Trainee to Lead Software Engineer
Dave Lowe, Lead Software Engineer at the UKHO, joined in 2016 through the Software Engineer Trainee Scheme. Read below about Dave's experience.
What attracted you to the UKHO? What made you apply?
For me personally, having previously worked as a Software Developer at an organisation where I was the only developer, one of the main reasons I wanted to join the UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO) was because I wanted to learn from other developers and improve myself. After my initial telephone interview, it was clear that the UKHO offered a range of training and development opportunities, which has always been important to me.
Another reason for wanting to join was benefits and pension schemes available to Civil Servants. When I applied, I was just starting a family, so the aforementioned points were, and still are, really important to me.
What training and development opportunities have you had at the UKHO?
Since joining the UKHO I've had lots of training and development opportunities in both technical and soft skills. The day after I was offered the job as Trainee Software Engineer, I received an email from my line manager with a Pluralsight subscription and the offer of choosing two technical books to get me started (new technical books are only ever an email away). I chose 'Head First Design Patterns' and 'C# in Depth' - which are still in my book collection today.
I also receive 1 day each month to dedicate to my own personal development and training – some of the training I have received and conferences I have attended include:
3-day Professional Scrum Developer course
3-day TDD and Design Patterns course
Cyber UK conference
NDC London conference
Multiple internal Civil Service Learning courses
In addition to this, I take part in a range of guilds across the business – where developers can meet to chat and present about similar technical interests.
What experience have you gained while at the UKHO?
Working in a Scrum team with other great developers has been where I've gained the most experience. I was made to feel part of the team instantly, and although I was a trainee in a team with Engineers, Senior Engineers and a Lead Engineer, I was never made to feel like my opinion or ideas mattered any less - the whole team felt equal.
What is your current role?
My current role is Lead Software Engineer. One thing I've always had is a passion for what I do, and I think one of the main reasons I've progressed to Lead Software Engineer is because of that passion and ambition to do my best and improve myself – which the UKHO has supported me in doing.
What sort of things have you been doing in the last 12 months?
I've had a very interesting 12 months. This time last year, I was a Senior Software Engineer working on an Event Sourcing System which will be integral for ingesting ENCs (Electronic Navigational Charts) into our organisation for the future. Within the last 12 months, I have furthered my knowledge learning about different parts of the organisation and two months ago, I become successful in applying for a permanent role as a Lead Software Engineer.
What does the role involve that people might not expect?
One thing that Lead Software Engineers at the UKHO undertake (that might not be true of all Lead Software Engineers) is that we are also line managers for other engineers. Being able to manage two engineers from other teams has been a really good introduction into line management and a great way of gaining more experience.
How do you think your career might progress at the UKHO?
So far, I think my career opportunities at the UKHO have been really impressive. I've always been willing to learn and progress and the opportunities have always been there for me to do so. I'm also a keen functional programmer and love F# and currently learning Clojure, so I will always be looking for opportunities in that area.
What makes the UKHO different from other employers?
Being part of government and working as a Civil Servant comes with lots of benefits as I've mentioned above. For me, the highlights are flexible working and knowing I'll always be there for my kid's sports days and nativity plays, while still being able to carry out my day job. I also really enjoy working with talented developers who, like me, have a passion for software development and everything that goes along with it.