Career Advice - Working as a Software Engineer with Katherine Rollo
Want a successful career working as a Software Engineer? Katherine Rollo is a Test Automation Engineer at Planit Testing in Australia. Katherine sits down with us to share her journey and advice to aspiring Engineers and Developers looking for an exciting and challenging career like her own.
What's your current role and what does it involve?
I am a Test Automation Engineer. I develop automated tests for web applications and execute them in Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) pipelines.
Where do you work, and what type of projects are they involved with?
Planit Testing. They are a consulting company with various clients around Australia ranging from retail, banking, health, education, and the Australian government.
When did you first realise you wanted to work in this industry?
I graduated from a non-tech related Bachelor’s degree and discovered I had a knack for computers. I quit my job and took a second Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science to specialise in Software Engineering. I graduated after 4 years.
How did you get your first big break?
I got a job offer of a lifetime to relocate to Australia and be sponsored to work and live in Melbourne.
Describe the journey you took into your current role?
I got a job offer at Hewlett Packard Enterprise before graduation. Within a year of working at the company I had the opportunity to travel for work to Australia, Thailand and Singapore.
Fast forward two years, I got invited to fly to Singapore to participate in the final leg of an International Roadshow after grueling rounds of interviews, competing with hundreds of applicants 10-15 years my senior in the industry. The victor got a job offer with visa sponsorship and full working rights in Australia.
Day in the life
Describe a typical day for you and your team?
Every day starts with a 15-minute daily scrum meeting where we give our updates and talk about what we are going to do for the day. Clients give the application specifications for the development team to build and test. It is a continuous rapport of human needs translated to technology.
What third-party and proprietary tools do you use on a daily basis?
Which departments and key people do you work closely with?
I work closely with clients and application developers. Automation engineers need to have expertise both in the business domain and technical implementations.
Are there any industry trends that are changing the nature of your role?
The “shift-left” paradigm where testing is to be incorporated at the beginning of development changed my role as an automation engineer to integrate testing seamlessly in the build process and upskill in CI/CD technologies.
One thing you’d never change about your job?
Use of modern tools and technologies. The Microsoft tech stack is easy to work with. I much prefer working with strongly-typed programming languages like Java and C#.
But one thing you wouldn’t mind seeing changed is?
The relentless rivalry of testers vs developers. They should be seen as not adversarial but rather complementary to each other, especially in agile teams.
Is formal education essential for someone aspiring to do your job?
Formal education in Software Engineering is what led me to real, life-changing opportunities in a very short span of time, which I never would have gotten have I stayed with my non-tech degree or opted for fast-track bootcamps. It is different for everybody.
What tasks would you typically ask a junior engineer to handle?
I would help them improve their proficiency in the programming language used before attempting to code anything.
What skills do you look for when hiring a software engineer?
The path of the software engineer can be many things but the key skill is problem solving and analysis. The main task of an engineer in any industry is to solve problems with tools. Not just use tools in hopes of solving a problem.
What skills seem to be missing all too often?
Algorithms. Most applicants will memorise textbook algorithms for interviews but cannot formulate their own. You do not really implement BubbleSort in the real world, for example.
Describe a project brief that you’d recommend engineers create for their portfolio?
It could be frameworks or applications of a particular technology stack. The key is not to be many, but they have to be your best at the skill level you have.
What mistakes do you see engineers making when applying for jobs?
Eager to throw the latest buzzword in tech but shows little interest in actually solving problems with technology.
If you could give one piece of advice to engineers starting out, what would it be?
Aspire to fail big. It means you attempted bigger dreams.
If you could go back in time to when you first started out, what advice would you give yourself?
Do not join the company outing if you do not know anybody yet. Awkward!
Katherine Rollo is a Software Engineer specialising in Test Automation for web applications. She has worked at Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Cambridge University Press. You can find her on LinkedIn and GitHub.