Our work experience week at ECS Digital 

Our work experience week at ECS Digital 

Introduction:

We are Nada and Polly, two students who spent a week on work experience at the ECS Digital London office.

We both heard about this wonderful work experience via our schools and thought that this would be a great opportunity to take part in. In the application process, we had to provide a CV as well as a cover letter. Working through those gave us experience in applying for jobs and adapting our applications to suit the role in question. Once we were successful with our application, we went through an interview process. The interview gave us some valuable practise to help us build up our confidence for the future.

 

What did you get up to?

Upon arrival, we were introduced to the team at ECS Digital and given a tour of the office. We were excited to start our week at ECS Digital and were looking forward to getting started on the project. We then got given a use case, based on a real-life example which a client may provide, and had to complete our project in three days.

The aim of the project was to write a Python program which ran all the SQL files in a given folder on a database in order to upgrade it. We had to make sure the database was upgraded to the latest version, and that we didn’t accidentally downgrade it, even if the folder contained SQL files for previous versions.

In addition to the main program, we had a few other tasks throughout the week. We were tasked with presenting our solution to different members of the ECS Digital team, and were able to meet lots of people to find out more about their roles within the organisation.

Part of our final solution:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who did you meet / get to work with?

 During our time at ECS Digital, we met many people. We had sessions with different individuals from different teams and were taken on ‘a day in the life’ with them.

Our first session on Tuesday was with Samer Naqvi and we explored the role of Women in Tech and how she partakes in talks and delivers them to people across the country. It was very informative to see how she encourages young women to see the digital industry as a viable career option.

Additionally, in the afternoon, we had a very interesting session with Eloisa Tovee (Ely) who works in the marketing team. She taught us how to market ourselves in the industry and also helped us to set up LinkedIn accounts. Now we have the opportunity to connect with different people who also have the same interests as we do.

Park Life

On our third day, Martina Srdoc delivered a session with us whilst walking through the park (the office is everywhere 😁), which was quite relaxing. At ECS Digital, she is an agile coach and also ‘the mother of the team’. This means that she looked after the wellbeing of all the staff.

Later on in the day we had a mid-week catch up with Kouros Aliabadi and received a broader understanding of his role as a delivery consultant. Amongst other things, Kouros goes to client sites and ensures that everyone is happy both within the clients’ and ECS Digital’s teams.

Making the Most from the Cloud 

Our last session of the week was with John Lawson. He works with ECS Consulting (part of the wider ECS group) and is a Senior Cloud Developer Consultant. He showed us how to programme with VS code and GitHub.

 

What thing(s) did you enjoy most?

The most enjoyable thing this week was the problem-solving aspect of it. When we got stuck on a problem, and had to think creatively to find a solution, it felt satisfying to get there, especially if we did this independently.

As well as that, the working environment in the office was fantastic. Everyone here was very welcoming, and we felt comfortable working here for the whole week. We’d both love to come back!

 

Thing(s) you found most challenging

When we started this project, we had no knowledge of using SQL with Python (or any other program). This was challenging because it meant that we had to research a lot and learn independently.

In addition, our program was run via a command line interface. Neither of us had used one before, so we got a lot of help from Emerson Hardisty (DevOps and Continuous Delivery Consultant at ECS Digital) to get our program working correctly and be able to receive command line inputs.

The journey from applying to presenting our use case has been massively inspiring and although we faced some challenges on the way, we were able to successfully overcome them and produce a script.

 

What did you learn?

Throughout the week, we developed a range of both technical as well as interpersonal skills. To complete the project successfully, we had to learn how to use MySQL in Python and create and modify databases. We also learnt how to connect to a database through Python, and how to connect to a command line interface.

Working as a team, we were able to develop our communication and problem-solving skills. Our day always started with a daily “stand up”, which involved us talking through what we did the previous day and our plans for the next day, allowing us to make the most of our time.

 

Would you do it again?

Absolutely! This week has really been fantastic, and we’ve learnt so much. Given this opportunity again, we would definitely take it.

