Introducing our latest Graduate and Junior Developer, Ryan in our Big Data Family. Ryan joined in September 2017 and has since started working on one of our major Government projects
Hi Ryan, and welcome to the interview! Thanks for sitting down with us. First of all, could you give us a bit of information about your background, and what experience you’ve had prior to 6point6?
Thanks for inviting me! Yes sure. I studied maths at Bristol as an undergraduate and then went on to be an accountant at PwC. Leaving academia was always a tough choice for me though, since I’d really enjoyed doing research in my final year project. When I found myself reading about quantum foundations instead of accounting standards I decided I should take the plunge and go back to do a PhD. So, a year into my ACA I decided to leave and instead do a physics PhD in Edinburgh. Throughout the course I went to quite a few careers events and saw lots of talks by people working in big data/data science. I thought it looked really interesting, so I started making applications about 6 months before I graduated.
Congratulations on getting your PhD! What do you think were the most important factors you looked for when finding a job?
Well, first of all I knew I wanted to work in big data, and having spent time working for a couple of large companies, I decided that I’d like to try working for a smaller start-up. In my experience, working for a smaller company can offer some big advantages: you have opportunities to take on responsibility in a wide range of roles early on which is great for learning; and you’re able to see the impact that your work is having on the company, rather than being a small part of a big machine. For me that sense of direct accountability is really rewarding.
Other than that, I looked at a couple of different things: how well the company was doing, who their major clients were, what sort of role I’d have, what training they’d provide and what the working environment was like.
So you knew you wanted to work in Big Data. What interested you in pursuing a career in Big Data?
I think that Big Data is a really interesting field to work in. There’s always loads to learn and the pace at which the technologies are advancing is amazing. One of the best things about working in Big Data is the huge range of applications there are; the skills you learn are transferable to almost any industry, and that will continue to be the case for the foreseeable future. The potential is huge! It’s a job in which you’ll always be in demand, and one in which you never need to be bored.
And how did 6point6 fit the bill?
6point6 is small but growing fast, and they have great clients — multiple Government departments, the BBC, the Telegraph — so that really attracted me. They were also very flexible with regards to my role within the company. Since I’m new to the world of consultancy, it wasn’t completely clear whether I’d prefer a development role, an architecture role or less technical project management type roles. At the moment I’m working as a developer, but there are opportunities to explore different roles to find out if there’s one that is better suited to me. The flexibility isn’t limited to the big data division either - in just my first month I had the opportunity to work on a cyber security project.
So it seems 6point6 matched your criteria. How have your first few months been here?
Well, one of my first acts as a new starter was to go on a 6point6 holiday to Barcelona, so that was nice! As a new joiner (who knew no one in the company) I didn’t really know what to expect. The holiday was amazing though, and a great way of getting to know everyone in a relaxed non-work environment. Immediately I learnt that there’s no sense of hierarchy at 6point6 - Chris, Jez and David are all genuinely friendly, approachable and very much part of the team. Same goes for everyone else too; throughout the holiday everyone was really welcoming, very inclusive, and great fun!
In terms of work, my main client is in Government, and it can take a while to be cleared to go on site. Once there, I was introduced to the team and given some smaller coding tasks to help get me up to speed and to let me practice in a non-pressurised environment. I was also assigned a more senior developer to provide help whenever it was needed. Alongside that, I’ve been given loads of training and the freedom to essentially go on any course I think would be beneficial.
That’s great. We’ve found that many applicants are interested in getting more information about what kind of training 6point6 provides. Could you tell us a bit more about what training courses you’ve been on, and whether they’ve been useful?
The courses have been extremely useful! They’re taught by experts in the field - people who quite literally wrote the book on the subject. They’re great at giving you a headstart in learning about a particular technology, at motivating why the technology is designed the way it is, and at providing practical tips for industry best practices. So far I’ve been on courses for Test Driven Development, Network+ and Security+, Kafka, Clean Coding and RESTful architectures. On the job training is also a massive part of learning, and having a senior developer assigned to me to help answer any questions I have has been really valuable.
Aside from the training, what have been the best parts of your job so far?
I think that in any job the people you work with have the biggest impact on whether you enjoy it or not. From what I’ve seen, 6point6 places a lot of value in recruitment, and that’s something that really comes across. The company is full of enthusiastic and talented people who are experts in their subject areas. For a new joiner, and anyone really, that’s a great environment to come into. There’s also plenty of social events where we can all catch up - we often go out for lunch and there are regular evening trips to the pub too.
Another thing that I particularly enjoy is the fact that my main client is the government. Public sector work can have a very different feel to working in the private sector, and it was one of the things that attracted me to 6point6. For me, public sector projects sound more fulfilling because the primary goal of any piece of work is not profit driven and has a tangible, real-world purpose.
It’s great that you seem to have enjoyed a lot during your first few months. Looking ahead, what are you most looking forward to in the next few years?
Being creative and finding solutions to real-world problems is something I enjoy, so I’m looking forward to getting to the point where I’m able to take on more responsibility and have a major role in guiding the direction of projects. Other than that, I’m looking forward to continuing to explore and learn about the Big Data / Cyber Security space. There are so many amazing technologies out there that have the potential to revolutionise an industry!
Excellent, well, thank you very much for your time! One last question, do you have any advice to graduates applying for a role in 6point6?
Do your research on the company and the technologies used in Big Data: read the 6point6 website, read up on Hadoop and play around with the HortonWorks Sandbox. You don’t have to be an expert by any means, but I think that a general understanding of how the technologies work and what they can be used for really help to give an insight into the job itself. If you’re applying for a development role, it’s important to have some knowledge of Java or other JVM-based programming languages.