My experience as a Summer Intern

Toby Whittome, Summer Intern

My name is Toby and I’m studying Computer Science at university. I’ve just completed my second year and during these past two years, I’ve felt a hunger and desire to know what a role in tech (and the world of work) would look like. I found that although university had taught me about interesting and complex areas of the subject, I often struggled to relate what I was learning back to its use in real-life software engineering situations. I wanted to experience it for myself.

Through a little research, I looked for opportunities over the summer break of 2022 and it was at this point that I found Compare the Market – instantly recognisable from the meerkats that we all know and love. They offered three types of tech internship: Software Development, Cloud Operations and DevOps. Initially I was unsure, but after reading into each role a little more, Software Development was most suited to me. I decided to apply to Compare the Market after speaking with a current employee who described the company as friendly, reputable and empowering – all of which have proven to be true during my time here.

“Overall, I had an amazing experience and would happily come back and work for Compare the Market after finishing my degree. And whether you are just starting your career, or would like to change into tech, I couldn’t recommend the internship experience more!”

Toby Whittome

Summer Intern | Tech

Interning at Compare the Market has developed my skills in a huge range of areas. I’m part of a team of around eight developers and I work with them daily, doing activities such as pair programming, testing and code reviewing. I’ve learnt and improved my knowledge of front-end development, using React JS, Docker and more. I was buddied with an experienced engineer on my team who taught me the process of working to solve problems when I didn’t understand or was stuck on something. And within my team, there’s a personal development day once every fortnight, the idea being that you use it to learn a new skill, which will benefit your personal career development. I found this idea very forward-thinking and employee focused.

Overall, I had an amazing experience and would happily come back and work for Compare the Market after finishing my degree. And whether you are just starting your career, or would like to change into tech, I couldn’t recommend the internship experience more!

Aside from tech, one of the most interesting things has been just being involved in a large-scale company. An opportunity to learn from first-hand experience how they run, how teams collaborate on projects, company ethos and much more. Working in large-scale companies had previously been described to me as uninspiring and constricting and as a result, I was initially sceptical. However, my worries quickly disappeared after learning that Compare the Market really does seem a great place to work. They put the needs and health of employees above enforcing severe hours and deadlines, which was very attractive to me. I also had intern perks, including free breakfasts (in the office), Meerkat movies + meals, regular team building sessions and company socials.

From Grad to Product Executive

Why did you choose Compare the Market for your graduate placement?

I chose Compare the Market because I wanted to work for a forward-thinking tech company. As an outsider, it was evident that building great digital products and having a great digital presence was key to Compare the Market. Additionally, when reading about the company, it certainly came across that it looked after its employees and that the graduates were well thought of.

Since joining, what support have you received to help with your career development?

The support I’ve received on the graduate scheme has been great. From day one, I was allocated a buddy – someone also on the scheme but in the year above – to speak to about advice and guidance. In addition, we get a mentor – someone more senior within your area – who can help guide you on your career and provide any additional support you require.

The line managers on your rotations also provide a lot of support to ensure you get the most out of each placement, focusing specifically on the things that will benefit your career aspirations. I personally stayed in touch with my line managers after I had moved on from each rotation and they have continued to provide me with support and guidance.

What are the key things that you’ve been involved with?

When I was on the graduate scheme, my rotations were in the UX (User Experience), Optimisation, Product and Marketing teams, and each meant that I got involved with a wide range of different work.

For me, the key highlights that I’ve been involved with were the launch of a new product provider at Compare the Market, the launch of journey changes and optimisations to help improve our customers’ experience as well as getting involved in research and ideation sessions to solve customer pain points and innovate on our website. My time in Marketing SEO gave me the opportunity to get involved with optimising our website rankings and page speed.

What was your highlight as a graduate at Compare the Market?

My highlight was being involved in the launch of a new business broadband provider at Compare the Market. This significantly helped to improve the customer experience by creating a more seamless and easier customer journey whilst enabling us to gain an understanding of their needs.

In addition, while I was this on this rotation, I led on a number of optimisations with the aim of improving the landing page experience for the business customer – this involved collaboration with a number of teams, which I really enjoyed.

How do you see your career developing at Compare the Market?

Since completing the graduate scheme, my chosen career path has been Product Management. I was delighted to take a permanent role within this team, and I look forward to continuing to learn and build on my career in this. I’d specifically like to learn and develop in the areas that I haven’t had exposure to yet, as well as progress in seniority.