We would both love to say a big thank you to everyone at ECS Digital and for making this week amazing and full of learning.  Special thanks to Jingen Ngo for being a great organiser, Emerson for helping us with all the technical issues and Lucia Gore for organising the applications and interviews.

 

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Internships & Work Experience at ECS Digital 

ECS Digital believe in giving people equal opportunities and are proud to open its doors to buddying tech enthusiasts looking for the chance to experience what working in the world of tech is really like. 

Due to the energy, care and attention that goes into making sure every work experience student gets the chance to get hands-on and immersed in our culture, we are only able to offer a handful of opportunities across the year – mostly featured during school holidays. 

If you’re interested in any future opportunities, please reach out to the team who will be happy to advise if we have any work experience placements coming up! (Be sure to hit ‘careers’ in the ‘enquiry type’ menu when you do).

 

Guest BlogOur work experience week at ECS Digital 
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Don’t Be a Hero: My Experience with Burnout

Don’t Be a Hero: My Experience with Burnout

Burnout is an issue which is becoming more widely recognised and discussed within the technology industry. The more I have spoken to colleagues openly about this topic, the more I am surprised how common the experience is. A recent statistic identified that a shocking 57% of technology workers suffer from burnout.

Earlier this year, I gave a presentation titled ‘Don’t be a Superhero’ during the the Ministry of Testing’s conference, TestBash Brighton. During my presentation I discussed my own experiences with burnout, how I recovered and what individuals and employers can do to prevent experiencing something similar.

Burnout Talk

If you would like to watch the full presentation, then you can sign-up for a free Ministry of Testing Dojo account and find the video here.

The following is a summary of that talk.

Background

I began my software testing career in January 2014 as a Games Tester. Since I started that particular role with no prior technology experience, I had a deep desire to improve my skills and prove myself.

I moved into my first Agile testing role in May 2016 and began to learn how to code. I knew I was entering the role at a fairly junior level, but I wanted to keep growing my career and began to push myself harder and harder in order to do so. It was this and wanting to improve my testing skills, that eventually led to me burning out.

How did I fall into the burnout trap?

Over time, I used to love being the go to person when a critical situation arose in our production environment. Working late was something I enjoyed doing because it meant I was saving the day. Having people treat me as a fountain of knowledge on the area I was working on was addictive. In hindsight, I simply cared too much about what my colleagues thought of me and compared myself to them.

I wasn’t just focusing my ‘free time’ on work projects, I was self-learning and wanted to learn new technologies, programming languages and skills that would make me a better tester – time I should have spent unwinding and resting. But instead of resting, I was watching YouTube tutorials on the latest technology trends.

Slowly, I began to realise the impact of the hero role I had forged for myself. I became sick of being the hero in the team, but still had managers approaching my desk at 5pm to tell me something in production was on fire. My holidays were routinely interrupted by colleagues asking me how to technical questions. I was even once asked to work on something critical on the same day I had phoned in sick.

As a result, the quality of my work also suffered. I found that even when I was working on a new project, people involved in the previous project were frequently asking me questions. I hadn’t shared my knowledge with anyone else as I was preoccupied with putting out fires and not preventing them.

What was burnout like for me? 

I was stressed. I never felt at ease at work as I felt I had too much work to do and not enough time to complete it. All of the work I had committed to in my ‘hero’ role came to a head at the same time and I began to feel overwhelmed.

I used to be extremely enthusiastic and passionate about my work, but at the point of burning out I couldn’t care less about the work I was doing. Every day, I was simply going through the motions.

My work relationships also suffered. I had previously made a lot of effort to form good working relationships with people in my team, but due to burnout and demotivation I was turning down offers of collaboration indiscriminately.

One of the worst symptoms was physical as well as mental deterioration. I was finding it difficult to sleep some nights because I was worried about how demotivated I was at work. I was no longer performing as well as I should’ve been because I was fatigued. 

Burnout Talk

How did I recover?

