A Day in the Life: of a software engineer at Cambridge Kinetics

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In this blog we catch up with Graduate Software engineer Thomas Haslam who has recently joined the award-winning team at Cambridge Kinetics

Thomas fills us in on the background to his career path, gives an insight into his working day and offers some helpful advice to current undergraduates.

University of Cambridge / MEng Engineering (specialising in Information and Computer Engineering) September 2018 – July 2022. 

So, Thomas, can you tell us where it all began for you?

My interest in software started in secondary school, where I was challenged by a friend to see who could program the best game. This led to me developing a series of increasingly ambitious local multiplayer games, helped by the fact that I had a ready supply of testers, from living so close to school. When it came to university applications, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to make this hobby my career, so opted for the more general option of applying to Engineering. During my first few years, I discovered that I also really enjoyed programming outside the context of videogames, so I did a couple of software internships and specialised into Information and Computer Engineering. 

Cambridge Kinetics is about innovation, which inevitably means that there will be mistakes that we can learn from to create better solutions

What does a typical day look like for you?

A typical day starts at 7.45, when I get rudely woken up by my alarm. I cycle over to the office; Cambridge is a great place for bikes! 

At 9am I attend the morning catch-up with the team. We run through our plans for the day and hear about what everyone is up to. At 9.15 I join the tech talk, a good opportunity to learn from others and discuss our ideas. 

From 9.30-11.30 I spend time looking at UI libraries for React Native. I then take a break and grab some water (in a Cambridge Kinetics mug to look more “professional”). I then move onto working on a new system for a client in the medical space. 

At 12.30 I head down to the canteen for a company-funded lunch with Jason. It is a nice opportunity for some social time and good food – today it’s bubble and squeak with chips and beans. 

At 1pm I head back to work and swiftly realise that all the code libraries I’ve been looking at that are compatible with React Native do not work as expected. Sigh. I spend the afternoon working on this and, with Jason’s help, figure out that the allegedly “fully unit tested” package I have been testing other implementations against is, in fact, wrong! Double sigh. I resist the urge to damage valuable company property and instead recalibrate, writing new tests for the most lightweight package against a reference implementation website. 

Sometimes, when problem solving, we must utilise trial-and-error. This can be frustrating, but it makes it more satisfying when we get it right. Cambridge Kinetics is about innovation, which inevitably means there will be mistakes that we can learn from to create better solutions.   

My best advice would be to get as much programming experience as possible

What is the best thing about being in the office?

Probably the office culture– the atmosphere in the office is excellent, with a good balance between chatter and putting our heads down to really focus on work. 

Also, thanks to a careers fair order that arrived too late, we’ve all ended up with company-branded rubber ducks on our desks – mine mainly ends up being absent-mindedly squeaked when I’m thinking about complex code problems! 

What advice would you give undergraduates hoping to follow the same career path as you?

My best advice would be to get as much programming experience as possible – summer internships are a great way to do this since that’s when most students have large amounts of free time, and doing actual work for a company will give you a much better idea of whether a programming career is right for you. Plus you get paid, which meant I could afford to do more stuff in my last two years of university! 

Cambridge Kinetics is currently recruiting for both Graduate & Lead Software Engineers. If you would like to find out more, and to apply, head over to their website cambridgekinetics.com

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