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  • Emma Wilby

My first steps into Software Engineering

Updated: May 12

Anyone with little to no knowledge of coding should feel they can start a career in Software Engineering with Solirius. This is my experience starting as a Mathematics graduate.


How I decided my future career

During university

Let me take you back to the month of September 2019. I had just started my second year of my Mathematics degree and the pressure of finding a graduate job was looming – especially since I had no idea what career I wanted to pursue! As most students do, I attended the university’s career fairs, collecting all the swag I could fit in my bag, then collecting more bags to fit more swag. While doing so, I visited stands from many different companies advertising jobs ranging from scientific research to agriculture. None of these struck me as the job I’d want to spend the next few years of my life in, so I continued focusing on my degree.


A screenshot of my travel information website coded during my web development course

As spring term began, an opportunity arose for a free web development course by Code First Girls. I hadn’t coded before, but the idea of making my own website lured me into applying. During the course, I learnt the basics of HTML, CSS, a small taster of JavaScript and GitHub. I was hooked. Seeing my one-line code changes make massive visible changes to the website (…not always as planned…) was incredibly exciting. But at this point, I saw web development as a hobby, since I didn’t know you could get a developer job without a computer science degree.


After graduation

Once my final exams were finished, I was able to resume my new thrilling web development hobby. I had plenty of time to explore coding, since I had no graduate job lined up, so I spent a few months creating a pretend ecommerce store with PHP following a Udemy course. Once I got to grips with the syntax, I realised that programming languages aren’t some alien code that only special translators can decipher. No, you can create something with just a few bits of ‘if/else’ logic and it will even read like a sentence when well-crafted. Here, I was beginning to consider that I could be a developer, but I would need some more experience before I knew for certain.


A screenshot of the Unity editor while playing the game I created

I had a friend who studied computer science and said a great way to get into programming is by learning Unity, a game development platform boasting a codeless UI but with many options to add your own programming scripts. So, being an avid gamer, I jumped at the chance to design and create a game with this very friend. It was tough learning C#’s strict object-oriented principals alongside the Unity framework, though I began to fall in love with its design and knew that I wanted this in my life. Even though I was struggling with things like the syntax for creating a list variable, I felt I understood the features of the language and its potential enough to begin looking for a career.


Applying to my first jobs

A picture of a frustrated person looking at their laptop

I was instantly concerned that with no coding qualifications I would be at a disadvantage and no company would consider me. Not only that, but I was also still learning and worried that I didn’t know enough to pass any interviews. So, while I was signing up to (far too many) job sites, I also researched common technical interview questions such as “What is a hash set” and “When would you use a linked list over an array”. Strangely, I became fixated on perfecting the answer to “What happens when I type a URL in the browser and hit enter”, which I later found out was very popular in interviews.


One day on LinkedIn, I chanced upon a job advert for a graduate software engineering role at Solirius, a consultancy company that is based in London… which I noticed was unusual because most consultancy companies demand you to be geographically flexible. “Agh, the advert is one day over the deadline!” … Still, determined not to miss an ideal opportunity, I hastily emailed Solirius a covering letter containing my CV.


First interviews at Solirius

Success! I had secured an initial phone call interview. I gathered this was primarily to check I was genuine about wanting the job, which I was, so it was successful. Following this, I learnt that the next stage was going to be a video interview. I was now very nervous – I had only done practice video interviews at university and for those we were given pointers on what the interviewers will be scoring us on. So, preparing like I did at university, I expected to be interviewed by a mark scheme.


A picture of a happy person looking at their laptop during an online video interview

Within moments of starting my interview, however, I realised I was wrong. This mark scheme turned out to be a team of genuine people, who led the interview as more of an open discussion than a strict old-fashioned question-answer approach. This made me feel more relaxed, which in turn helped me talk about my ecommerce store and videogame projects I had worked on and what considerations I had while coding them.


Final stages

Having been successful so far, I faced the last two stages of my journey: a timed coding challenge and a technical video interview. Not long after finishing the challenge, I began to realise all the silly mistakes I had made followed by so many “I should’ve done this instead of this” thoughts… these tortured me right up until my last interview! So, as soon as the interview subject transferred to my code submission, I straightaway jumped at the opportunity to highlight my mistakes and how I would rectify them. This seemed to impress my interviewers, perhaps because it saved them the job of pointing them out!


By this point, I had made it through a grand total of one initial phone call, one video interview, one coding challenge, and one technical video interview! I felt a sense of relief knowing that this journey was at an end, but that only spurred my desire to find out whether I had secured my first ever technical job. After what felt like a century – but was only about a week – I got a call from Solirius… and I was ecstatic. Why? Because my journey as a Software Engineer had just begun.

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