Focus on personal development to avoid becoming a tech dinosaur

For people to be able to develop themselves and drive their own careers is a big win for us at Compare the Market, whether that be for people starting out and joining us as an apprentice or for colleagues who have been with us for a while and are keen to take on a new challenge.

So, to get some insight from the ground on how we’re really doing, we caught up with Ellie, one of our Software Engineers, to find out about her journey with us from Grad to tech mad and the development opportunities that she’s had in this time…

By its very nature, tech moves fast so when you’re working in the tech industry it can be hard to keep up to date with everything that’s changing and evolving, but it’s a must to avoid becoming a tech dinosaur! For me, this is just one of the reasons why working in tech is so cool — no two days are the same and there’s always something new to learn but to be your best, it’s important to be in an environment where learning is a given.

I joined Compare the Market through their grad scheme which is geared towards teaching you as much as possible about the broad landscape of tech in a relatively short period of time — just 18 months in fact. But as well as the fast-tracked learning, a significant part of my decision to apply for the scheme in the first place was just how much focus Compare the Market puts on personal development for everyone, regardless of your role or length of time with the business.

I liked that they talked a lot about this on their website and throughout the application process so was really hopeful that even after I completed the grad scheme, I would still be able to continue my learning with Compare the Market’s support. Generally, I’d say it’s good to take these sorts of claims with a pinch of salt but, amazingly, in the two years since completing the scheme, I have seen everything that they spoke about in those early days and the focus on personal development is as strong for mid-level and senior developers as it is for juniors and apprentices.

Specifically, there are the everyday things like getting paired with a mentor to improve your technical or soft skills. And fortunately for me, I was lucky enough to have people in my team who were keen to mentor and teach more junior developers, but you could as easily be paired with someone from across the business who has the skillset you’re looking for — similarly, you can also become a mentor for someone else and share your skills with them through the same process.

And in my team, we also get to use 10% of your time each week to dedicate to your own personal development which you drive to ensure you are building on the skillsets that you want to grow and focus on — and everyone is actively encouraged to make use of this time .

Then there’s the personal annual learning budget that you can spend in any way that you choose. For me, reading is really important so I’ve mostly spent mine on books, but you can apply it to online and external courses too. And I’m sure that there’s many other ways to spend your budget as long as it supports your learning, so it really is a great resource to have access to.

I’ve also found that at Compare the Market, the tech community is hugely supportive and encouraging with monthly forum updates, a dedicated Community Practice Lead to support and represent the wider teams as well as individuals regularly posting useful or interesting articles and questions on our dedicated Slack channel — it really does make you feel involved and part of a proactive team.

And as well as these opportunities that naturally form a part of your working day, there are the more significant initiatives like going on secondment to another team to broaden your skillset or learn a whole new one, and a regular quarterly promotion panel that provides ample opportunity for you to put yourself forward and move your career on.

And you’re not on your own. There’s always plenty of support from line managers as you go through the process, as well as access to the online supporting resources provided by people who have been through the process already. I’ve had direct experience of both and can honestly say that not only do they exist, but they have been very positive experiences too!

But it’s not all rose-tinted glasses and as with everything, developing your own career path is not always plain sailing — for example, it did take some time to arrange my secondment but Compare the Market are always looking for ways to improve and are actively working towards a more formalised (and hopefully smoother) way of organising secondments in the future.

There’s also a very successful apprenticeship scheme and I know that several people in my team have joined via this route, including a colleague who was retraining after working at Compare the Market for years in a different role. For all of us here, it’s great to know that the apprenticeship scheme is not just for people starting their tech journey, it’s also open to people looking to get into a tech role later in their career with the biggest bonus being that everyone that’s joined via the scheme have all been excellent additions to the team — regardless of their background or previous experience!

For me, all of this together creates a great environment to grow, develop and learn in a culture where you can help others to do the same and just by jotting this down in a blog, it’s made me realise the amazing opportunities there are at Compare the Market and if you are driven to develop yourself, you really will have the support from within the business to help you.

But in addition to this, and probably most importantly I think, is the culture surrounding career development — I’ve always found that people at every level of the business are hugely keen to support personal development for others and openly encourage colleagues to improve themselves.

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