It wasn’t until I read a blog I found on Twitter that I realised I was suffering from burnout. It was here that I began to take some actions to improve my work-life balance. Here are three recommendations I hope you takeaway:

  1. Learn to say no

The first thing I did was to learn to say “no” to any excess work which was coming my way. This was a difficult thing to do as my managers were used to me taking on every piece of work, but they mostly understood why I was saying no.

  1. Go back to normal working hours & mute notifications

For the most part, I also stuck to my normal working hours. In our industry, overtime can be a common occurrence. I learned to question the need to do overtime when I didn’t believe it was necessary so that I was working a reasonable number of hours each week.

I also muted Slack and work email notifications on my phone outside of working hours. Having these apps active all the time can really blur the lines between personal and work life. Please don’t be the person whose downtime is on the couch watching TV but also replying to a work email at the same time – it doesn’t help anyone in the long run. 

  1. Prioritise & realistically plan workload

Learning to delegate and share knowledge on a daily basis was difficult but incredibly important. It allowed me to plan my workload, knowing the critical tasks I personally had to tackle each day.

Planning my workload now included any study and research outside of working hours too. I was able to be realistic when it came to setting targets for learning and development.

*****

I’m now fortunate enough to be on the other side of my burnout experience and have found ways of addressing my work/life balance for the better.

A large part of this is that my current employer, ECS Digital, actively plan catch-up weeks once a month. This ensures I have the time and flexibility to upskill and explore new technologies within my contracted hours.

Having the support of a talented team when learning new skills is also extremely important. I don’t feel as if I am learning in isolation as the team is always available to collaborate with me on solving problems.

Why businesses need to take note

According to a recent Kronos study, one of the top causes of burnout in 2017 was unfair compensation packages that lend themselves to employees working too much overtime and having an unreasonable workload. The same survey reported that 46% of HR leaders believed employee burnout was responsible for up to 50% of their annual workforce turnover.

Another aspect is that organisations frequently reward hero behaviour but fail to recognise the consistently good work of their employees who can achieve a high standard of work within their nine ‘til five.

At a time where businesses are struggling with the IT skills shortage and employee engagement is a competitive advantage, businesses can’t afford to ignore burnout within their teams. In the words of Charlie DeWitt, Managing Director of ANZSEA at Kronos:

“Employee burnout has reached epidemic proportions. While many organisations take steps to manage employee fatigue, there are far fewer efforts to proactively manage burnout. Not only can employee burnout sap productivity and fuel absenteeism, it will undermine engagement and cause an organisation’s top performers to leave the business altogether. This creates a never-ending cycle of disruption that makes it difficult to build the high-performing workforce needed to compete in today’s business environment.

Organisations should seek out and implement technology solutions that provide a proactive approach to mitigating burnout, such as the scheduling of rest during rolling periods as long as a year. Workforce analytics can also identify and alert managers to trends in scheduling and absenteeism that may indicate an employee is on the path to burnout so changes can be made.”

Lessons Learned

Since I began to become more aware of my burnout symptoms I have achieved a greater work-life balance and now take a lot more time to relax. I take more time to spend with friends and family. My stress levels have reduced as I don’t work nearly as much as I used to and the self-learning that I now do is something that I’m truly passionate about.

The main thing I took away from the experience is that whilst enjoying what you do at work is extremely important, nothing happens in a vacuum and there are a lot of things in life more important than your career.

Just released!

To see the talk that inspired the blog, head to Ministry of Testing’s website for Ali Hill’s presentation on burn out at this year’s TestBash, Brighton here.

About the author:

Ali Hill is a passionate and motivated software tester at ECS Digital with a specific interest in improving teams’ processes to assist them in delivering quality software. Not only a test consultant, Ali is also heavily involved in the testing and tech community through my co-organising of Edinburgh Ministry of Testing Meetup and public speaking at various conferences – including a recent visit to the Nordic Testing Days conference.

