Jana Schoeller gives us the tell-all of how she became a team lead, and her future plans in technology at Caplin.
What was the spark that got you interested in the world of technology?
When I was growing up we always had computers in our house. So I started off playing games and making little videos using CorelDRAW. I did a little bit of Turbo Pascal programming but I think this is nothing on the scale of what kids can do nowadays.
How did you decide that this is something that you want to pursue further?
I made my decision in university actually. Growing up I didn’t really have any role models in technology to go into it directly. So I started studying art history and realised I didn’t enjoy it and that I was more practical orientated. Luckily, I had the opportunity to switch my degree to computer science and I immediately felt at home. I really enjoyed working with the other students and thinking more logically.
Having found your home, what aspect of it did you find most interesting?
At first, it was the practical nature of the course. You could create a programme that works and someone else could use it. I also enjoyed the mathematical side and studying theoretical computer science where we learned about algorithms and logic.
All of this has led to you now working at Caplin, could you tell me a little bit more about the job you're doing now?
Currently, I'm a senior software developer and I’ve been at Caplin for eight years. I’ve had different roles during my time here such as being a team lead and a line manager. I would also visit our customers and teach them about our software. Caplin last year offered me to go on a sabbatical for 1 year. Which was a great opportunity for me to have more time for my family. I have now returned to work and I am happy to join my colleagues again.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I always start my day with a cup of coffee and go through the tasks for that day and see what meetings I have or need to arrange. As a team, we start with a stand-up meeting where we discuss what we are focusing on for the day and raise any issue that we have and then continue our day. This could be working on coding a feature, fixing bugs, looking at deployments, or having meetings with colleagues or customers. It can also involve planning tasks for a new project and analysing the work.
A lot of team leads and managers turn into project managers I'm guessing you're not that kind of person?
For the moment I still want to code but it can be challenging to do lots of different things as a team lead. You’re constantly going to meetings and liaising with other teams, whilst ensuring your team is focused on the right tasks and keeping an eye on how a project is progressing. You then have to speak to the customers and other managers within Caplin which means you don’t necessarily get to do as much coding as you would like.
But there are still lots of hands-on things and it kind of depends on what you want to do yourself. So I still want to do lots of practical things and be involved in the coding part. But you also progress in your career and you know the tools that Caplin is using. So you kind of can do these things faster. You also have to train other people, you have to find a balance of doing your work faster yourself or training someone else so that everyone becomes more efficient and you have time to focus on other things.
As a woman working in the tech industry, what are some of the challenges that you face?
I think when you start computer science as a woman at university, then you definitely come to a situation where you are the only woman in the room full of men, so you should not be intimidated by that and you have to learn to get used to that kind of environment.
I’ve noticed in myself that I try to be more assertive in the way that I communicate but also in the way that I dress. I knew that if I wanted to become a manager I had to change my outfits from the usual techie dress code to make more of an effort to wear a more business-like attire.
It’s common in some industries that it can be tricky to have children and career progressions. But I found Caplin also supported me in that, giving me opportunities for my career progression when I came back from maternity leave and flexible working hours. It's nice that in general, people who work for Caplin can also sometimes get sabbaticals or be supported to have time to study for a degree. Personally, you still have to be aware to take time for yourself so you don't overwork.
Thinking about the wider world of the tech industry, what's something that you're really focussing on?
At Caplin, we have been working on cloud computing and mobile technology for a very long time. So we help our customers in these areas. I think security is always important to look into. Additionally, we look at processes or tools, and technologies to improve how we as developers can work more efficiently.
What are some of the things you're excited about?
As a software developer, you always have to learn about new technology or frameworks. Tools like Docker get released or updates on a programming language like Java, which changes a lot and regularly now. So there is always something that you have to learn that's the most interesting thing about this job. The challenge is, I guess, you have to pick what is the most important technology interesting for you so you don't get overwhelmed.
At Caplin, we are encouraged to learn new things so even if our customers aren’t quite there yet, we want to be ready. We have regular Dev and Hack days, they allow you to look at something new and write new features or software, or create a new tool that can be integrated within the Caplin technology. It also provides the opportunity to work with other people in the company.
Where do you see your career heading over the next few years?
I want to take on more business responsibilities, which would mean going away from the coding side. But for the moment I’m enjoying being a team lead and a tech lead.
What’s one piece of advice would you give them?
I think the main thing is to be open to new challenges and be curious and show interest, ask questions and learn from others but also be bold and present the work you have done.