you excited about now?

What is exciting and rewarding about UKCloud is the fact there is no distinction between undergraduates and senior staff. I often get told by the team that they forget I’m just an intern – as a placement student you can add real value and make a difference. There is a real opportunity to add value and make a name for yourself at UKCloud. I am excited to continue to develop great software and learn on the job from industry professionals. Everyone in the team is given a few hours a week to focus on personal development. Currently I’m going through an online React/Redux course which I hope to put into practice when work shifts towards making a user interface. There is also a significant piece of learning that comes from peer review – once we complete a piece of code it gets reviewed by other members of the team, followed by a QA engineer. It’s a great way to improve your code or uncover new features you could include that you might not have encountered before.

Something that is really exciting to me on a personal level is contributing to the open source community. There are lots of exciting tools out there that can make your working day easier. It’s incredibly to see the skills and experience in the team and when I first started I was regularly meeting new members of the team who have contributed extensively to the open source community and quite often it had been a tool I had been using on a personal project for quite some time!

What does your day to day look like?

A day in the software development team starts with reviewing our Kanban Board at the daily stand up – seeing where we are, what’s need to be progressed, what needs to be done, what’s ready for QA, and ultimately working towards finishing the sprint. My team revolves around Ruby on Rails development with Docker and we are currently working on a large customer project and proving the proof of concepts needed to justify features we’ll implement in the future. We also spend a lot of time doing ‘pair programming’ where effectively one person ‘drives’ (does the programming) while the other individual one directs the flow and discusses the code. Working together like this ultimately makes peer review easier as the work is the combined product of two minds.

There is also a big social side at UKCloud. Everyone has a quarterly social budget and there are some great ideas and events coming up. There is a close Early Career network as well – after getting the placement, I arranged to share a house with four other undergraduates, so we regularly spend our lunchtimes catching up. There are also a lot of evening social activities such as weekly board games and gaming sessions so there is always plenty to look forward to.

What is your ambition for you and your team? Inc. technologies

My personal ambition is to become a stronger software developer. It’s something I am passionate about and every day I am picking up more and more tools I can use on my personal projects. I want to replicate what many of the experienced developers at UKCloud have done, and that is to make a name for myself in the open source community. It’s a big ambition but it’s what drives me every day.

The team’s main ambition is to deliver customer value, but another big ambition of the team is sharing knowledge and developing the potential of its colleagues. There is so much knowledge at UKCloud and a big part of your role will be learning and sharing knowledge across UKCloud. We are currently spending a lot of time developing training sessions and building up knowledge transfer across UKCloud.

What piece of advice would you give to someone looking to join UKCloud?

I would encourage everyone to do a placement but more so to go beyond what you learn at university – go out and put your theory into practise, work on your own personal projects or attend hackathons. Using what you know to do things of value to you will develop your passion for software development, enable you to network, and fast-track your learning. Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Since joining UKCloud I have put myself forward to demonstrate proofs of concepts to the development department and yes, I was incredibly nervous, but I have grown so much in just a short period of time at UKCloud.

I have done a lot of hackathons over my university experience and I have met some incredible people, networked with some of the biggest companies in Silicon Valley and also had a great time too!

If you’d like to learn more about what I do or get in touch, please visit my website at simon.fish.