Ali HillDon’t Be a Hero: My Experience with Burnout
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Women of Silicon Roundabout: Key Takeaways

Women of Silicon Roundabout: Key Takeaways

This week, Women of Silicon Roundabout opened its doors to over 5,000 incredibly passionate, brilliant and career driven individuals looking to explore all things business – from gender diversity and inclusion, to pushing boundaries and inspirational anecdotes from the rather Marvellous Karren Brady OBE…

And ECS Digital were right in the middle of the buzz! 

Proud to be silver sponsors, we set up shop in the middle of the conference – close enough to the fro-yo but sensibly out of reach of the specially brewed ‘DevHops’ beer on the other side of the room. With tote bags in hand and the DevOps Playground Panda for extra company, the team did an incredible job talking about the unique DNA of ECS Digital and the incredible DevOps / QA culture we have helped create for our clients. 

What was particularly refreshing about this event – other than the vibrant spectacle of business fashion which you never quite seem to get at male-dominated events – was that it solely exists to inspire, up-skill and give individuals the confidence to go out and do great things. Every speaker was rightly celebrated, with rooms packed to resemble the recent Spice Girls gig and audience members cheering like wildings for their admired colleagues. Every talk spoke to either the head or heart, or both. And every person who came by our stand was an absolute pleasure to speak with.

How spectacular is that! In light of all that is currently in flux (Brexit, Gender Pay Gap, Positive Discrimination, the number of CEO’s named David…) this conference boldly pushed through the negative noise and created an event filled to the brim with positivity, determined to set a few things straight. Including giving the audience the knowledge they need to make more informed decisions.

With this in mind, we couldn’t pull together a summary of this great event without drawing attention to the incredible job Marie Cruz and Samer Naqvi did on delivering their own talk on Software Testing Trends in 2019. Both QA and Continuous Delivery Consultants at ECS Digital, their talk looked at delivering less yawn, more Elvis in software testing, focusing on the tools and technology that help create valuable solutions. Here’s a little sneak peek…

 

 

It was also a great opportunity for both to showcase their expertise. In the words of Marie, 

“Speaking at Women of Silicon Roundabout has given me the boost of confidence in my career and I wouldn’t have done it without the support of ECS Digital. Networking with a lot of respectable women in technology and listening to the other speakers talk about their experiences just means that the technology sector is empowering women and we all have a role to play”

Whilst there is a recording on Facebook already, we hope to release the event exclusive version of their talk our YouTube channel very soon.

With so many speaker sessions over the two days, we could only catch a handful of talks, so here’s our Women of Silicon Roundabout key takeaway iceberg – with the hope that others might add some quotes or titbits of what we may have missed. Enjoy! 

Eloisa ToveeWomen of Silicon Roundabout: Key Takeaways
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Xin’s Story as a QA and Continuous Delivery Consultant

Xin’s Story as a QA and Continuous Delivery Consultant

My name is Xin Wang, I am a QA and Continuous Delivery Consultant as ECS Digital. I recently published a blog explaining how I went from delivering presentations on Fashion Week 2017 fashion trends, to writing functional tests as a software developer engineer.

Working in a male dominated industry has been very different to what I was used to – the approaches that some male engineers take are sometimes very different to the approach that a female would take. But these perspectives combined give you a much valuable overview which is why I really enjoy working on coding challenges with my colleagues.

Take a look at my video if you are interested in understanding why I switched my career around and how I am continuing with my journey as a software developer engineer.

Xin WangXin’s Story as a QA and Continuous Delivery Consultant
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On being a mum and a woman in tech

On being a mum and a woman in tech

Like most people, I had a five-year plan after I graduated from university. Get a nice job and work for a great company, get married, start a family and buy a house. Fast forward five years and here I am, attempting to write a blog about how I balance being a mother and a woman in technology while listening to my daughter having a tantrum!

Being a first-time mum, I struggled a bit in the beginning after my maternity leave to get used to the idea of working again. I felt like I had forgotten how to code. Not to mention that I was given the responsibility of a Test Architect role in the client site that I am based at. I had to get myself familiar with new tools that I haven’t used before and somehow, I had to lead the team. It was daunting!

