My First Year of Being A Software Engineer

Liv Walker Software Engineer at Capital on Tap in a meeting

On October 4th, 2021, I made my way over to Capital on Tap’s London office for my first ever day as a Junior Software Engineer.

New city, new job

I’d also moved to London for the job, so I was following maps on how to get there yet somehow ended up being about 35 mins early, just awkwardly sat by the front door petting the office dogs until 9.

That day I remember feeling more excited than nervous. I already knew how great of a company Capital On Tap was due to speaking to them prior, and the office was so lively. At the time I thought it looked like the ideal work environment — cute dogs, loads of greenery, kind people, snacks, and a terrace. I was right. I genuinely love being in the office (minus the commute, I’ll admit getting used to the tube and fast paced streets of London still make me anxious sometimes).

A polaroid of Liv with her friend with graphic text, 'I love London' across the bottom

Any nervousness I once felt surrounding my new role stemmed purely from imposter syndrome. For some context, I’m a law graduate from Lancaster University, so ‘I really don’t belong here’ crossed my mind more than a couple thousand times at the start, especially in those early days of picking up something new for the very first time, or having it explained to you and it doesn’t click. To be in this position, whilst already in my new job, put my panic levels at 100. I told myself that I needed to be a good developer, know everything, and not make any mistakes right now. The pressure was on.

I can still recall what felt like my worst day (but in hindsight it wasn’t). I’d never done unit testing before, and C# was a new language to me that I needed to learn on the job. I’d been assigned two amazing buddies to help me get started (and I cant thank them enough, Alok and Brandon!).

One of my unit tests was going horribly wrong, but I’d already asked for help only 30 seconds prior so decided to figure it out myself - which was a mistake. I went home and sat on the train absolutely wailing over the phone to my mother about whether I was smart enough for this.

When I think back to this day, I could never ever be in the same position now. With the team and colleagues I have, and my increased confidence around asking questions and for help, it's literally impossible. Which leads me to say, I am super lucky.

Capital on Tap's culture

Capital on Tap is one of those companies where they are exactly what they say on the tin. When they say they’re here to support you, that there are no stupid questions, and the learning curves I’m having as a junior are completely normal — they really mean it.

At any given point, there is a multitude of people I could turn to, from my team, my previous and current manager, managers of other teams, the People team to the Product Managers.

Over the year, I started to feel more integrated into the company and more confident about a lot of things. It’s actually perfect timing that I joined the company in October because that's Black History Month in the UK! So far I’ve had a blast helping to organize this years, everyone’s been really engaging and receptive which is nice.

Liv giving a presentation during Black History Month 2022, and Liv showing a slide on racial burnout

As for my technical skills, on this day last year I quite literally did not know C#. Nothing, nada. The only C# I knew was a musical note. Now, I’d say I’m getting there. It’s another area where my confidence has increased (and unit tests make a lot more sense to me now, sometimes I enjoy writing them once I get the hang of it)

Usually I use React, and I knew that pretty well prior to joining the team, or so I thought. The members of my team inspire me, they’re just so good and I’ve lost count of how many practices they’ve taught me on the front end and how many times I’ve thought ‘I can’t wait to be at that level’ when one of them implements a new feature.

When starting out I would see comments on my PR as a list of things I did wrong but actually, they’re tips, and helpful things to remember going forward. They stop me from making the same mistake twice because now I know what the ideal syntax is or what the best way to write certain code is.

Changing my perspective on this helped my imposter syndrome fade away as I realized that juniors are supposed to make mistakes and learn from them! It just took some time to internalize this, and I think that’s normal too.

Recently, I started writing some documentation for my team and I’ve been enjoying that, plus I’m able to ensure it's what I call, ‘junior friendly’. I’ve been told a few times that the questions I ask do prompt others to remember the answer themselves, find out something new, or put them in a position where they need to break down the answer in a more simple way, and I think that’s an important skill for all developers to have.

Once again, I’m lucky that my team were amazing at doing this from the get-go. I’m sure I’ve only stared at them in utter confusion less than 10 times throughout the whole year. Big achievement in my opinion.

My reflections

I don’t regret studying law. I’m not sure that I would have crossed paths with tech if I didn’t do it. I’m also grateful it gave me a career path and switching into tech story. I get asked a lot about that and I’ve even delivered a few talks about my journey. I think anyone can break into tech no matter the background, I don’t think its ever ‘too late’ either.

There’s no deadline for picking up a new skill, you just have to be patient, consistent, and listen to the advice of others who have come before you. This is where I’d like to give a huge thank you to my mentor, Isabel Costa, who also became a friend because of how much she’s inspired, helped and checked in on me.

Funnily enough, I hadn’t spoken to Isabel for a while and we had a catch-up call today of all days, my one year anniversary. So it was really nice to reminisce with her about both our developments and where we are now. Just two black women thriving in tech supporting each other. Love to see it.

A lot has happened in the past year, and you might be losing concentration on this penultimate paragraph. So I’ll wrap it up. It’s been a great year. I switched from law to tech, moved to London by myself, made new friends, explored new places, and hit gold by working at Capital on Tap! 

That's it, that's my whole year as a Software Engineer at Capital on Tap. I can't wait for the second!

If you would like to read more about Liv's journey to becoming a Software Engineer, click here to head to her blog. 

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