As part of our Tales in Tech series we’ve been catching up with members of our tech community throughout lockdown to share the journeys, lessons learnt and advice that has helped them through their careers to date.

Alessandro is a Senior Software Engineer at the world-renowned Financial Times. A trusted partner of ours, we’re proud to have worked with the FT over the years to help build out their pioneering technology teams. After transferring to a fully remote role last summer, Alessandro now lives and works from Portugal, so was fully equipped when the COVID lockdown struck!

Having worked for several start-ups and picking up several programming languages before landing his role at the FT, Alessandro tells us how his role as a Full Stack Developer enables him to solve problems more effectively and why he loves working for a business that embraces diversity.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your role at the FT:

I moved to the UK 6 years ago and worked in a start-up as a Software Developer, mostly as a Backend Engineer. After a year or so I was looking for a change in my career and an opportunity came up through Burns Sheehan to work as a Frontend Developer for another start-up in London. I moved from Bristol to London and began learning JavaScript. My knowledge of JavaScript was very basic, but it was a good opportunity for me to learn a lot.

I landed my current job at the FT 2 years ago as a Contractor Software Engineer. Since then it's been a huge learning curve, it was a big difference working at two start-ups and then joining a well-established company like the FT. 

We were already set up for remote work prior to COVID, so the transition to a fully remote workforce was relatively easy for most people as all the tools were already in place and widely used. What's changed though is all the additional social events and initiatives to bring everyone together.

What would you say is the biggest difference working for a start-up vs the FT?

I would say working in a big company you tend to be much more organised. You have to communicate to many people in different teams what you're working on, as well as what you want to achieve. Organising the work and being aware of what’s going on in other teams is really important.

In a start-up you tend to keep things quite simple but larger companies need tools that are more flexible and advanced, so I had to adjust and learn to work with a lot of new office tools. 

What is the best part of your job?

The best part of my work is the opportunity to share different ideas with other Developers who have totally different backgrounds to me. As Developers we all get to work on different things and share our knowledge. I get to see lots of different projects and learn a lot just by looking at someone else's code. The FT has a very good culture of diversity and this has a big impact on the diversity of our ideas. There are multiple ways of thinking and solving problems so it’s great to share these and learn from each other.

What would you say is the biggest challenge you've faced in your tech career?

One of the biggest challenges we face as Developers is keeping up to date with changes in technologies. But personally, my biggest challenge was when I moved from backend to frontend as that was a steep learning curve.

Do you have a favourite between frontend and backend developing?

I like both because in my role I get to use a bit of both. As a Full Stack Developer, you have to know your way around and do a bit of everything, rather than becoming an expert or specialist in something specific.

Do you attend any meetups or virtual meetups?

I usually attend any Burns Sheehan meetups if I’m in the country. The FT also arranges a lot of tech talks internally which are great to attend and they make them accessible online. I find virtual meetups work really well, especially when I'm too far away to join meetups in the UK. They're perfect as I can multitask and have them playing in the background whilst I’m working.

What advice do you have for anyone junior looking to progress in their career as a Developer?

I would say try to join a company that gives you the opportunity to learn a lot from the beginning. Be less concerned about the salary and look for a company that gives you the opportunity to learn and work on what you like.

Languages are something that change all the time, so you always have to be ready to pick up a new one if need be. I personally started as a C Developer before I moved to Perl, then did a bit of Java and now JavaScript, it’s fun to change it up. Personally, for me, I don't like to remain stuck on a specific technology. As a Developer it's nice to adapt and pick up something new. It gives you a new point of view when you're solving senior problems, a different toolkit to use so you can evaluate the project constantly. Be ready to learn but don't overdo it and be careful of burning yourself out. Try to get a hobby to do outside of work, that's really important as well.

A massive thank you to Alessandro for sharing his journey into tech with us. The opportunity to continuously learn and improve your knowledge toolkit is just one of the factors that makes Engineering such a versatile and exciting career. But as Alessandro mentions, it can be easy to take too much on at once and burn out all your energy when under too much pressure. You can read some tips on steps to introduce into your daily routine to keep yourself from burning out here.

If you’ve had an interesting pathway into tech or are working on an exciting project you’d like to share, please get in touch! We’d love to hear from you and share your story with our tech community.

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