At the same time, I was worrying about my daughter all the time. It was hard to focus at work and it definitely wasn’t the best start (let’s just say that my stress hormones were up to the roofs!). But somehow, I managed to get it to work in the end. It wasn’t easy and there were still some sleepless nights (teething is still a nightmare!) but I’m going to list the things that helped me balance my work and my responsibilities as a mum.

  1. Share the responsibility

This I feel is the most important. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and share the responsibility. You won’t be able to do everything by yourself! My husband is very hands-on with our daughter so during his days off, he looks after her. Ask families and friends to help out too. We’re lucky that my mother-in-law helps look after my daughter when my husband and I are both at work. There are also times when my parents pick up my daughter from work, so they can look after her. We pre-plan our schedule and check everyone’s availability so we know who will look after our daughter on what day.

  1. Flexible working is the way forward

If you can work from home or do flexible hours, ask for it. From time to time, I work from home if there is no available babysitter that day or if I need to take my daughter to hospital.

  1. Avoid working outside hours

You might be tempted to bring some of the work home with you if you have tight deadlines but try to avoid doing this if possible. I used to bring work home with me to finish off some tasks, check slack messages and reply to emails but this meant that even when I’m home, I’m still thinking about work rather than just spending quality time with my daughter. This just made me more stressed in the end so if I do have deadlines, I try to be more focused at work and time box my tasks. If it’s something that your colleagues can definitely help, share the responsibility. Again, you can’t do everything by yourself 🙂

  1. Stop overthinking about your children

It’s natural that we tend to worry about our little ones. I used to worry a lot about my daughter at work and text my husband or my mother-in-law to see how she was doing, if she’s eaten or drank her milk, if she’s had her nap, if she’s crying, etc. and I always get the same answers – that she is doing ok. Rather than spending time worrying about things I couldn’t change, I now use that time to be focused at work so I can get home sooner and answer these questions myself

  1. Find time to learn

Now this might be difficult for some of you but if you can, still find time to learn something new every day. Doesn’t matter if it’s just for an hour or 30 minutes. Especially in the tech industry, there are always new tools coming up. So, once my daughter is asleep, I make a habit to read a book, read tech blogs, or do a little bit of coding.

  1. Find a company that appreciates you

I feel that this is as important as the first point. If you work for a company that micromanages and doesn’t give you room to improve, then this might be a red flag. It’s great that I work for a company that is appreciative of what I do and rewards those who have done a great job. Recently, I was nominated for an Outstanding People Award and it has given me a great boost to continue doing what it is I’m doing – I must be doing something right after all!

Achieving a work-life balance, especially if you are a mum, is a challenge, but it is doable. It was difficult at the beginning, but like everything else, it gets easier 🙂

Join our Women In Tech DevOps Playground on 8th November where we will be getting hands-on with Cypress!

Follow other stories from the ECS Digital team here.

Marie CruzOn being a mum and a woman in tech
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How I went from fashion writer to software engineer in test

How I went from fashion writer to software engineer in test

“If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.” 

Joseph Campbell

Life can be strange. A year ago, I was giving a presentation on FW17 fashion trends. Now, I am writing functional tests as a QA engineer.

When I tell people that I am a software engineer, they often ask, “Do you have a CS Degree or a technical background?”

The answer is a resounding “no”. I have one Bachelor’s degree in English Education, one in Translation & Interpreting, and a Master’s degree in Translation & Interpreting. I spent most of my 20s in literature studies and I could give a simultaneous interpretation of your talk on Big Data, but I knew nothing besides a textbook definition. I was the classic literature graduate who is NOT technical at all.

They continue, “So why and how did you do it?”

