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From music to IT: Starting a graduate career at Companies House

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Digital transformation, Working at Companies House

Desperate to get out of his part-time job in the hospitality sector, Companies House test engineer Joe Brewer dreamed of a career in the music or film industry. But when opportunities proved difficult to come by, he decided to change course.

I caught up with him to discuss how he became a test engineer after applying for one of our digital graduate schemes.

How did you get a job with Companies House?

I graduated with a 2:1 in Music and Audio Technology. But even after doing a fair bit of unpaid studio work, I was really struggling to break into the sector I’d hoped.

I started to look at other career opportunities and remembered that I really enjoyed a few modules at university where we learned about iPhone app development and basic programming. I thought ‘why don’t I apply for a role in software development?’ which is when I came across the Companies House Digital Graduate Scheme.

A smiling man standing in a garden with lots of trees and shrubbery.
Joe Brewer, test engineer at Companies House.

Describe the process

As I had very little experience in software development compared to some of the graduates I was up against, I did not hold high hopes at all for landing myself a position. But the application process allowed all candidates to shine, regardless of their educational background and skill level. There were a few parts to the process, including:

  • an online application
  • an assessment day
  • a short presentation
  • a panel interview

I met a range of graduates of all ages and degrees on the assessment day and we were taken through a series of both group and individual activities.

Luckily, I did enough on the day to get myself through to the interview panel, where I did a 10-minute presentation about a new project at Companies House (which I was briefed on beforehand) and answered a mixture of technical and non-technical questions.

Describe a typical day for you now

Things are all a bit different since the Covid-19 pandemic, as most of our team are working from home. But we’ve adapted to make sure that a large part of our working week remains the same. Being a test engineer in the Software Development Department, I'm part of a ‘scrum’ team that includes:

  • 4 developers
  • 2 testers
  • an analyst
  • a scrum master
  • a product owner

Every morning, our team holds an informal meeting at 10am to check-in on what tasks are lined up for us to complete.

Due to the amazing flexible hours system at Companies House, you can start work anytime from 6am. I’m known as a late starter so I’ll usually clock-in about 9:30am after grabbing a coffee and a bit of breakfast.

After our daily meeting, I’ll spend the day in my home office virtually collaborating with all members of my team through video calls and instant messages. We send different elements of the product we are designing back-and-forth, using several testing methods (automated and manual) to make sure that it meets all the requirements and matches the acceptance criteria. A large part of my role is to raise queries and solve problems, and a fair few crop up throughout the day!

I also usually manage to put some time aside to squeeze in a run or cycle on my lunch break, which really helped with my wellbeing during lockdown! It’s amazing to be a part of an organisation that allows such a great work-life balance.

What do you love about your job?

There are 2 main parts of my job that I love the most: working within a close-knit scrum team and being about to create digital products from scratch that customers will be using to assist their everyday lives.

As a scrum team, we’ve had people come-and-go, but the ethos of the team has always remained the same. Working as one of many small teams within a large department, can sometimes make it feel like a fun university group project, something I’m sure all graduates can relate to!

I also really enjoy seeing our projects through from start to finish. To regularly develop software, that initially started out as a diagram on a page, and ends up helping people in their day-to-day lives, really gives me a sense of satisfaction.

What are your top tips for getting into a graduate job?

Definitely just apply, apply, apply. If you get knocked back, brush yourself down and apply again. More opportunities arise every day, so you just need to put yourself out there and apply for them. Also, keep an open mind to different career paths.

If you’re like I was and struggling to find anything that relates directly to your degree, then think a little bit more about what other skills you picked up along the way. What modules did you do? I never thought I would end up on the career path that I’m on now but stepping outside of my comfort zone massively paid off.

Do you have a special talent?

I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to naming national flags. I would fancy my chances against some of the world’s other biggest flag nerds. Also, I usually rank quite highly in the office speed-eating challenges!

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1 comment

  1. Comment by Si Robins posted on

    Thanks for sharing this Joe which reminds me why I joined and am loving working at Companies House. Lee Cooke will be up for the National Flags challenge and I'll always happily get involved on the speed eating!