Life after Makers Academy – my experiences as a junior engineer

I graduated from Makers Academy in August 2018 and it’s now the start of February 2019 and I’ve been a junior engineer here for five months. These are my impressions, experiences and key take-aways so far – and thoughts on whether other engineers should consider Simply Business when looking for their next role.

My start – Makers Academy

If you haven’t already heard of them, Makers Academy are a 4 month intensive coding bootcamp based in London. The course I took part in covered full stack web development, test driven development (TDD), extreme programming (XP) and agile methodologies, with plenty of solo and group projects. Here’s a blog I wrote after my first group project.

If you’re interested in becoming a developer, I’d definitely recommend them and you can find out more about them here or check out one of their open days.

My team at Simply Business

Team photo

I love my team, we’re a real mix. We’ve got 6 engineers with a range of junior mid and senior which means I have a lot of people to learn from day to day.

On top of our engineers we have an engineering manager, an engineering lead, a product manager, a test engineer, a data insight analyst and a designer.

Lastly, there’s a dedicated devops team that focus on our continuous integration and everything else that gets our code live quickly and safely.

How I fit in my Simply Business team

The majority of our backend is written in Ruby on Rails, and most of my day to day work is writing backend code. For front-end we have a mix of javascript, haml (a templating system) and React.

Sometimes I’ll pair with people on the team but quite quickly I was encouraged to pick up cards on my own and had the chance to deliver real value. I made my first live change in the first few days and since then I’ve been pushing our live code to our customers every week.

I’m surprised how quickly I felt more confident in making changes, mainly down to coaching and encouragement from my teammates.

Company and tech culture at Simply Business

The culture of the business was really important to me when looking for my first job as a software engineer.

One of the things that sold me on Simply Business was that we were the winner of the Sunday Times best company to work for in 2015 and 2016. I thought one year might be a fluke but beating every other company two years in a row really caught my attention.

My experience has lived up to the hype! A few things that stick out to me are:

  • No pressure to work extra hours – I come to work at a good time and I’ve never been made to feel like I should stay late.
  • Flexible working – I can work from home and don’t have to stick to fixed working hours if I need to come in late or leave early for any reason. So long as the work gets done, no one minds when you do it.
  • Relaxed atmosphere – We have a well used pool and table tennis table with accompanying (optional!) leagues, and old school arcade machines for you pacman and street fighter fans. I’m all about the table tennis, and it’s easy to find someone who’s up for a game at lunch, after work, or when you both just need a breather.
  • Giving back – There’s definitely a vibe of caring for the wider community at Simply Business. We’re a Certified B Corp, and employees are encouraged to raise money for our charity parter Whizz-Kidz, as well as other causes that are close to their heart.
  • Trips abroad – that one’s a no-brainer, surely? I’m already looking forward to the yearly company (paid!) holiday abroad. This year we’ll have 500+ of us going to Paris!
SB tech site team

We’re also a real tech driven, tech focused company. This was important to me too, when I starting out as an engineer wanted to work somewhere that really cared about technology and developing their tech team:

  • We have two yearly hackathons, where people from all areas of the business take 2 days completely away from their day jobs to build anything they want – and it doesn’t have to be work related. This year we had everything from a high-five machine to a debit card for the homeless.
  • We have a strong focus on personal development and you get a whole afternoon every fortnight to focus on your own learning. I’ve been using the time to learn about microservices recently.
  • We have the budget to send plenty of people to different conferences, courses and events each year, all depending on what interests them. I went to The Microservices Conference last year.
  • We run regular workshops and training. Just before Christmas I went on a 3 day React training, hosted by one of our Engineering leads Tom.

What’s Simply Business like for a junior engineer?

I think we’re set up really well for junior engineers. For me, it’s important to be in an environment that supports you, challenges you and helps you develop your own knowledge and career. Some specifics:

  • We have a big culture of hiring junior engineers, and lots from Makers Academy. Currently there’s about 13 Makers alumni (with up to five years work experience since graduating). They understand what a junior engineer/bootcamp graduate knows, doesn’t know and what it takes to get them up to the next level of their career. If you’re joining from a bootcamp, you’ll feel very comfortable and supported!
  • Amazing code reviews. Everything I write gets formally reviewed by at least 2 engineers, usually more. I get instant feedback which has been the best tool for learning.
  • Great engineers to learn from who care about the quality of their work and helping you develop yourself. We have engineers who speak at conferences, are active in the community meet-ups, and who run internal initiatives to improve our technology and engineers. If anything there are too many tech initiatives to choose from! I go to a weekly design direction working group, a technical book club (we’re currently reading a book from my coding hero, Sandi Metz) and have just completed a day long engineering workshop.
  • We’re big around automated testing and code quality. After Makers, I was a TDD and testing convert and I’m glad to be surrounded by people who care about writing quality code that’s well tested.
  • We’re massively into agile. We’ve even got dedicated agile coaches! After Makers I was very interested in how to build products quickly using agile methodologies, and that curiosity has been massively satisfied here so far.

Ready to start your career at Simply Business?

Want to know more about what it’s like to work in tech at Simply Business? Read about our approach to tech, then check out our current vacancies.

Robert Faldo

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