Life in Lockdown: The New Starter

Meet Cornelis, our new starter who joined us in April.

Cornelis was lucky enough to get on a plane before all the borders were shut, to arrive in Australia and join the FinoComp team. Not only was this a new job for Cornelis, but a new country for both him and his family; all in the midst of a global pandemic lockdown.

So with lockdown in place, and being our first employee to go through our virtual on-boarding experience, we caught up with Cornelis to find out more about him…

Tell us about your experience of joining a new business as well as moving continents whilst the world was in lockdown?

As a family we had decided to make the move from South Africa to Australia over a year ago and the plan had been set for September 2019. Once the FinoComp interviews were complete, the offer accepted and all processes were sorted out we had to move quickly. Whilst the lockdown was not yet in place, people were aware of COVID and flights were beginning to be grounded. The travel process was actually seamless – travelling through an empty airport with our temperature being checked regularly, until we arrived and were shuttled to our Airbnb. We were one of the last flights to arrive, as the next day quarantine was introduced across the country!
The time spent in self isolation went quickly and friends bought us starter packs and that took us through a week or so until our online order arrived.
The process of joining FinoComp was amazing and all done remotely, with the only thing having to do was delivering my Macbook which was all set up ready for me to start. Within the first week I had remote sessions and calls, and I couldn’t think of a better way to be introduced to the business as each person explained their position and I was able to put names to faces. I was also introduced to the development team, familiarising myself with the environment and how projects works – it’s crazy to believe that I haven’t been into the office yet as I really feel part of the team already!

What was it about FinoComp that inspired you to become part of the team?

My first impression of FinoComp was that it was a real people centric company.  I immediately had the feeling that put their employees first and that was just the company culture I was looking for.  I had seen the video promoting the work/life balance and now being part of the team, I’m delighted that this new environment I’ve found myself in was just as I had hoped. People really do enjoy their work at FinoComp.
FinoComp uses Agile teams in software development with a huge emphasis placed on this.
Exercises classes are offered virtually twice a week if we wish, and whilst this is not something that would make me join the company, it definitely shows their work/life ethos and feels relaxed. It’s such a great place to be in with a lively open business culture.
From a developer side, they use a lot of the tools that I’m interested in, and I like the agile process that they use with small teams of five to eight people, prioritising tickets. For me, this is such a productive method of working.

What does the role “Full Stack Developer” involve and how does Software Engineering as a degree prepare you for this?

In the software world, the front end, normally a website, which is the user interface is connected to a backend server with code running to either the business or the cloud.  This in turn is connected to a datebase.  A full stack developer means experience in all three environments and was something I was always interested in. I like problem solving which is why Software Engineering was the ideal degree.   This degree I felt was not so much about what you learn, but how you approach and solve problems, which I believe is what engineering teaches you. It speaks for itself that in this job the background of being an engineer will help you to identify and solve problems.

What are some of the projects you have been involved with at FinoComp and how do you feel they will help shape the technology landscape in the investment management sector?

I have been involved in working on the Charge Definition micro-service, which is a service that defines how clients can be charged and run outside of the core system, making it very flexible for wealth management companies to use. Using this interface, they can clearly see what is costing their clients’ money, showing exactly what levels are being billed for certain services.
The product is certainly innovating and was exciting to be working on this as one of my first projects.
This service defines how clients can be charged and can be run outside of the core system making it very flexible for wealth management companies to use.  Using this interface they could clearly see what is costing their clients’ money and show exactly what levels they are being billed for certain services.  The product is certainly innovative and it was exciting to be working on this project.

And finally, what was the first thing you did arriving in Australia from South Africa?

I’m a passionate birder and from the day I arrived (literally driving out of the airport), I saw the first few birds that had been on my list. It made me want to go straight out to see more, but knew we needed to do the first couple of weeks in isolation so had to be content with observing from the unit where we were staying.  With windows on both sides, one to the mountains and one to the ocean I was certainly kept busy. It was really exciting to see the enormous variety of different species, so different from what I had seen in South Africa.

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!

MicroService Architecture – The New Frontier for Wealth Management

 

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I often speak about our strategy of building a suite of software components as microservices and being able to deploy them independently or for them to be able to co-exist together and interact with each other.

There are very few players in the Wealth Management software arena who are genuinely building to this architectural pattern.

