It has been less than five months since I started at Alfa with no coding experience and already I’ve built a decent understanding of how to code in Java and I am commuting regularly to work with our client at a Scandinavian bank. The opportunity to travel and take on responsibility early on in my career was one of the things that drew me to Alfa, and I certainly haven’t been let down.
My official training period lasted three months. This comprised a one-month induction period which introduced me to Alfa (the company), to Alfa Systems (our software product), and to the basics of Java (my intake was for graduates with little or no previous coding experience). The sessions were given by colleagues at all levels, from junior consultant through to senior executive, and so many people came and introduced themselves to me that remembering names became one of my biggest challenges! This openness and the sociable atmosphere instantly made me feel comfortable in the office environment.
After the induction period, there was the Development Initiation phase. This involved sitting with a supervisor and working on real problems in the Alfa Systems codebase. Being given the responsibility of changing and adding code to the software so early on was initially daunting and the learning curve was steep; however, I was encouraged to learn at my own pace and the level of support I received was fantastic. It was rewarding to be making a real contribution to the company at such an early stage of my career.
After the training was complete I was placed immediately on a client team. Although the official training was over, I have continued to learn every day and receive guidance on the job. The programme is designed such that the transition into the company is a smooth one, and I know that whatever my task there will always be people happy to help in all areas of the business.
Working on a client team
The project team I am a part of is dedicated to a large Scandinavian bank, and I work specifically as part of the User Acceptance Testing (UAT) team. Our job is primarily to work together with the client answering their questions, ensuring they know how to use the software, and fixing any bugs (glitches) they encounter. This gives me a nice balance of coding and increasing my product knowledge. I really like this role, because each time a question is asked there is some detective work involved to discover if there’s a bug, or if the client is experiencing the system’s expected behaviour. I’m constantly exposed to new areas of the software both functionally and technically and I’m therefore being challenged in diverse and interesting ways. If there is a bug, my problem solving skills need to come into play to figure out the best way to get around it.
The most exciting part of my new role is that I travel to the main client office in Scandinavia every fortnight or so. When I am there, I interact directly with client individuals, putting my consulting skills into practice. Sitting in a room with the people who are testing our software is valuable as it allows me to experience the impact of our work first-hand.
Alfa places a large emphasis on the wellbeing of its employees and on maintaining a healthy work/life balance. It is reflected in the hours I work, which have very rarely exceeded 9-6, and also in the company culture, which focuses on teamwork and maintaining strong working relationships.
Every financial quarter, a Company Meeting is organised for all UK employees. After a morning of interesting talks and updates on the progress of different teams, the rest of the day is dedicated to fun activities; for example, most recently playing crazy golf at a bar. These meetings are a great way to meet new people and I’ve been very impressed with how friendly everyone is, regardless of seniority. Considering how recently I joined the company, I think it’s fantastic that there is nobody at Alfa who I wouldn’t feel comfortable approaching with a problem, or just for a chat.
The team-building activities that are put on for us are great. I was recently taken skiing in Austria for four days with all the present and past members of my client team and in the summer we’re heading to Barcelona for a Company Conference involving more fun and sun.
Any suggestions and ideas for initiatives are encouraged and taken on board, so I really feel a valued member of the company.
Personal development opportunities
I have already had two personal development reviews, in which I discussed my progress with my manager and we laid out goals for my future at the company. My managers have been responsive to my requests, accommodating my wishes wherever possible; for example, by providing me with more developmental coding work on top of bug-fixing.
This investment of time into my future, together with the flexibility of my career path, is excellent as it means I’ll never be stuck doing something that’s not right for me. And if I spot any opportunities I want to make the most of, it’s down to me to push for them.