07 Jun 2016
Icon - At the Office
Gemma Kirkman, Sodexo IT Careers

10 years, 4 roles, 1 company… The Developer Years

This is the 2nd blog instalment from Gemma Kirkman, Business Intelligence Team Lead – IS&T, Sodexo Service Operations.

“But what would you do if you realised that you couldn’t meet your deadline?” This was the third time I had been asked a version of this question during the interview and I was beginning to feel like I wasn’t giving the correct answer.  I looked at my two interviewers, searching for inspiration. “I’d ask for help” I blurted out, exasperated.  Finally the tough interviewer sat back, seemingly placated. After some final questions I left the interview for the Junior Developer role feeling I hadn’t got it.

I’d been so nervous I asked the Solutionline Manager to call me whilst I was on holiday to confirm either way- I wasn’t expecting a positive outcome, but my ear to ear grin as I came off the phone said it all- I made it into a proper developer role!

I quickly decide that the development team are my work family- each person is caring, talented and supportive in their own and different ways and everyone naturally fits and works together to support each other. From cards and cake on each other’s birthdays, late night pizza/coding sessions supporting each other on tight deadlines, and even our own theme tune, this is the dream team to work in.

As a Junior Developer I had a mentor to take me through everything from coding standards, development techniques and version control to designing solutions, writing specifications and carrying out testing. What I really loved however, and still do to this day, was getting the opportunity to speak to and work directly with people towards the goal of making their work lives easier and their roles more effective. Sometimes, I miss Solutionline for that instant satisfaction you can feel knowing that you have made someone’s day that bit better by solving a problem they were having. What I found on the development team was that the relationships you form are much deeper and more rewarding when you are working together with people for a period of time on a common goal. I have made some great friends as a result of working directly with them on projects relating to systems such as Recipe Online, E-ProphIT, SAP, EPoS and many more, something I am truly thankful for.

As well as all the on-the-job support and training, during the 4 years on the development team I attended 11 training courses; 6 technical, such as Programming in C# and Microsoft T-SQL, and 5 soft skills courses on topics from ITIL and project management to engaging stakeholders. Technical courses of course allowed me to develop the systems, and soft skill courses allowed me to develop myself and explore different topics and areas of interest.

After 6 months I was pronounced a fully-fledged developer and following my interests in the courses I had taken, I started to manage my own developments as projects. This soon progressed into managing projects where other members of the team were doing the development and I was purely managing the project. One of my favourite projects came out of the then newly-formed Global IT team, where the marketing team were working in the US to rollout a Hot Beverage Strategy. They needed an online, web-accessible system which would give site managers a recommendation of the most relevant strategy to roll out at their site based on the answers to a number of questions. The deadlines were tight, but the team knew exactly what they wanted and so the design and build of the solution went smoothly, working also with the teams in the US who would ultimately host the databases and the code that were being developed in the UK- a great example of teamwork crossing geographical barriers.

Writing code and delivering projects weren’t the only things I got up to during my 4 years on the Dev team. I continued to value and nurture my relationship with the Solutionline team, and introduced a number of new processes, pieces of documentation, troubleshooting systems and ways of working to help Solutionline resolve queries first time, and where they couldn’t, improve the information provided to the development team to enable us to resolve items as efficiently as possible. After experiencing the benefits of having a mentor, I got the opportunity to be a mentor myself to a new junior developer that joined our team- this was a very rewarding and insightful experience for me as I was responsible for helping another to develop and gain experience to further their career.

I have 2 mottos: learn from the past to create the future, and anything is possible if you put your mind to it. It’s not surprising then, that I was keen to get involved in improving the ways we worked as a whole IT function, not just within the development team, and so I got involved in the shaping and pilot of a new project methodology that was rolled out across the department. Following a conversation with the IT director at the time, I also produced a paper on the processes and ways of working within the department that I felt could be improved and possible solutions, and worked with a member of his leadership team to understand what could be put in place. I dug out that paper a couple of weeks ago when I started writing this next chapter and I’m pleased to say that a lot of those items came true!

I can’t say enough about the power and support of a team. As a developer I worked and formed relationships with almost everyone in the IT team because of the projects I worked on, and I truly believe the collective knowledge and experience of the whole is something special to be valued.

There is just one thing left for me to say until next time when I embark on my journey in role four, as I again look back to that sunny June morning of my interview: never be afraid to ask for help. Every time I have asked for help it has made me stronger and developed me further.

For career opportunities within Sodexo, visit our website www.sodexojobs.co.uk




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