Maths, bugs and groovy code – Amelia Lee

Image from iOSI met Ray and Leanne at the UOW Careers Expo in August 2018. I had just one and a half Java subjects up my sleeve and the world of programming was a mysterious dark cloud in my mind. They didn’t yet have an internship program set up, but they clearly had a vision and a deep passion for their work. As a Mathematics student, microservices, financial platforms and software development were well out of my domain of knowledge. Nonetheless, FinoComp’s story captivated me. I applied immediately to a role that didn’t exist yet.

In a panel discussion after the expo, when asked what he looks for in applicants, Ray said that he goes with his gut instinct. After that first meeting, an informal interview a week later, and a tour around the beautiful town of Jamberoo, I had a very good gut feeling about FinoComp.

On November 19th, seven interns showed up to the old art gallery converted to an office space. Our task for the months ahead? To build a FinoComp microservice from scratch. Just a bit terrifying.

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In our first week of being Finterns, we shared with each other our feelings of “imposter syndrome.” From the jargon of the financial industry, to the software packages, to our job titles of ‘Software Engineer’, everything was overwhelmingly foreign. We definitely didn’t feel like the bright new recruits, full of millennial-style knowledge and creativity that we were expected to be.

Luckily for us we had Matt and Darren, two of FinoComp’s experienced developers, to ease us into it. In no time we were all merging code that we’d written into the main repository. And (most of the time) it did was it was supposed to.

As one of two mathematicians on the team, I primarily worked on coding the backend, mathematical logic of our performance reporting application “Insight”. I was tasked with designing and implementing the algorithms that would take the entire history of an investment portfolio and calculate its performance along a suite of different metrics.

Despite just finishing a semester of contour integrals and vector spaces, this was a surprisingly challenging and fun task. To understand how the components of Insight linked up, I got to dabble in database generation, REST interfaces, end-to-end testing, views and domain models. This, of course, required learning the technology used to facilitate the design and build process.

I cannot begin to describe the volume and quality of information I absorbed over the three and a half months. For example, it turns out that variable names matter. A lot. And so does documentation, automated testing, code review, and countless other things that aren’t taught in uni. And I learnt all this in the Illawarra countryside, surrounded by cows and Marvel merchandise.

The relaxed environment, that encourages surfing and table tennis at lunchtimes, was perfect for fostering creativity. From day one we were treated as part of the team. From lunches at the bowlo, to the twice-weekly fitness sessions in the park, we got the full experience. The last thing I expected from a programming internship was to gain fitness!

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Thousands of lines of code, dozens of impromptu white-board discussions and several major refactors flew by. By the time we finished the internship, Insight was ready to be demonstrated to clients overseas. To see the product come together in the final weeks was immensely rewarding.

For software developers, the staff at FinoComp made damn good teachers. In particular, I can’t thank our mentors, Matt and Darren, enough. Without their guidance and patience, we would have been absolutely lost. Of course, there would have been no Finternship without Ray, Peter and Leanne seeing potential and investing in us, despite our lack of experience. Taking on seven students for the inaugural Finternship was a massive venture, especially for a small company. I’ve been blown away by their generosity and belief in our abilities.

I’m excited that my time with FinoComp isn’t over – I’ll be staying on part-time while I finish my degree. If I’ve learnt anything, it’s that I still know close to nothing. It’s been a great experience so far and I can’t wait to find out where my future with FinoComp leads.