Realising I wasn’t enjoying working in my previous role, I took a turn at coding. I quickly found myself caught up in the excitement of solving coding challenges and creating projects, which soon became a nightly routine after work. Eventually, I wanted to take on tasks more complicated than basic HTML and CSS, so I signed up to online courses to learn JavaScript and Python, such as Udacity’s Full-stack Developer Nanodegree. It was also around this time that I joined meetups and workshops, including those hosted by Ladies of Code London, Node Girls and Codebar. Coaches and other students at these events provided me with a lot of help and support. After almost two years of this practice, I decided to transition my coding from passion to profession.

By this point in time, I had already become friends with a few people who had either made the career change to coding or were planning to do so, and they all recommended Makers Academy to me. As I sought out more people to speak to and read every blog post I could find about the course, I became convinced that this was something I wanted to do. I passed the interview and started my life-changing journey: three months later, I had completed a 12-week computer programming bootcamp and got a job at ECS Digital as a software development engineer in test.

Every Makers’ alumnus would tell you that they enjoyed the ping-pong time, but only a few will tell you how intensive and stressful it could be. Here are a few tricks that helped me during the career-changing experience and I hope they can be of help to you.

  1. Growth mindset

If you are thinking about learning something new, I would recommend reading this blog post by Allison Kaptur: Effective Learning Strategies for Programmers. It’s definitely worth reading more than once.

  1. Own your past

If you look at this survey, you will realise that coders come from different backgrounds, studied various majors and speak different languages. They may be career-changers or university graduates, have a military background or working parents. Your past is not a barrier, it is your strength.

  1. Look for role models

Since joining ECS Digital, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some extremely talented DevOps and software development engineers. They’ve mentored me on everything from testing, cloud computing, Docker, and Linux commands. They’ve also talked me through their intuition about particular coding problems and recommended books and talks by expert programmers. At ECSD, we are encouraged to use pair programming, so I frequently work with people who are able to mentor me. This gives newbie engineers a model to learn from and a standard to aspire to. I feel lucky to be working and learning in an environment where a community of engineers inspire each other.

This is my journey so far. If I can change from a fashion writer to a software developer engineer in test, you can too.

Ever wondered what a year in the life at ECS Digital looked like? Explore our recent blog to find out.

Xin WangHow I went from fashion writer to software engineer in test
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My journey with ECS Digital so far

My journey with ECS Digital so far

Michel Lebeau, 2018 Young DevOps Consultant of the Year

Background

I joined ECS Digital, previously Forest Technologies, over two years ago after a good friend recommended me. Although I had some experience in DevOps, system administration and networking through both my degrees and personal interest, it was tough at first. I started the job without knowing much about consultancy and the company set high standards which added pressure. However, I was keen to deliver and after a few months, I was up to speed and able to add value to my projects.

First year overview

During my first year, I was part of the interviewing process for new hires, went on site to deliver smaller engagements, and helped to run and organise our “DevOps Playground” meetups in our London office.

Second year onwards

Since then, I have had a varied role as DevOps consultant where I spend most of my time on-site with clients, along with producing DevOps Maturity assessments, delivering training and organising out DevOps Playground meetups. I am able to build on my experience and learn new things to add value to clients, and build and promote a DevOps culture.

Responsibilities

My responsibilities on the project are varied, I’m an SME for a few key technologies which the customer uses, so I usually focus on adding value in these areas, by helping the customer make the right design decisions, giving my input during meetings with stakeholders and other SMEs, and by implementing the solution. Sometimes I end up helping in areas that are not my specialty, because that’s what the customer needs, in which case I rely on my ability to learn fast, and on the team who is always happy to help when you need it.

Part of our strength is the willingness that everyone has to help one another, which can be seen when you request for help on Slack, and also when working on site with other ECS Digital employees, as everyone is genuinely keen on helping the customer.

Trainings

I also deliver the official HashiCorp public and private training on Terraform, Vault and Consul from time to time. I value the opportunity to talk with IT professionals from very different companies with their own sets of challenges which I find extremely interesting, and it is very rewarding to know the positive impact my day of training will have on their comfort and productivity when they use the tool. I’m flattered to know that my training is recommended to other teams.

sian.heaphyMy journey with ECS Digital so far
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