Job title: Ruby Backend Developer
Year of graduation: 2014
Supervisor: Professor Gordan Gledec, Ph.D.
Study profile: Computing
Hi, I’m Vlatka and I work remotely from Paris for a fintech start-up called Swile as a Ruby Backend Developer. When I’m not working, I cook and eat and write about it on my Cuisine Hacker blog or I run to burn off all those calories.
What are your responsibilities at your current workplace, what do you do?
In France, employees are entitled to “meal vouchers”. The start-up I work for has digitised them – instead of old-fashioned slips of paper, employees have a fancy black MasterCard card on which their employer pays them a monthly amount of 200 euros to spend on food. I work in the Payments team and my job is to develop and maintain the code behind the whole payment system. Examples of projects include integration with different banking-as-a-service solutions, optimisation of slow SQL queries to make the card payment process faster and more user-friendly, restructuring of the existing application (“monolith”) into several smaller ones (“microservices”), adding new features like choosing a card design and, of course, bug fixes.
What’s your typical working day like?
I mostly work from home, although I do go into the office from time to time. The working hours are relatively flexible. It starts between 8 and 10 in the morning. The first thing on the agenda is coffee (I can’t do without it) and after that, I start programming or framing (“cadrer” in French – making a proof of concept, planning how we’ll programme something). At 11 a.m. we have a stand-up meeting where we work together to find solutions to current technical problems and monitor the progress of the projects. Around noon, I go to lunch. At 2 p.m., I sit down in front of the computer again and take part in a virtual coffee break with my colleagues. Freshly invigorated, I continue with my day: programming, attending meetings, checking code, programming in pairs … usually until sometime around 7 p.m. When I’m in the office, I sometimes go to an after-work meeting with colleagues.
What are the challenges you face in the workplace?
In our industry, learning never stops. Therefore, it takes energy and a willingness to keep up with technologies and best practises and to adopt new technologies quickly. The problems we solve can be complex, but challenges are good because they force you to evolve and be better than you were yesterday. You could say that every pull request is a small challenge in itself – a challenge to write high-quality, optimised code and to do it in the shortest possible time. In addition to the technical challenges, I also have a cultural one: working in French. Although I love French, it’s not my mother tongue. So, sometimes I’ve to ask to have a word explained and I need a bit more time to write a text.
What was your career path like? How did you change jobs and employers?
When I was at FER, I didn’t really know what part of computing I wanted to do. During my 5th year, I did a student internship in Styria, which sparked my interest in the web even more, and I’ve remained in that field ever since. I worked at FIVE as a junior Ruby developer, for the American client Napster. At the age of 25, I decided to move to Paris because I’m a Francophile and I always wanted to live in a big city. I worked for several companies in Paris, as my desire to grow was always the motivation to move on – to learn something new through new challenges. My current employer also tempted me with the possibility of remote work, because it allows me to work from home, a café, or Croatia…
When did you develop your interest for the field you work in now?
I’ve enjoyed programming ever since I wrote my first Hello, World in Pascal in 2007, and my interest in the web was sparked when I got to know it better thanks to the Communication Networks course. It was fun to see how it all works behind the scenes of a web browser.
What skills and knowledge do you use in your work? Which of these did you learn during your studies and which did you learn independently of your studies or afterward?
Problem-solving is a skill taught at FER in almost every course, as it’s necessary for the programming profession. More specific skills include programming logic, which is learned from the first year and is universal regardless of the programming language, algorithms (useful for job interviews), the Internet Security course (how to write secure code), databases… After graduation, I continued my education on my own: Ruby on Rails and other technologies I use at work, web application architecture. The university won’t teach you everything, but it’ll teach you how to learn and the rest is up to you.
What advice would you give to students who are looking for a job?
First of all, you should inform yourself well about your options: what areas of programming there are, which ones are most in demand, and, above all, which ones interest you the most. Once you’ve decided on an area (e.g. data science, DevOps, mobile development…), take as many courses as you can related to that area, and in your spare time take some courses on Coursera, practise on Hackerrank, create a personal project where you can apply what you’ve learned. For me, it was programming my food blog Cuisine Hacker. All this should prepare you well for an internship and your first job.
As for the job applications, you shouldn’t “want a job too badly” 😀 I got the best results when I applied spontaneously and without too many expectations.
Since you’re a beginner, your CV is pretty empty, but fill it with personal projects, courses on Coursera, a Hackerrank profile, and even a list of programming books you’ve read. You can read the rest of my tips here.
P.S. Stay positive, developers are in high demand, and you’re bound to find a great job! 🙂