I was four months into my Ph.D, studying machine learning (neural networks and their applications within cyber security) at Queen’s University in Belfast, when I made the decision to leave a research position and join Signifyd.
Early on this year, I saw an online job posting for Signifyd and after doing a bit of background checking, the company seemed like a great match for me. I had to weigh up continuing my Ph.D in a field that I am passionate about, or going into a slightly different industry to gain more backend development experience. Signifyd offered that chance, with a really interesting technology stack.
The company, based in Silicon Valley, California, had just set up an R&D hub in Belfast and it sounded like a good opportunity to join a team that was being built from the ground up. Even better, the role involved machine learning and that fit well with my area of interest, so at the time I didn’t feel like I would be leaving anything behind.
The interview process was quite intense, but wasn’t a drawn-out process, and involved a coding challenge followed by a whiteboard exercise where I had to talk through a piece of software I had developed and answer questions about my product. The coding challenge stood out to me. Signifyd had put a nice spin on it from my past experiences: First they asked me to understand the code and then discuss how I would suggest improvements, similar to a code review. Once I had finished the interviews, the recruitment team was quickly in touch with an offer. That’s when I had to make the big decision: stay in research, or join Signifyd. I am sure you can figure out which choice I made.
When I start a new position anywhere, there are a few things that are important to me:
- How prepared is the company and the team for a new person joining?
- Is everything set up and ready for me?
- How quickly can they support me to get up to speed?
- How comfortable is it to ask questions if you need to?
- Will I feel useful early on and feel like I’m contributing?
I have to say, Signifyd was great in every regard. In a previous role with another IT company, I felt thrown in at the deep end and left to figure things out myself; painfully. Thankfully this was not a repeat experience with Signifyd. Now a few months in, I feel part of the furniture and I’m helping newer team members get up to speed and settled in.
It also helped that before joining Signifyd I was invited for lunch with the Belfast team the week before. This was a valuable experience. I got to meet the team in an informal environment to get rid of some of my pre-first-day nerves. Talking to the team at Signifyd over lunch made me excited to start the following week.
On my first day I was introduced to everyone within the office and the team I would be working with. They walked me through the different apps Signifyd uses on a day-to-day basis: Slack for communication, Zoom for connecting to meetings and Jira for agile project management. We use IntelliJ code environment and Phabricator for our review tool. I had worked with IntelliJ before briefly, but not with Phabricator. Dean, my assigned “buddy” for my first week, showed me some useful features and commands, which helped with the learning curve.
With Dean, I initially went through the process of getting my Macbook up to date with all of the tools and software required to start developing before cloning the codebase, building it and importing into IntelliJ to prepare for the next day.
On day two they gave me a small user story to get me going. This enabled me to make the required changes in code and push to production as quickly as possible. This was a great feeling on my second day, as I was already starting to become familiar with the environment I would be working with!
Over the next day they assigned me a whiteboard session that gave me a general overview of the current software system. They also explained team goals to me. I thought this was a fantastic chance for me to ask questions and it provided me with a more holistic view of Signifyd.
To finish off my first week, my team continually worked to provide me with user stories that would best suit me as the opportunity to learn the ropes quickly. Throughout the week I got to experience the relaxed and friendly working environment, ranging from going for lunch together everyday (provided for free!) to participating in daily stand-up meetings. This made me feel like part of the team after only my first week. I am well into building Java microservices for our product after a number of weeks into my role!
Overall, my on-boarding, and the support I had, made it possible for me to move my work to production so quickly. This has allowed me to feel productive and to feel that I’m adding value for the people I work with.
It’s been a truly positive experience. Our office environment is fun, relaxed and friendly, and you get to meet everyone including the people outside engineering. It’s how I imagined a real startup to feel, with new people joining on a weekly basis.
If you’re wondering, the big question did pop into my head: “Did I make the right decision to move?” I’m pleased to say, it was an easy answer: Yes! It’s a great environment, my work is fun and I am getting to learn new things daily. I’ve already referred my friend Chris who’ll soon be joining our growing team.
I know he’ll have a great first week like me, but my code will always be better!
Laptop photo courtesy of Unsplash; Robert Finn photo courtesy of Signifyd