Of late, I am finding many organisations getting on the band-wagon and speaking of component based architecture. But when you really dig beneath the surface it doesn’t take long to identify that Lipstick on a Pig does not maketh the Supermodel.

There are many benefits to implementing microservice architecture. These include

  • Gaining massive agility and efficiency in amending, testing and deploying software updates;
  • Enabling automated isolated testing both within microservices and for all interfaces around the microservices;
  • Getting incredible gains in quality as a result of very defined boundaries of responsibility between microservices along with the increase ability to automate testing;
  • Having the ability to pick and choose components and use the best of breed; including the ability to pull out and replace components if a better solution if available.

In order to implement a microservice architecture, there are some very key design principles that should be adopted and these are a few of my tips.

Have a Guiding Vision of the Future

Whilst software development can be an opportunistic enterprise, it is also great to have a vision and strategy of where you are heading. By taking a microservice view of your long-term development scope, it can really assist you to in prioritising the sequence of development and in defining the boundaries of all microservices in your eco-system. By preparing this future microservice map you can look at the scope at a high level and focus on the detail as you address each microservice in your development cycle.

Don’t be Afraid of Separate Database Schema

To truly segregate microservice components, it is important for your DB schema to be isolated and stand alone. To be a fully self-reliant component, it should not have a dependency on being a part of a greater schema. If a component requires access to other data it should be integrated using service layers or data pumps.

Sometimes this will feel foreign to not rely on DB level referential integrity and sometimes it will feel foreign to have some duplication and synchronisation of data. But don’t worry – correctly designed microservice applications will synchronise, reconcile and enforce data integrity.

You will also get massive performance benefits from distributed parallel processing.

Don’t Fall Into the Trap of Microservice Boundary Creep

It can be tough when times are stressful and deadlines tight to jam changes in quickly and without consideration to the boundary of responsibilities of your microservices.

Each microservice should be excellent at doing what it does. It is the software designer’s responsibility to make it stay that way. When a change comes through that takes a component away from its intended responsibility, it may be better to step back, re-assess and perhaps create a new microservice that interacts with the existing component.

Of course, sometimes there are grey zones and such a decision is not always easy. Importantly, though, it may cost slightly more and take slightly longer to implement it in an architecturally correct manner. The benefits of those decisions will pay dividends every day afterwards both to the development team and the clients who use the software.

Software Sales Reps who Say “We Have a Component Based Eco-System” – When to Call BullSh*t

Without wanting to detract from the credibility of some software sales people, it is good to drill in to claims of Component Based Eco-systems.

Here are a few things often said that do not constitute Microservice architecture…

  • “We have a Separate Web Portal component from the core administration system component” – these are not microservices.
  • “We have separate REST services for each component” – but behind the scenes its all just one big monolithic system – separate REST services for different functions are not microservices.
  • “We have a microservice architecture and its bundled together to form a complete solution” – probably cannot be unbundled and therefore not microservices.

I personally always ask a few telling questions to really assess any such claims:

  1. Can I implement a single element of the total software scope that I would consider to be a discreet microservice independently and without having to take the rest of the solution?
  2. If I can implement a single microservice, can you provide integration documentation to allow me to integrate it to my existing systems?
  3. Does the database schema for the claimed microservice reside independently of the other microservices?
  4. Can you give me the automated test coverage percentage?

If you get a No to any of these questions, then its time to call it!

 

Summary

I am really excited by opportunities provided by microservice software architecture. Its what has allowed the likes of Amazon, Netflix, Google and others to achieve amazing agility and quality.

This mindset has not permeated into the Wealth Management sector and much of the software servicing our market is monolithic, inflexible and legacy.

Talk is cheap and as much as software suppliers are claiming this architectural pattern, in many cases it is simply incorrect.

When our industry catches up with others, we will find that a true Microservice architecture will transform this space. It will allow the best solution to be selected for each process and each task in the wealth management scope. Microservices will be able to be selected from disparate vendors who will specialise in dedicated areas of functionality in which they excel or they will be built independently and integrated by the Wealth Management firms themselves. Wealth Management firms will be able to replace components easily and at will and without the risks of huge migration events. Wealth Management firms will not have to put up with poor quality products or services from technology companies.

This architecture is a game changer. It will allow small, agile tech companies to upset the status quo and will ultimately lead to greater efficiency, quality and costs to the end consumer.

This is the basis on which FinoComp has been found and its principles are close to our heart.