Insights from Software Engineer
Thursday, 18 March 2021
Old Boy Chris Newton (Class of 2009) followed up his pre-recorded careers talk for Year 9 pupils in the Boys’ Division with a live Q&A session on Zoom. The boys were invited to watch the video talk beforehand and prepare their questions ahead of time.
After leaving Bolton School, Chris studied Chemical Engineering at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, but then after working for a few years decided to retrain as a Software Engineer and develop more future-proofed skills. He was also able to give an overview of the intensive ‘coding bootcamp’ that taught him all the skills he needed to change his career path.
For the past two years, he has been working as a Software Engineer in the DevOps team for Peak, an AI technology company based in Manchester. He has been responsible for the development of an iOS app and has built new features for their platform, as well as helping to build and manage infrastructure and security. He explained that DevOps is responsible for ensuring that Peak’s platform is as secure and scalable as possible, and broke down the typical workflow through different departments from an initial idea to its implementation. He stressed that the work is often collaborative, not just within the team but with other teams in the company, and said that every day is different and there is always some kind of problem to solve.
In addition, Chris spoke enthusiastically about the opportunities to learn new coding languages, gain qualifications and certifications, and embrace new technologies and ideas. He said: ‘If you have the opportunity to learn, try and take it. Find new ideas and things you can pick up. There’s always a use for something you’ve learned.’
He went on to reassure pupils that it took him nine and a half years from leaving school to finding a job that fit. He advised them not to worry if they don’t know what to do straight away, or if the first thing they try doesn’t work out.
Opening the floor to questions from the boys, he elaborated on his A Level choices, his university experience and the game his group developed as part of the coding bootcamp, as well as talking briefly about routes into software engineering. When asked more about his job, he said his favourite part was seeing something he has built being used by hundreds of people every day and becoming a major part of how a company works. The most difficult part is coming up against problems where he and the team don’t know the solution, but he spoke about breaking the problem down into the smallest possible parts to solve it and gave some insight into how these issues are tackled in the workplace.
Offering his final pieces of advice to the Year 9 boys, Chris recommended that they think about what they enjoy and what is of interest to them, and find out if there is a job related to what they are passionate about. He also said, for those interested in software engineering, that it is so easy now to learn how to code using resources like Code Wars and Code Academy: he advised them to try these and similar activities to see if the job is something they would enjoy.
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