Becoming an Engineering Manager

Like many others, I began my career as a Junior Engineer, moved after several years to being a Mid-Level Engineer and then Senior Engineer. As the scope of my role grew, I started mentoring my teammates and really enjoyed sharing my experience and knowledge of software best practices. I also had the opportunity to mentor undergrads during their placement year at university.

Within this small firm, I progressed to Team Lead – which meant that I was still writing code but had the added responsibilities of mentoring the team of engineers, keeping track of the project delivery and dealing with a lot of aspects of the project management process.

At this point in my career, I joined Compare the Market as a Senior Software Engineer. From the moment I joined the company, I got to know the framework of the software services and all the systems, and I was tasked with mentoring a Junior Engineer straight out of uni. Once again, I really enjoyed being able to guide and influence the success of others.

As the team grew and the engineers matured in their skills and abilities, I moved more into a role of looking at what we were being asked to create and providing solutions to achieve these goals. This meant that I was having to share these solutions with both the stakeholders and the engineers, and here I had to hone my communication skills with the ability to deliver to different audiences.

As part of the role, I’d also be challenged with looking at future projects and building these into the architecture of the services. This would often be in collaboration with other teams within the company, so I needed to take their needs into consideration too.

But after a while, you have to think to yourself, what next?

For me, the next logical step was either Staff Engineer, where I’d grow my technical scope to impact a wider part of the company, or Engineering Manager, where I could transition my influence from an individual level to a team level.

Both roles appealed to my nature but when it came down to it, the fundamental question remained, ‘What makes me want to come to work in the morning?’. I really enjoy working in a team, building a strong culture and team spirit, having the opportunity to create a new feature and iterate on it with others whilst helping people to grow and fulfil their potential.

“When the opportunity to become an Engineering Manager within the company arose, I applied for the position and all of the skills I’d honed as an engineer were needed in the role – communication, problem-solving, big-picture thinking, collaboration, mentoring and delegation.”

Michael Kitchen

Engineering Manager | Tech

And now, here I am! I have more meetings in my day than ever before, but I still have the sense of achievement when the engineers complete a new feature that is delivered to the customers. I am proud when an engineer feels that they have improved, and I am happy to be leading a team of people that want to make things better for our customers every day.

At 26, I was a Window Fitter

When I was 26, I worked as a window fitter – I enjoyed the work, but I think it’s fair to say that it wasn’t a career I’d chosen. I’d always done well at school but lost motivation during my A-levels. At the time, I didn’t have a plan for any future education or real career aspirations, so I quit school and moved between a few jobs in the building trade.

I started to feel like I needed a new challenge, preferably in a different industry. But on reflection, there weren’t many opportunities available, and I still had no idea what I wanted to do. As we entered the 2008 recession, it felt like the ideal time to make some drastic changes – my work was quietening down and I had a young family to support.

So, I quit my job and enrolled on an Access to Higher Education course, which upon completion would give me the entry requirements to study for a degree. I settled on Business Studies because it covered a broad range of disciplines, and I could later decide on an area to focus on career-wise. But when I looked into it, the only Access to Higher Education course available was a Business and Computing Diploma with only two modules of business and eight for computing! To cut a long story short – I loved the computing side of it and on completion, enrolled on a Computing and Information Systems degree at UCP Peterborough.

During a second-year lesson, we had guest speakers from Compare the Market come and talk to our class. They explained how they take a feature from an idea through the software development life cycle and how it eventually ends up in front of their customers. I’d started to wonder what would be next after university and at the end of their talk, they told us that they would offer two summer work placements – not only could we gain some first-hand experience, but we’d get paid too! They held an interview day, and I was successful.

The placement lasted for three months. I was part of a team that developed an iOS app that could read a QR code on an electricity bill and then provide quotes for the customer to switch to and save money from. It was a great experience!

I was a peer from day one, ideas I had were listened to and sometimes actioned. I wrote code, I paired with other developers, I released features to production and resources were provided to me to allow me to learn. After this placement, I knew two things:

1. I had made the right decision to choose a computing degree and
2. I wanted to work at Compare the Market.

Fortunately, they offered me a position as a Junior Software Engineer to start once I had completed my degree the following summer. I finished my degree eight years ago and I’ve worked at Compare the Market ever since, and I’m now a Senior Software Engineer. I have been given so many opportunities, continued support and resources to learn and grow as a developer. In software, there’s always something new to learn or a problem to solve and I love the challenge.

