I applied for the Companies House Digital Graduate Scheme in 2015 after graduating from a Business Information Systems university course.
My course had maybe one module of coding, so sitting in the assessment centre surrounded by people who were older and more experienced than me – I did not think I stood a chance.
The recruitment process involved various activities, and luckily for me they were looking for wider skills than just being able to write lines of code. Skills such as:
- working with others
- presentation skills
- a willingness to learn
All of these would end up playing a big part in my future roles.
The Companies House Digital Graduate Scheme
The graduate scheme was a 2-year scheme designed to train us for our tech roles from scratch, and involved 4 placements (one of which we could choose a permanent role in at the end). These included:
Front end development
Working with our design teams to build Companies House web screens and making sure they're accessible for users.
Back end development
Working on the 'under the hood' technology such as databases that get Companies House services working.
Manual and automated testing of software
Thoroughly testing new code to make sure it’s safe to go live, and writing automated tests to improve the continuous delivery.
Investigating upcoming work and gathering requirements to put into user stories ready for the development team to pick up and start working on.
We also learnt how to work and deliver software in an Agile way, using a framework called SCRUM. This involved working with a development team of multiple professions to iteratively deliver working software frequently.
After completing the 2-year graduate scheme I took a permanent role as a developer. This was a fast-paced, challenging role and a massive learning curve.
Learning to write software using coding languages such as Java, GoLang, HTML, AWS and version control technologies like Github, assisting with writing, estimating user stories and giving demonstrations of working I’d been developing was part of my day-to-day role.
Throughout my time as a developer I got to be involved in some big projects such as ‘Follow a company’ and ‘File abridged accounts’ on the Companies House Service (CHS).
5 years on...
There have been plenty of opportunities for me throughout my career so far. My latest career step has been moving away from development into an Agile Delivery Manager (ADM) role.
I started out acting as deputy ADM in my team and I’m now the delivery manager of a new scrum team working on Intelligence and Enforcement. My role includes coaching the department in agile practices, and building a self-managing team to deliver software for Companies House.
Although this has taken me away from the technical side of software delivery, I find my technical background definitely gives me an upper hand. It helps me understand some of the technical terms raised by the team, as well as being able to explain the complexities for non-technical stakeholders.
Confidence has always been an issue of mine. Working amongst such experienced people and not always being able to keep up, or staying quiet because you believe your opinion is not relevant due to lack of experience, can have a big knock on effect on your confidence.
I’ve been lucky to have had a supportive team, managers and people in leadership roles throughout my career. They’ve provided relevant training and pushed me out of my comfort zone. We’ve set personal goals, which have included:
- encouraging me to pick up technical tasks independently
- taking the lead on demonstrating to stakeholders
- running and facilitating team meetings
- taking over the running of the development engagement group (a group looking to improve the wellbeing in the department)
Even today my confidence can hold me back, but I’m working on it.
Support for women in tech
Networks such as the 'Women in Tech' and family groups offer support and networking opportunities for women in similar roles, and the options of flexible working have been particularly helpful for me, especially with a young family. Even before the pandemic moved us to home working – I’ve always been lucky enough to take my laptop home with me and work hours that suit me and my family.
In university, I was 1 of only 3 women on my course. This meant it was not much of a shock entering a digital role which, when I started, was very male dominated. I can honestly say that I’ve never found being a woman in the field to be a disadvantage, but it has been great to see the number of women in the department increase during my time here.
I was the only woman on the team when I first joined 5 years ago – the team actually had more women than men when I left recently! It's inspiring to see lots of strong women in development, and so many in leadership roles too. It proves that there definitely are opportunities available.