MEng Chemical Engineering with Industrial Study, 2018
Software Engineer, Unruly
I currently work as one of three Software Engineers working on the Waterfox web browser as well as a second, currently unreleased, web browser for another company. Being one of three engineers means that you have a to be a very good generalist; I touch on aspects of Product Management, community engagement and relationship maintenance (the browser is open source and we need all the help we can get), DevOps and more generic Full Stack work.
Day-to-day tasks could be anything from trying to determine long term value of users acquired through marketing campaigns in a privacy friendly manner, adding new features to the browser, enabling the community to provide translations for new features, general bug fixes, building automated software release workflows, really just any part of the development and release cycle of a complex piece of software.
What is the best thing about what you are doing now?
The challenge. I'm constantly working on lots of very different problems, most of which involve poorly documented software. It can be frustrating at times, and it certainly has been, but it prevents mental stagnation and allows me to continually grow and take on more challenging projects as my knowledge expands.
How has your career developed since graduating?
I started off in a lower paid job as a project manager for the market research arm of an AdTech company. It was long hours, unfulfilling and just generally not great. The people were great, but everything else was less than. I ended up in this position because of various decisions I had made in my final year, most confusingly of which was ‘I don't want to go on a grad scheme’. Still not entirely sure what I was thinking there. It took six months of repetitive, manual, low paid and no skill work before I decided to switch things up. I started spending 30 hours a week on top of my day job learning to code in Python. Six months later I had written an automation platform that reduced the manual input on projects by almost 90%. The team was doing the same amount of work with half the employees (high turnover). Since then I kept learning, kept applying what I learnt to my roles and moved up and up before securing a fully-fledged Software Engineer role 2 years after I started teaching myself.
What motivates you?
Improvement. Whether that is mental or physical, I just want to be better. I'm not convinced this is a healthy mindset necessarily, but it's driving me forward to excel in what interests me. Currently that is both coding and cycling. I'm quite proud of what I've achieved, especially given how many people I know who have tried to get into software or tech and not fully committed and never quite made it. I'm also training about ten hours a week to be better at racing on my bike, although I still haven't gotten into the top spot of any races just yet.
Why did you originally apply to the University of Birmingham?
I wanted to study Chemical Engineering and so searched for the best departments in the country. Birmingham came near to the top and after visiting a few universities, it seemed the best fit for me. The campus is incredible and it’s a good location to get around and see friends in other cities, as well as being one of the top places for the course!
What are your fondest memories of the University?
There are too many. From countless nights at Fab and balls and summer parties, but the one thing I’ll never forget is Frank Morton. The big, national Chemical Engineering sports day that’s hosted in a different city every year is the most fun, and intense, time of every year. You get on a coach with your mates, play some sport and then have a huge night out before heading back home very early next day. Great!
Did you get involved in any extracurricular activities as a student?
I was a part of the Mountaineering society for a few years, and was Mountain Sec in my third year. I learnt a lot during my time in the society and met some incredible people, even had the opportunity to do some alpine mountaineering around Chamonix in France. It was instrumental in securing my grad job as you develop so many valuable skills and it gives you tonnes of experience from which you can answer almost any interview question.
“Be involved and work hard, but don’t forget to enjoy your time at uni. You’re there for hardly any time at all and the people you meet can change your life. Get through the work and then join a society to learn something you’ve always wanted to and make some serious lasting friendships. There is no time like it and no place where everyone is on such a similar wavelength.”