As Compare the Market has evolved, new technologies have been adopted and there’s always opportunities to move between teams to learn something new – it never gets boring. And as well as developing code, I’ve had the opportunity to lead the development of features, allowing me to improve soft skills.

At Compare the Market, I’ve learnt that a career isn’t set – you can move roles, learn different languages, make a wrong choice, recover and continue to progress. Now I, along with many of my colleagues, help to support our newer developers who are just starting their career in software engineering.

We operate with an Agile methodology

Luke Hunnings, Data Product Manager

I joined Compare the Market during lockdown, and everyone in the department and the wider organisation has made me feel welcome. They’ve also shown that, despite not being able to go into the office, it’s still possible to form great friendships and it’s an honour working in such a great team.

Since joining, we’ve had many virtual socials and more recently lots more where we’ve actually met up in person – Compare the Market has always been famed for this and I haven’t been disappointed!

The company hosts lots of events, from regular things like booking out cinemas for their staff to enjoy the latest films with free popcorn and drinks, to bigger events where they’ll arrange for guest speakers alongside a great spread of food and drinks.

At Compare the Market, we’ve formed a product community where each week one of our Product Managers will share an overview of the work they’re doing within their team.

This is a great way of learning more about different areas of the business that I don’t always work with, and it’s led to lots of interesting follow-up discussions about how each of the teams can collaborate more. It’s also a great opportunity to post any questions you might have as there’s a real wealth of experience within the product community and always someone that can help.

Compare the Market are also dedicated to developing their staff. In my time here, they’ve funded a Prince2 Agile Practitioner course and I’ve been able to apply many of the learnings from this to my job as a Data Product Manager. They always encourage the teams to develop a way of working that suits the situation, and this is something I really enjoy about Compare the Market as it makes it much easier to add value and alter things that aren’t as streamlined as they could be.

In terms of ways of working, we operate with an Agile methodology, which basically means that we value individuals and interactions over processes and tools, working software over comprehensive documentation, customer collaboration over contract negotiation and responding to change over following a plan.

While we still see value in processes and tools, documentation, contract negotiations and following a plan, we recognise that things need to adapt if we want to continue being a market leader in our industry.

We look to deliver work iteratively and incrementally with a test-and-learn approach to development – this keeps us close to our customer and allows us to pivot our focus when needed. We have innovation workshops and hackathons to help us keep up with the pace of change, and because the objective is also to have fun and be creative, we get so much value out of these meetings.

In addition, we regularly put aside independent development time each month to either upskill or focus on gaining a deeper understanding on a key topic of interest. Personally, I regularly attend external workshops to help stay in touch with what’s going on outside of the business, this includes conferences such as ProductCon, the largest product management conference. Compare the Market actively encourages all learning and development and will share interesting seminars/workshops that people might like to join.

What I also really like about Compare the Market is that they offer CSR (corporate social responsibility) days to all colleagues. Last Halloween, our team spent the day helping out at Sacrewell Farm setting up the Halloween decorations, it was a fantastic day putting out thousands of pumpkins and it really did help the team there get everything in place ready to open it up to the public. Compare the Market do many initiatives like this, including their upcoming ‘Big Sleepout’ where all money raised will go towards MyBnk’s homeless prevention programme.

In terms of charity contributions, Compare the Market have also supported me personally when I completed a 20-mile run combating 200 obstacles along the way – the business match-funded my contributions and this is something they offer to every employee.

Overall, I’d certainly recommend Compare the Market as a great place to work and develop.

Compare the Market four months in

Jo Wrynn, Talent Acquisition Manager

I joined the Compare the Market team in March 2022 as the Talent Acquisition Manager for Digital – Commercial, Product & Marketing. During this time, I’ve already been able to support our Early Careers with the design and implementation of their assessment days, and I’m also contributing to the wider business through my involvement with the Benefits Consultation Forum Committee. As a successful, growing fintech, there’s a catalogue of ongoing projects to get involved in and the people you work with are hugely talented, which elevates you and encourages you to become better at what you do. On a Friday evening, you feel accomplished and tired, but in a good way! 

And with this, I consider myself really fortunate to have a position where I feel excited and motivated every single day. Yes, there are challenges, but that’s what makes it interesting and builds the sense of achievement. I always look forward to visiting our offices and seeing my colleagues face-to-face, it’s a great feeling!

