Meet the software development team-member – Emma Nicholson

Emma Nicholson

Software Developer

What does the software development team do?

Most of our projects are website developments – some for clients and others for First Actuarial itself. We use the Model-View-Controller (MVC) framework and the agile methodology.

What are your role and responsibilities within the team?

Like everyone on the team, I’m involved in the planning of each fortnightly sprint. A sprint is a period of time within which we agree to complete a set amount of work. We figure out what we need to do as a team, and once we’ve planned the sprint, everyone gets involved in all the tasks – whether it’s developing a new website or tool, maintaining websites and systems or fixing bugs.

One of our bigger projects is firstval, an internal tool to help our actuaries produce pension scheme valuations. This involves liaising with the client teams, and then coding our clients’ scheme data for firstval. No two pension schemes are identical, so each one needs a customised approach. We’ve all received training to do this.

What will your work involve today?

I’ll probably spend most of today loading schemes onto firstval. We’re also starting work on a new website, a booking system for pension scheme workshops. If a scheme is offering pension guidance events or sessions – either on a one-to-one or group basis – its members will be able to use the system to book a place.

How does First Actuarial support your professional development?

First Actuarial are open to supporting our training requests as long as we can justify them in some way. I’m studying for a general pensions course provided by the Pensions Management Institute. I know that if anything else sparked my interest, and I could show how it would benefit me, the company would support my request.

All software development staff receive regular security training, as well as other courses in new areas such as GDPR.

The software development team recently had a training week. It was great. Everyone was given an area of IT to research. I looked into unit testing and how best to integrate it into overall website development. I investigated the best frameworks to use, and how we can use testing to improve security.

Other areas that team-members researched included .Net Core and standardising elements that we repeat across all our projects.

If there’s any spare time at the end of a sprint, we are also free to research any areas that we think might help the team.

Quote Mark

I really like how relaxed it is here. It’s my first job, so I have nothing to compare it with, but I’ve never really felt any pressure. There’s a level of trust that you will do your work to the best of your ability. If something goes wrong, then we learn from it rather than blaming others.

How do you see your career progressing at First Actuarial?

I’ve been working at First Actuarial for about two and a half years. It was my first job after leaving university. When I started, I’d done some programming at university but I had very little website experience. They’ve since trained me up, so I’m much more involved in the planning side now, figuring out what we need as well as doing the work. I enjoy that, because it’s always good to do a bit of everything. If I spent every day doing programming or testing I’d get bored, but there’s lots of variety.

It’s a flat structure, so I’m working at more or less the same level as all my colleagues. People do gain more responsibility, but without becoming everyone’s boss.

Can you describe the working culture?

I really like how relaxed it is here. It’s my first job, so I have nothing to compare it with, but I’ve never really felt any pressure. There’s a level of trust that you will do your work to the best of your ability. If something goes wrong, then we learn from it rather than blaming others.

What makes you happy about working for First Actuarial?

This goes back to what I said about the varied work we get. With the fortnightly sprints, we get something new every two weeks, and we’re never stuck on the same thing for a long period. We know what we’re doing, and we get it done.

And the people. Everyone’s really, really nice. We have frequent social events, so we do get to know people outside the software development team as well. It’s a very good environment.

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