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.

How a summer in the hinterland reaffirmed my career change – Andrea Burazor

IMG_20190308_195519Hi, I’m Andrea. I’m a first year Bachelor of Computer Science student at UOW and a 29 year old intern. I know what you’re thinking, and it’s okay, there’s really no need to be jealous. Ahem. But, jokes aside, let me lay a few truths on you.

You might not like working in your field of study…

You’re 17 years old, you’ve completed your HSC, and your Balkan parents are pushing you to “go to uni, make good career, be smart girl”. OK, that might not strictly be the case in your experience, but it’s likely that you have/had no idea what you want to be “when you grow up”.

Yeah, me neither. I chose a degree based on job opportunities and adult persuasion. I didn’t do too badly, either. I enjoyed some of my classes, I made a lot of friends, and then in 2011 we all gathered in our navy robes and threw our tasselled caps in the air.

I graduated, I found work, and guess what? It was deeply unsatisfying, and I had absolutely no passion for it. Uh oh.

BUT, too late is never really too late…

I worked in industry for around 7 years trying my hand at different sectors and a variety of roles. What I found was that my feet were always itching to keep moving, no one workplace seemed quite right or project challenging enough. I was utterly uninspired, so I did what any reasonable late twenties person would do – I decided to go back to uni.

The hardest part of making a choice like that is the unknown. Your boring, uninspired career is all too familiar. You know how to do this. Any change you make now might be a massive step in the wrong direction. What if the new thing turns out to be worse than the old thing? #hyperventilation

AND, interning is just about the smartest thing you can do.

So, remember when I said you might not like your field of study? Now, while you really should be researching and learning all you can about any career you pursue, there’s another really cool thing you can do to help you figure that out early on.

Internships are traditionally thought of as stepping stones into industry for fresh grads, but they also make for an amazing transitioning tool for anyone considering a career change! You get a crash course in what it’s like to work for a particular company, in a particular role, which makes it a valuable learning opportunity if you’re contemplating, or partway through a move. Not to mention, a really good one might save you 7 years in the wrong job!

// The Finternship

I knew right from the hiring process that interning with financial software developers FinoComp was not going to be your run of the mill, coffee run, mindless busywork internship. When your drive to work takes you down winding country roads along cow-dotted paddocks, lunch hour has you saying g’day to every local you bump into on the street, and your interview is an honest, laid back chat with CEO and Jamberoo local, Ray Tubman – well, you know things are going to be just a little bit different. Here’s how:

You are going to feel welcome.

FinoComp has a really unique culture. I felt encouraged to speak up and that my opinion was respected and valued despite being an intern/first year! As an intern you expect a degree of separation from the company, but FinoComp put their full faith in us as interns and each of us was treated exactly the same way a permanent employee would be.

Regular catch ups with mentors and HR let the interns know that our opinion and feedback was really important to the company and guidance and advice were readily handed out to us throughout the program.

The mentoring is second to none.

The Finternship was assigned two FinoComp veterans to help us newbies along our path to computing success. Matt Smith looked after the front end, and Darren Collins took care of us on the server-side – and they were with us full-time! They were invaluable to the experience, the project and to every intern. No question was too small or too silly, breakout sessions were regularly organised around the white board, and a variety of resources were made available to us to accelerate our learning.

You’re not just gonna “get it” – you’re going to be learning every single day!

On that note, interning is not “easy” and you’re not just gonna know what you’re doing. Every company has their own way of doing things and you’re going to have to learn a whole new tech stack. But, you are going to have a lot of support – if you need it. A lot of the process can feel like you’re being thrown in the deep end; but flotation devices are never too far from reach, and eventually you won’t need them at all!

You’re going to be encouraged to look after your body as well as your mind.

FinoComp arranges group fitness sessions two afternoons a week and all staff (including you!) are encouraged to attend. You’ll sweat under the hot sun, your muscles will burn, and you might let out some grunts that put the local livestock to shame. But you’re going to head back to your desk afterwards with a clear mind and a strong posture – guaranteed.

You’re going to become agile.

As it turns out, coding is a team sport and there is no better way to manage that than the agile methodology. Agile is not just some buzzword – it’s a competitive advantage. Working in bite-sized chunks made projects more manageable and feeling deeply invested in the project as a team made staff productivity shoot through the roof.

You’ll build something shippable!

One of the most surprising aspects of the Finternship was that we weren’t given some throwaway project. As a team of students, graduates and career changers, we built something commercially viable, and it will go to market! Isn’t that incredible?

More than anything, I’ve learned that coding is rewarding, challenging and creative and I’m so grateful to the team at FinoComp for taking a chance on me. There is still so much to learn, and getting to learn it alongside some of the most dedicated and inspiring people in the business has been a very happy way to round out my summer, and the best part is that this dynamic, growing company asked me to stay.

Thanks FinoComp!