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.


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