My journey from Tech Returners to landing job at AO as a Data Engineer

I am a data engineer with 6+ years’ technology experience in India. I had previously worked as a data engineer in an Apache Hadoop environment, handling ETL jobs and transforming data in batch processing mode.

In January 2020, I had the wonderful opportunity to relocate to the UK with my spouse, so I decided to quit my job in India. Unfortunately, due to the covid pandemic, I ended up taking a career break in the UK. Luckily after eight months, I got a call from Tech Returners, who ran a sponsorship program in partnership with AO. I applied for the returnship program and attended three rounds of interviews. I leapt around the living room with happiness when I found out that I’d got a place on the program! At last, I had hope that I could soon restart my career.

My Return to Work began with Tech Returner’s Program sponsored by AO

The tech industry is fast-changing, and strong cloud skills are essential.

When I started looking through the 8-week program, I explored the technology skills covered in the course.

I was delighted to see that the course focussed on AWS, creating Lambda functions with Serverless and other cloud services using Terraform. We would also cover Agile, JavaScript, C#, React and CI-CD pipelines. The first lectures concentrated on cultivating a growth mindset which gave me extra confidence to achieve and learn new skills. 

I was determined to complete the entire program, as this would help me switch from legacy to cloud-based solutions and allow me to attend interviews with AO’s data team.

Growth mindset 

The sixteen Tech Returners were split into four agile teams and supplied with a project brief designed by AO. The team was surrounded by a growth mindset which helped all of us learn together. As a team, we discussed project solutions and challenges, with continuous feedback from both Tech Returners and AO staff, who supported us anytime we needed. We also had the wonderful opportunity to meet AO’s technical team through lightning talks, where we could ask questions about their specialist areas and find out what it is like to work for AO.  

Designing a Serverless web application using AWS services  We created our AWS account and tagged our team members as IAM users. We experimented with almost every AWS service required to create a web application, right from S3 storage to AWS API gateway.

We worked remotely simulating an agile work environment with sprint planning and daily stand-ups. Every other week we had sprint reviews which provided us with an opportunity to present and receive feedback. We learned and changed our perceptions about TDD and some of our design decisions after hearing input from AO’s Tech team. Everything made us feel like part of the office. 

We improved as a team after every sprint review. We gained a lot of knowledge in cloud development, like how to handle events, write lambda functions and the advantages of using terraform.

After the 8-week journey with Tech Returners and working with AO’s tech teams, we were finally ready to present our serverless web application to an AO audience. It was very tense, but we nailed it. After the presentations, we started attending interviews, and after a 6-week long journey with three rounds of interviews, here I am – an AOer!

I was excited to join AO’s data team during the migration phase from legacy systems to cloud-based data engineering. AO has supported me very much. The onboarding was smooth. They assigned me a buddy whom I can reach out to for anything I want to know. My buddy was there to answer my silly questions, which was a great help to me in the first few weeks! 

As part of my training, I have had the opportunity to attend workshops on Data Mesh, AWS, and Kafka, which are pretty new to me. It is a wonderful learning phase on the way to becoming a solid Data Engineer at AO. The experience I gained with workshops will help me in the future to work confidently. The Data team is very welcoming, and I felt very comfortable engaging with them.

I had the opportunity to work with several data teams like Entity Matching, BI, Data Infrastructure Platform, and Visitor.

I was able to experience what it is like to work with multiple technologies, including Python, Java, AWS Step Functions, Lambdas, SSIS for ETL jobs, and real-time data processing with Kafka.

With an agile methodology, I can see the value delivered by emerging technologies is multiplied across all teams. Every team has its unique style of working and there is a lot to explore!

Being an at-home mum and becoming a back-to-work employee meant finding new ways to balance work and life. My previous experience was all before the covid pandemic – where the work-life balance was different, but now due to covid, handling home-schooling and balancing work has completely changed. AO has supported me in this transition phase; working from home, taking care of my child and home-schooling was easier than imagined.

I want to thank AO for sponsoring programs like Tech Returners who help people with a career gap to come back and become better technical engineers.