Working in agency recruitment for many years has given me exposure and insight to lots of different business cultures and ways of working, ranging from investment banks and local government to biotechs and large pharmaceuticals. In comparison, I would describe Compare the Market as an exceptionally unique organisation – the opportunity to develop yourself and improve and grow is enormous, both in your domain area and outside. It is inclusive, innovative, exciting and busy!

Specifically, for me, work-life balance is so important because I have a young family. I have felt hugely supported from day one with inbuilt flexibility based on trust and respect – this is everything to me.

There’s something very special about Compare the Market!

A degree in modern languages, a job in software engineering

Juliana Giwa, Junior Software Engineer in Test

Starting my Career in Tech at Compare the Market

I joined Compare the Market in February 2022 as a Junior SDET (Software Development Engineer in Test) and here’s a bit about my background and experience so far at Compare the Market.

What inspired me to get into tech?

I studied Modern Languages at university and in my final year, I took a Translation, Subtitling and Interpreting module. After that I gained quite an interest in computer-assisted translation and machine learning as I’d seen how much Google Translate (machine translation) had evolved over the years.

I didn’t think it was possible for me to get into this field without having a STEM or computer science background, however, after two years in my previous role, I decided I wanted a new challenge in my career as I felt like I was in a monotonous pattern. After some soul searching trying to find out what I really wanted in a career, I decided to try my hand at programming using The Odin Project. I found creating something from scratch to be extremely fulfilling and getting something to work after debugging for ages was truly rewarding.

What I enjoyed was the definitive nature of programming – if the code isn’t doing what you expect it to do, you know that it’s something you’ve missed, and the challenge is to work it out.

Why I chose Compare the Market to start my journey

I decided to apply to the Software Engineering Apprenticeship with Compare the Market, firstly because I knew that Compare the Market had a lot of experience with apprenticeship and graduate programmes and secondly, because there was a lot of emphasis put on professional and personal development in the job description. I knew that I’d be joining an environment where my growth would be supported, and I’d be encouraged to step outside of my comfort zone.

My Makers Experience

Before starting the Makers programme, I was made aware of how fast-paced and intensive it was, so I was pretty nervous but also excited going in. In the first few weeks, we were taught to use the command line, Ruby Fundamentals, TDD and Debugging. We then moved on to Intro to Web and Databases before doing a project called Makers BnB. After this, we learnt Javascript as well as two further projects. As you can imagine, it was quite tough having to pick up a new concept every week but as soon as the penny dropped, it was amazing.

What I really did appreciate about my Makers’ journey was the supportive community that we formed. We had daily peer group stand-ups where we mostly talked about how our days went and had emotional check-ins. Along with that, we also had weekly cohort retros. Through our weekly retros, I realised that a lot of us felt the same with issues of imposter syndrome, but we also used it to motivate each other. The stand-ups, retros and pair programming got me through Makers.

Stand-ups: catch-ups that are generally held first thing in the morning to give an update on how your work is progressing and if you have any blockers.

Retro (retrospective): a meeting held at the end of a work cycle (sprint) to reflect on the work done so far including successes and things to improve.

Pair programming: working together with another developer where one person does the writing (driving) and the other navigates.

My experience so far at Compare the Market

I’m now in the Identity team at Compare the Market and they’ve been extremely welcoming and have created a nurturing environment for me.  While at Makers, my line manager arranged fortnightly chats just to see how I was getting on and offering me moral support when I needed it.

Since joining, my team regularly encourage me to get involved in mobbing and testing. They always reassure me that no question is a stupid question. If I’m stuck on a concept, I feel confident enough to ask any member of the team a question, and they take the time to explain things to me and refer me onto documentation that would be beneficial.

I got stuck into things pretty much from the beginning by creating tests to get a feel of how our UI and the test frameworks functioned. I’ve also been given the time to continue learning on my own.

And the ladies of Tech Amplify are very open to us exploring and experiencing different teams within the tech department, so the future is very exciting. Lastly, the £150 a year learning & development budget has been a great resource to have – I’ve bought multiple courses and books that I’ve already started using. I also really like that the budget is not just for professional development but for personal development too.

What I’m looking forward to at Compare the Market

I’m looking forward to being able to independently contribute to the team during sprints in both production and testing. I’d like to gain more confidence with code and earn more responsibility as I increase my skill set. I’m very excited to explore the different paths available to me at Compare the Market and I would also love to get involved in programmes aimed at helping women, especially those from ethnic minority backgrounds with their journey into the tech industry.