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My Kainos story so far: From App Camp to placement to Solutions Architect

  • Hey folks, my name is Kyle and I’m a Solution Architect here at Kainos. I started working here when I was 19 - over a decade ago! I first heard about Kainos in 2011 through their old summer scheme called App Camp, which was a competition to see who could build the best iOS app, with cool prizes like Macbooks and iPhones. Although this camp isn’t around anymore, there is another great program for young people called CodeCamp for young people to get involved in.

    When I took part in App Camp, I was just finishing my first year of university. I couldn’t afford an iPhone and I was still rocking one of those indestructible Nokia bricks, so I signed right up! The App Camp application process was super competitive, only 10 students were selected out of 120+ applicants. As a matter of fact, my application was one of the unsuccessful ones! When Tom Gray, Kainos' CTO at the time, called me to let me know I wasn’t successful, I asked if I could still attend the training. I figured I could use the opportunity to learn how to make apps even if I wasn’t a part of the competition. Tom agreed, and Kainos has been stuck with me ever since.

    By the end of the camp, I had developed an app focused on Autism awareness and support – I received a plaque from my local mayor at the time for this. After the camp, Kainos offered me an interview for a placement and then before the end of my final year, I had signed a contract for a full-time role after graduation.

    My interest in computing only really started after I got to university. Back then I had no idea what I wanted to do as a career and my A-level results weren’t great. I didn’t have good enough grades to do a full computing course, so I picked Computing with Education because it had lower entry criteria, and even then I only got in through clearing.

    When I got to university, I discovered programming and became kind of obsessed with it. To this day I still write code as a hobby. Big thanks to Professor Black at Ulster University because she recognised my interest and helped me build a case to transfer to a full computing course in my second year at Ulster University. I had to take on the extra modules that I missed, so I had a LOT of coursework, and in the end, I graduated with the top mark in BSc Hons Computing so I’ll give myself a wee pat on the back for that one.

    Just to say, the competitiveness and pressure of GCSEs and A-Levels have always been a sensitive topic for young people, even university is a lot. If you want my advice, don’t beat yourself up. Your grades have nothing to do with your value as a person. Find something you like and try your best.

    I’ve done a bit of everything at Kainos, from Evolve (our NHS iOS app offerings) to Smart (our automated testing platform for Workday) to Digital Services (working as a consultant and delivering transformations within UK Gov).

    One thing I’ve always appreciated is the aptly named career lattice - lattice, not ladder. Kainos support career growth that goes left to right, not just up or down. For example, I’ve known Software Engineers who decided to become Product Specialists, Architects who became Test Leads etc. To that end, my role these days involves a bit of everything, from solution architecture (designing I.T. systems and overseeing the delivery of those systems), technical recruitment, presales, consultancy, people management, internal capability, strategy and so on. I even do some event organising. My ‘ 5-year plan’ (do people still call it that?) would be to become the Head of Engineering, so that is the goal I am working towards!

    Kainos has always been good at giving you the space to find your strength and then lean into it, a career is not always a one-directional thing.

    I don’t want to sound like an old man because I’m only 30, that’s still young right? But I’m proud of what I have achieved so far in my career, however, I also have a lot of people to thank for my journey, a lot of mentors and lessons learned.

    If there’s one bit of advice I could give someone starting out or even looking to progress, here’s the advice I still give myself: What you know is perishable, so keep learning new things.

    Our industry is one of rapid change, new technologies and ways of working are showing up every day. What was standard practice 10 years ago is likely ancient history now. Just look at the Metaverse, remember those old piracy ads that said “you wouldn’t download a car”? Well, now you sort of can with NFTs.

    The point is technology is always changing. If you want to be the best you can be at your job, be the most up-to-date. 

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