Beyond software engineering: exploring, sharing, growing.

Anna Slastnikova | Beyond software engineering: exploring, sharing, growing.

The power of curiosity, learning and collaboration with people from various backgrounds.

I'm Anna, a Senior Software Engineer, and have been with Zuhlke for almost five years now. Originally, I’m from Moscow (Russia) where I did my degree in Applied Maths and Physics. During my masters I’ve worked on a paper with neuroscientist analysing the mechanism of migraines and was impressed by the impact that maths and programming can have in that area. Eventually I’ve moved into IT and worked as a Software Engineer in Moscow for a few years before moving to Manchester with my husband. 

My areas of interest include DevOps, Infrastructure as Code and Cloud technologies (I’ve been working with GCP and AWS at Zuhlke) and the .NET stack. I enjoy working in an Agile way in cross-functional teams, tackling some interesting problems – which I’ve come across a lot on different projects at Zuhlke. 

Outside of work I enjoy hiking and I'm always looking for new places to go to (even nearby from where I live). Another special hobby I’ve acquired when moved to UK is comedy improv: I was really fascinated by it and how easily it can be applied in all areas of life (including work) and how much it has in common with Agile!


How I became an engineer

I’ve always been interested in problem solving and how Maths and Software Engineering can help to solve real world problems. This made me choose STEM degreeThough it wasn’t purely Software Engineering related, the university course did include some Computer Science like Discrete Mathematics and Programming, as well as Databases, which allowed me to enter the IT world. But given the vast number of technologies and how fast they’re evolving, I had to take online courses and completed online coding exercises to upskill myself. While I was self-studying, I worked on few pet projects which was both enjoyable and gave me valuable experience. 

Eventually I got a role at Zuhlke where I embarked on a proper journey from Junior to Senior Software Engineer. I got to learn from brilliant people and some of them are truly my role models. I’ve worked on so many different projects in terms of technology, client industry and team structure, and some of them offered possibilities for global collaboration with Zuhlke colleagues from other locations. I’ve learnt a lot about Agile and how it can help tackle variety of challenges. I think at Zuhlke there are these big enablers for career growth which are collaborative ways of working (both within Zuhlke and with customersand culture of constant learning, sharing and feedback in the company. 

 

My involvement in the wider Manchester Tech Community

Thanks to our leadership's support and emphasis on such initiatives, the past year was filled with quite a few engagements with the wider Manchester Tech community. 

Just recently, two of my colleagues and I have finished our involvement with 'TechReturners,' and I must say it was a great experience. Me and my colleagues were asked to create a ‘tech for good brief for the returners to work on a project. We came up with a brief for an app to maximise sunshine intake when out for a walk, and the returners really enjoyed working on this.  Every two weeks, they talked about their progress in sprint review sessions where we could ask some questions or give input. It was so wonderful to see the synergy of returners working together in quite small teams and under challenging circumstances, but they managed to deliver a great app and learn a lot for themselveand achieve their goals. They even educated us in some areas! It’s true that the more we embrace diversity, the more we learn. 

Another memorable experience I had with my colleague was a gig for 'DigitalHer', where we were asked to deliver an IT related workshop for college students. It was really fun to design it given that it’d be online and for quite a large audience. As a result, we came up with a workshop explaining what Agile is and in particular how the User story mapping' framework (which we use in our day-to-day work) can be applied in daily life. 

 

Events and initiatives I'm currently working on at Zuhlke

At the moment there is a lot going on at Zuhlke Manchester, there are few different focus groups who are responsible to work on areas like Diversity & Inclusion, Events, Branding, and so on. While there are core teams owning these areas, anyone outside the group is encouraged to contribute as well, and any ideas osuggestions will be taken aboard. 

Also, every month we gather with the whole Manchester team to exchange updates from our projects and wider Zuhlke Manchester news. We’d also engage in activities to connect with each other, for example we’ve tried running an improv exercise which was a lot of fun, and an activity where we discussed our career journeys in small groups. Essentially anyone can volunteer and run their own workshop, that’s a good practice and it’s nice that there’s a safe space to practice such organisational and leadership skills. 

Another initiative which is taken seriously at Zuhlke is the promotion of Mental Health. The company organised awareness sessions for everyone to learn more about it and understand how stress can affect our lives. In addition, the company provided an opportunity for some of us to train as Mental Health First Aiders, which I was part of and I’m very grateful for it. 

In terms of technology, we have so called Topic Teams which accommodate knowledge and experience from client and internal projects on certain topics such as Cloud and DevOps, Mobile, Data and so on. In the topic teams, people also have an opportunity to initiate their own projects and get some relevant experience. 

It may seem that there are many ongoing initiatives which are quite different from each other, but in fact, they all help us to become broad specialists and apply our knowledge and creativity in any field. 

 

What I enjoy the most about working at Zuhlke 

I enjoy working in collaborative and creative environment where I can pursue new ideas or try myself in different areasThe culture of growth and empowering each other makes me want to go the extra mile and develop myself more. 

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