The next instalment of our Hack Your Career series took us to GoCardless, a fast-growing fintech company that started up in 2011 and hasn’t looked back since. Now operating as the UK’s leading direct debit provider, it was fascinating to hear directly from the people behind this highly exciting brand. Our panel consisted of a diverse mix of employees from different departments, which made for a very interesting discussion.
We kicked off with introductions from Maria Campbell (GoCardless Head of People) and Clarice (our Programmes Manager) both of whom coordinated the event. Then, the audience and I posed a few questions to the panel, who responded with fantastic anecdotes, insights and advice.
Natalie Hockham, the resident Data Scientist, emphasised the importance of learning by doing, and teaching ourselves new skills by simply getting stuck into projects (either work or personal). When she was originally looking to enter the industry, she learnt about the career options waiting out there by attending lots of meetups, and encouraged us to do the same.
Head of Design, Tom Petty, highlighted how user journeys are so important, as users are like unique snowflakes (no two being the same!). He also talked about the different ways people get work done - in his case, his need for impending deadlines to motivate him to get things done – I think many of us can understand that!
Also on the panel were two CF:G alumna/ success stories, Jenna Brown (Global Expansion) and Jutta Frieden (Country Lead Germany). Both gave us a great insight into their journeys, with Jenna having moved from the world of corporates to the more dynamic start-up landscape. Jutta shared her experiences of moving from edtech to fintech, and told us about how different interest groups in each industry made for very different landscapes. She also used German slang “Vitamin B” (for “Beziehung” or “relations”) to describe the importance of using a network of connections for job opportunities.
We also got to hear from product engineer Max Murdoch, who like many of our CF:G community moved from an arts-based academic background to front-end programming. He raised the point that while his liberal arts degree may not have taught him the technical skills he currently uses, it did help him discover how he learned new things in general – a valuable and underrated skill to have.
Grey Baker (VP Engineering - who by the sounds of it worked in every single GoCardless department before settling on the engineering team!) gave us his insights on how the culture grows naturally with the people who join. He also encouraged us not to be afraid to try out multiple disciplines, as he did, in order to discover our most comfortable fit.
All in all, everyone learnt a whole lot about the ins and outs about GoCardless, its incredible people, and the journeys they took toward their current techie careers. From different learning techniques to recruitment advice, each panellist was keen to share their valuable wisdom. We finished off with some relaxed networking where everyone was able to generate some “Vitamin B”, not only with the panellists but also with each other!
Big thanks to everyone who came along, to GoCardless and our panellists, and Maria who helped to organise them as well providing some incredibly tasty nibbles:
We had our first Hack Your Career Talk of this Summer with Adbrain (@AdbrainTech). We went back to their office in Fitzrovia to meet with the inspiring people behind the company to talk to them about their tips for young entrepreneurs.
Rashid Mansoor: CTO & Co-Founder
Why start-ups ?
I’ve been writing code from young age, one of the things I always made sure I did was work on original ideas. It always motivated me to learn and to discover new things. I’ve worked In corporate jobs before but I’ve also always made sure that I was building stuff. I was selling software to businesses at a pretty young age. I did my first start up in the early 2000’s which was both hardware and software. I found there was so much freedom when you build your own start up and there is a lack of that when you’re working in a corporate environment. It's a real struggle to surface your own talents, skills and your abilities and tap into them and use them all. It tends to fall very narrowly on one aspect of your talents. I like start-ups as they allow you to define your own role, focus on your strengths and really transform the company though your abilities. As opposed to adhering to what a job description tells you.
What skills do you need to thrive in a start-up role?
Start-ups above all require the ability to adapt and high intelligence. You need to be super smart, you need to be able to learn very quickly but at the same time you need to be able to adapt to a completely new situation. If you realise that the approach you are taking has been exhausted, you need to be able to switch gears, backtrack and do something different to solve the problem. At the end of the day you are going to have problems and solving them is the lifeblood of the start-up, you can’t just get stuck on one track, you need adaptability.
Why is Tech the place to be?
Because of the state of technology, because of Moore’s law, because electronics and engineering have advanced to a state where hardware is so widely available. Its quite easy to come up with innovative products, implement them in short order, test, iterate and scale, which isn’t quite as easy in other industries.
Elia Videtta: Co-Founder and Director of Development Operations
Why a start-up environment and not a big corporate?
I think the thing about the start-ups is that when you’re the founder, it is all down to you. With a corporate there is already a lot done for you , there is a lot of legacy in terms of the code. For programmers, you are going through other peoples code. Starting a start up is basically doing the thing you love doing for your living but also following your ideas and trying things out for yourself.
What has your ability to code enabled you to do?
It has allowed me to build my analytical skills- it allows you to think abstractly and gives you a bunch of transferable skills. So you don’t necessarily have to become a coder, you can become a product manager or manage developers. Software development is a field in and of itself, but learning how to code opens the doors to so many other things than just coding.
Sam Savage: Data Scientist
Tell us a little bit about what you do on a day to day basis at Adbrain?
I’m a big data scientist, In a nutshell we take very large datasets or large unstructured data and try and find patterns in it. Either we use these pattern to inform businesses or we use the patterns to create products. The classic example is targeted advertising.
How did you get into Tech?
I studied computation and logic at Uni , which took me away from maths and took me into a practical domain. I always wanted to go into programming- When I was young I basically wanted to create games. But I soon realised I could make a lot more money working in datascience than I could in games, and also work a lot less hard!
Behzad Behzaden: Data Scientist In Artificial Intelligence
What was your first experience with coding and technology?
In my undergraduate degree I had one of two interactions with coding but I didn’t enjoy it. I later became interested in artificial intelligence, so that dragged me into coding. At first it was a bit tough but now I am actually enjoying it, it’s really interesting. The more you learn the more you understand that it has it’s own philosophy.
What advice would you give to someone who doens’t have a computer science degree but wants to be in this industry?
When I started, I was mathematical, but I had no experience in programming. You can easily learn if you are persistent. The good thing about coding and tech is that everything is on the internet. If you want to learn something you can just google it . There are so many blogs and videos out there which make it easier.
Tim Abraham: Data Platform Manager
I started in a start-up but then moved into a corporate and back, so I’ve seen both sides. One thing about a start-up is that it’s pretty meritorious you can have a big impact and feel like your making change happen. That’s why I find it more rewarding. In a larger organisation it’s much harder for one individual to move the huge boat. The atmosphere and camaraderie is also really important, which nobody tell you. In a start-up there is a shared vision and mission. Whilst there are advantages in corportates- such as the ability to jump between business units, the ability to have an impact on something tangible is really present in start-ups.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to get into a non-tech role?
Firstly do some research into what you are interested in to see how technology is applied. I’m not super technical but I have an understanding of technology. I have a top down vision of what’s going on.
Guillermo Schiava D'Albano: Research Developer and Engineer
What is it you enjoy most about working in Tech?
Its similar to working in research, you are constantly developing a tool which sometone will use straight away. If you work in a large company, you might develop a product that nobody uses for years
Is it too late to get into Tech if you don’t have a computer science degree?
No, it it never too late. I don’t have a computer science degree! We need women and men in Tech, it’s not a job that is concerned with who you are . If you are into Tech , please join us.
Code First: Girls