ESO’s young talent taking over the tech scene

  • ESO’s youngest and brightest share some insight into how they got from education to a career at a tech giant.

    Rory Loughran, Apprentice Site Operations Engineer

    Rory Loughran is an Apprentice Site Operations Engineer at ESO Belfast. He attended school at St. Benedict’s College in Randallstown and started working at ESO Belfast in July 2021. Rory’s role includes creating CICD pipelines for ESO applications, production processes, observability and monotiling solutions for our applications.

    Have you always wanted to work in tech?

    Surprisingly, I haven't always wanted to work in tech. Growing up, I loved being creative and art was a real passion of mine from drawing to designing cars, buildings, and aircraft. Without having known anyone that worked or had worked in the tech, I was completely unaware of what a career in the industry could be like. Even though I didn't pursue an artistic career, I like to think that I still have a creative touch!

    What inspired you most to consider a career in tech?

    What inspired me to pursue a career in tech was an event in my high school which took place when I was 14. One of my teachers had her personal social media account hacked and I offered to help -after a day or so I was able to get the account back and figure out the culprit, so maybe it was meant to be! Her relief showed me just how much of an impact technology can have on people.

    From there I started reaching out to companies offering to work for free, in return for any kind of experience and I was lucky enough to get a few responses! From here I was able to grow my knowledge and coupled with my love for technology, I have never looked back.

    What made you decide to apply for an apprenticeship with ESO?

    Applying to ESO was an easy decision, I firmly believe in the company mission which ‘improves community health and safety through the power of data’. I come from a family of nine, where I am the only person who doesn't work for the NHS. From a young age I have been surrounded by healthcare and EMS staff and I always looked up to them.

    When applying for ESO, I thought to myself, I'm not physically inclined to carry a body from a burning building or to perform surgery on an operating table, but I do know my way around a computer, and this was my way to make a difference. I applied to ESO so I could combine my technical skills and love for technology with my eagerness to make real change and support the first responder heroes of the world.

    What training has been provided by ESO for this role?

    Upon joining the company, I was greeted by my mentor on my team. My entire team is based in Austin, Texas, so it was odd initially to work from Belfast. A few zoom calls and emails later I was made to feel welcome and settled in. I also have daily catchups with the team in Texas and frequently chat to the Belfast engineers that work closely with my team, so I’ve learned a lot from those around me.

    In addition, my mentor would spend time with my daily, teaching me new skills while tackling real projects. When I wasn't working on projects, I was able to utilise the plethora of company resources for my own independent training. From working with teams both in Belfast and across the United States I quickly learned a lot and became much more confident.

    What has been your favourite part of the journey so far?

    There’s so much that I've loved so far, but it would have to be getting the chance to build the infrastructure and CICD pipelines for a brand-new application - being able to help build an EMS application from the ground up is a massive milestone for me! I’ve had the urge to help people since I was quite young and always looked up to my family for doing this, so to have the opportunity to help build an infrastructure for medical software that will help millions of people across the United States really puts into perspective how amazing of an opportunity this is.

    Would you have any advice to school leavers considering an apprenticeship?

    People often think you must choose between having a degree or doing an apprenticeship. Many don’t realise becoming an apprentice allows you do both and gain the same qualification as a university student. Only with the addition of a salary, no student debt and invaluable experience- especially with a company like ESO. If I only base my advice from my own experience, then I would strongly advocate school leavers to seek apprenticeship opportunities as their first choice.

    Zoe Latimer – Graduate Software Engineer

    Zoe Latimer is a Graduate Software Engineer at ESO Belfast. She gained her degree in MSci Physics at Queen’s University Belfast and started working at ESO Belfast in June 2022. Zoe’s role includes creating and maintaining features in the Inventory web application as well as backend work with the database.

    What inspired you most to consider a career in tech?

    I’ve always been interested in how things work whether it’s space, people or technology. The inner workings of technology are programming, so I was instantly intrigued. I had a short module in my degree that introduced me to programming which is where I finally found something that applied analytical, logical but also ‘out of the box’ thinking. That’s when my eyes were opened to the endless opportunities in technology.

    How did ESO aid your transition into Graduate Software Engineering?

    I had very little programming experience in university so I was nervous that it would hinder my progress as Graduate Software Engineer. To my surprise, it probably benefited me as I had no bad habits! ESO provided a ‘buddy’ programme whereby you have a key person in your team who you are paired with which was the best way for me to learn. They also have a plethora of training videos available to help get you up to speed with programming basics.

    I think the best aid ESO have is the people they’ve hired, you can approach any person for help or guidance and they will go out of their way to provide what you need or find someone who can. It is such an encouraging environment where no question is deemed silly and you’re not judged for not knowing the right coding terminology or approach for a task. Everyone is learning and everyone is there to help.

    What programming languages do you work with day to day?

    In the front end of the application, my team use a combination of Angular and Typescript which is a superset of JavaScript with static typing. The backend uses C#/dotnet core with entity framework as our ORM framework. Azure is also used to host the backend using function apps and to build and release pipelines with the code in BitBucket. Our automated testing is in Cypress and currently run on Jenkin’s but we’re in the process of moving this to Azure. We have unit tests in C# which use NUnit and NSubstitute.

    What is the most rewarding part of your job?

    For me, it’s having feedback sessions with clients and seeing that app changes have made a real difference to the jobs of emergency medical services. Within my first 2 weeks, I had added a column to the list of medications available which to me seemed quite insignificant but when we had our feedback session, the firefighters praised how much easier it was for them to search for items.

    What support is available for young Graduates working in tech to develop their skills?

    ESO has encouraged all software engineers to partake in the Christmas advent of code challenge to develop coding skills outside of the work we do. There are also slack channels for developers to ask questions about tasks, old code or new code. Outside of ESO, StackOverflow is every coder’s best friend and Git is a really good way of getting help with your code or showing off code you’re proud of! There are a variety of free courses available online to learn to code too!

    What inspired you to join ESO?

    Having previously worked in finance, I wanted to work in a company that’s primary focus was to help people so when I read the ESO company mission, I was immediately intrigued! Their LinkedIn profile made me realise this was a company that valued their employees and encouraged them to socialise and have fun, which was a breath of fresh air. When the graduate role was posted, I knew I had to apply! I love how the company’s goal is to hire people based on their fit within the company and how they align to the core values.

    The general consensus is that anyone can become a good software engineer, but not everyone is a good company fit. ESO also promotes a diverse and inclusive workplace and as a young woman in tech, it’s important to see this representation. Having the opportunity to learn and collaborate with women in senior positions with the company is really inspiring. From its origin story, progression, staff and future, I feel truly valued in ESO and I’m proud to work here.

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