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What Does a Career at Mission Labs Look Like? Volume 3.
March 8th, 2021
What does a career at Mission Labs look like? Volume 3.
Sian Lynch, Software Engineer
Josh Healey: So Sian, what’s your story? Where were you before Mission Labs?
Sian Lynch: So I learnt to code two years ago at a Northcoders bootcamp in Manchester - it’s an intense 3 month bootcamp to get you to become a coding engineer. I then worked in Berlin for a bit but had to move back because of the pandemic, before I could learn German properly!
Prior to that I hated my job… I knew tech was a big thing and decided to code instead of what I was doing. It’s been the best decision I’ve made in terms of my career.
JH: We recently chatted with Diego as part of this series; he also went to Northcoders and he loved it. What was your experience like?
SL: It was stressful but so rewarding; they structure it so well and you never felt like you were asking a stupid question. They still send LinkedIn messages to see how we’re doing, which shows they genuinely do care about their graduates - I definitely recommend it as a fasttrack way of getting into tech.
JH: Did you go to university before that?
SL: I did - I studied film and scriptwriting; after graduating I ended up in admin jobs, then decided to see what else was out there and so got into coding and tech.
JH: I guess you’ve gone from writing scripts to writing scripts?
SL: I’ve never even thought about that!
JH: Does that creative writing experience lend itself to the role you have now?
SL: Definitely! I had to rewire my brain to think in a linear, logical way when approaching coding problems after coming from a creative background.
There’s two types of developers - those like me learning the core bits of coding for my job, then those who studied a computer science degree at university. Having that ability to think outside the box as well as logically, in a different way to people with a computer degree background, has been useful for coming up with more unique solutions. But also having those different ideas and approaches are good for collaboration and moving forward as a team.
JH: So what have you been working on in your team since starting in January?
SL: I’ve been working closely with the guys in my team on a new plugin for case management for a client who specialise in sports-retail.
There’s been a lot going on - even this week with the acquisition news which was crazy - it’s been quite weird starting remotely but it transitioned better than I thought it would. The first couple of weeks and the intro sessions were great for meeting people rather than being stuck behind Slack the whole time!
Coming into a new role as a remote worker was challenging but Ben, my team leader, has made efforts and put in measures to help with it. The work we do is really interesting and there’s a lot of challenges, but I feel lucky that my team has that openness which makes the workload bearable.
JH: You mention your team is all blokes - do you notice any differences or are aware of that, what’s your experience as a female engineer?
SL: You’re always aware of it - how many women are in the room compared to the number of men… every woman in tech is aware because there’s so few women in tech, there’s only 19% or something making up the workforce.
When I learnt I was the first female engineer, I knew I wasn't going to let it set boundaries for me or think too much into it. My team are all great people and I’m treated equally. They’re aware they could be a bit less lad-y now I’m in the team, but that’s natural - within my team it’s been a great experience.
JH: That’s interesting - we know Mission Labs has a long way to go but is working towards being a more inclusive place, and people like Ben are big champions of that. Do you think it’s important for tech companies to adopt a more inclusive, progressive worldview?
SL: Oh yeah definitely, I think having a set of values and a culture that we all understand, whether it's how to communicate or how we collaborate, is essential for any business. Without those boundaries and internal understanding of ‘this is what this company stands for’ then people are free to say and do what they want, without consequences.
Having transparency and openness is important for retention too, as people want to stay somewhere they think can change for the better. Having a drive on inclusivity, be it the sort of people you hire or meeting people from other areas of the business, can really help with that.
JH: Our Hackathon was a successful attempt to make that variety happen - we had engineers mixing with cross company employees and different product devs, which was good for engaging separate parts of the business.
Do you have any advice for anyone, not just women, who come from a creative or unconventional background and want to work in tech?
SL: If you’re trying to get into tech don’t get bogged down by other people and how qualified they are - just focus on what you want to get out of it and what goals you want to achieve. We’re all different so don't compare yourself to others.
JH: What do you have planned for the next 6, 12, 18 months? Do you have any goals?
SL: One of the reasons I came to Mission Labs was to become a full-stack dev, rather than just front-end, and we’re starting to look at back-end in my team now. It’s really positive that's started and I’m already moving towards that goal. I want to be a senior developer in a couple of years, with an involvement in shaping the processes. One of the reasons Mission Labs was a good prospect is because it’s growing, and having a voice in how processes can be shaped was really exciting.
JH: Is there anything you’d like to see companies like ML doing to promote diversity?
SL: I’d like to see Mission Labs hire some more female techies, for sure. I think the 'Chat With...' series and putting more of the business personality out there is great - marketing does play a big role in showing the collaboration going on.
JH: Agreed. At the end of the day, diversity and representation - creating more ideas and improving safe spaces - can only be a good thing.
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