FD Career Stories – Insights from a Software Engineer

Following her placement year at FD’s Newry HQ in 2016, Katie returned as a Software Engineer on the Options Graduate Programme in 2018. Below, Katie delves into her career journey so far, her role as a Software Engineer and her advice to students currently entering the job market.


My Career Story So Far

My career with First Derivatives started back in June 2016 when I completed a year placement in HQ with the MRP team. This year gave me an insight into what I wanted to work towards upon finishing my university degree. This motivated me to work tirelessly to achieve the result I wanted in my final year.

After graduating from Ulster University as a Software Engineer, I was keen to return to First Derivatives on a full-time basis. I joined the company back in September 2018 into the Options Graduate Programme as a Software Engineer.

Following my induction and Kx training, I was then put onto a Proof of Concept team in Newry while waiting to be placed on client site. Here I was introduced to the variety of industries Kx operate in and got some valuable hands-on experience.

I have spent the past year working on client site on the Capital Markets Consulting stream in London, where I held a short-term role before moving onto my current project in July 2019.

My current role is within an EMIR Remediation project in a tier-one investment bank based in London. First Derivatives are responsible for providing a Solution Delivery Factory as a managed service to close all high priority anomalies while delivering to UK governance milestones. The managed service team consists of over 30 Business Analysts, Developers and Quality Assurance Testers, all working across over-the-counter products and split over 3 locations.

I have had numerous responsibilities and dipped my feet into many areas within my team. From Project Management Office to Regression Lead and now Java developer. As part of the management function, I reported up to senior stakeholders within the department.


My Role as a Software Engineer

In my current role as a Java developer, I have been lucky to work on a team with senior Java developers who are always keen to help me progress as a developer and take the time (even outside working hours) to help me. It has introduced me to different aspects of a scrum team such as planning poker estimation, paired programming, retrospectives and daily stand-ups to collaborate with the other developers on my team.

My role entails completing any spikes assigned by the Business Analysis team to help understand the logic used within the system for analysis, supporting the Quality Assurance team with any regression or functional testing issues they may have. I have also recently progressed onto committing my first functional change to the system.

As the nature of our team is helping each other and learning (as with development there is always more to learn), we have weekly show and tells where different members of the development team will do a presentation on a topic relevant to our area of work and show how this can be applied to our project. One example is Test Driven Development, which is used for our functional changes. This involves completing fortnightly coding exercises together in order to improve our skills in this area.

The scrum master for my team has been very hands-on, taking a personal interest in all of our personal development. The scrum master sets aside weekly meetings to go through Java OCA Oracle Certification questions with myself and other developers on the team sitting the exam, as well as monthly feedback sessions.


The Most Interesting/Challenging Parts of My Job

For me a big aspect of working in First Derivatives is constantly meeting new people from different backgrounds and the excitement of not knowing where you could end up working. Whether it be London in an investment bank or further afield and the constant learning curves with each new role.
From a Software Engineering perspective, it is really encouraging to hear stories about how senior developers started out themselves and it really motivates me to set goals to better myself.

A challenge for me was having to adjust to moving back to HQ away from the rest of the development team. However, this transition has greatly increased my communication skills, allowing me to adapt to online communication and also to work independently.

My role has encouraged me not only to grow as a developer but also to as a person. It has given me the confidence to pursue the career I’ve always wanted!


My Advice to Students Entering the Job Market

Coming straight out of university and into job interviews is always going to be a challenge, as it’s something that most students have not had much experience with. I personally always found interviews very daunting before joining First Derivatives.

The main advice I would give is to not look at an unsuccessful job interview as a failure but as a learning curve. A “bad” job interview will provide you with key insights into how to improve your skills for future interviews. If you don’t get the job, it doesn’t mean that this will be the case for every job you apply for, it just means you haven’t found the right one yet.

For me, I found it really helpful to make study cards with questions and bullet points relevant to areas I could be quizzed on. I still use this method today for interviews for different clients within First Derivatives. As with everything, practice makes perfect!

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