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Monika Kucinska, Trainee Software Engineer: "How coding became my career rather than something I just did for fun"

  • Tell us a bit about your background before joining Kainos

    My tech journey is not the conventional one. I did my bachelor’s degree in Medical Biology. My specialisation – Molecular and Biochemical Diagnostics – required knowledge from different scientific disciplines and focused mostly on working in the lab. 

    Back then, the only coding experience I had was some basic knowledge of C++ and HTML gained during high school. When you study for a degree that needs you to be versatile in everything science related, at some point, you become used to learning new things constantly. So, it’s no wonder I started digging more into programming at some point.

    It was a time when coding was just something I did in my spare time. I didn’t think about changing my career path completely. My perspective shifted somewhere around my 2nd year at university. We had many practical classes in the lab, where we used software to interpret or visualise the results. I remember one of my professors saying something about the software not being useful for certain tasks, because “the people who wrote this couldn’t understand what we need it for”. If I had to pinpoint when exactly I started to see myself working in tech, it was that exact moment. I remember thinking that maybe there is a need for people like me – people with different backgrounds and perspectives on things. That day, coding became a possible career path, instead of being something I did for fun.

    I used my spare time to learn enough on my own to do a conversion master’s degree in Computer Science at Newcastle University. During my time in the UK, I heard about Kainos. Back then I planned to join one of the Academies at Kainos after finishing my degree. However Covid started and all my classes switched to the online version, and the place where I used to work was closed. I decided to come back to Poland giving up on my plan. Almost two years later, by complete accident, I found out Kainos have an office in Gdansk - only 50km from my home. The decision to apply to the Kainos Academy was an easy one. It was like the universe saying to me that this is my path. My application was successful, and I started the Academy a few months later. 

    The Academy was split into a few sections. The first three weeks focused on building a web application. By the end of each week, we had to prepare a group project based on some requirements given to us and present it to others. In the first week, it was an SQL project, next, we had to build a backend on top of it, and eventually also a frontend. 

    After that, we spent a week learning about other topics such as security, cloud and testing. 

    The final three weeks focused on group work. This time, however, each group got their board with a backlog. We had to estimate the tickets and work towards creating a working app by the end of a given time. They were also daily calls, where we shared what we're currently working on and how we progress with that work. Those final weeks showed us what the typical day of the developer looks like, and made the eventual project assignment process a bit easier, as we already knew a bit about what to expect.

    What appealed to you most about Kainos?

    I'm sure every one of us has our list of things that an employer needs to have to be considered "good" in our eyes. I also have one, and at some point in my life, I've started to look more carefully at a potential employer before I even think about sending my CV. This approach goes against the popular trend of sending as many CVs as possible when looking for a job, but it makes sure that you end up in a place that is good for you. I believe that Kainos is that place for me. 

    Before I came here, I was afraid. When you are a woman coming to work in a male-dominated industry that is to be expected. I think a lot of us women deal with this type of internal imposter syndrome which sometimes prevents us from applying for a job, or even getting into tech. It makes it even more important to find an employer without bias.

    I knew Kainos had really good values and a strong culture of Diversity and Inclusion and this isn’t only on paper – they really do put this into practice. Upon joining the company, I found out that there are employee network groups in Kainos that bring people together and allow them to raise awareness, educate and be a voice for our diverse workforce. People at Kainos care about the company's values and share them. You can be yourself, and nobody will treat you differently because of that.

    What have you worked on in Kainos

    Before I joined Kainos my only experience was some Java programming I did during my degree, and some frontend experience I gained in my free time. Those skills definitely helped me during the Academy, where we worked on writing a web application. After the Academy finished we were all assigned to real projects. I landed on a project that had neither frontend nor backend. 

    The project focused on migrating data to the cloud. The only thing I knew from the stack was SQL. I didn't have any prior experience with cloud services, but my team was very welcoming toward me and made sure that I got help when I needed it. 

    What I found interesting and amazing at the same time was the fact that I was not left to look at others when they did their job. I was a part of the team and could contribute to the project - from day one I got some tickets to do.

    The result was always clearly stated, and my team provided me with the tools and knowledge I needed to complete those tasks. My colleagues were always there to answer any of my questions, which helped me gain knowledge way quicker than if I had to dig through the documentation on my own. 

    Letting me work on the project from the start was surprising, but it also gave me a lot. Being able to do things by myself helped me develop my skills more quickly. It also gave me confidence in myself and my abilities. I felt like part of the team, which improved my experience.

    What’s your favourite thing about working with Kainos?

    The people. I met a lot of people during my time at the Academy. Even though we’re all on different projects now, we still keep in touch – have a casual chat in the kitchen when we meet in the office, or just write to each other if we’re from different locations. There are also people I’ve met on my project, in the office or even during one of many training sessions. People in Kainos are very friendly and helpful, so you always have someone to reach out to if you need some help.  

    What tips would you give to graduates joining Kainos?

    Above all - don't be afraid! Everyone was once in your shoes, so nobody will expect you to know everything. If you make a mistake, learn from it. Failures can sometimes teach us more than any success ever could. Don't be afraid to ask questions, and remember that there are no stupid ones. And don't worry if you don't have a strong IT background - there are people in Kainos who will help you out if you need it.  

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