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Graduate Programme Insider Tips from Checkout

Copyright Richard Moran

ARTICLE SUMMARY

Grad Programmes are such a great way to kick-start your career in tech, even for those coming from a non-tech educational background. Read the experiences of two Checkout.com graduates.

Grad Programmes are such a great way to kick-start your career in tech, even for those coming from a non-tech educational background. We caught up with Diana Ion (Information Security Analyst) and Olivia Unsworth-Brown (Associate Software Engineer) about their experiences on Checkout.com’s Graduate Programme, where they share general application tips, the overall benefits and some of their career highlights so far.

What interested you about a career in technology? 

Graduate programmeOlivia Unsworth-Brown: A career in technology isn’t something that even occurred to me as a possibility when I was at school or university. I was always more interested in tech and how computers worked than perhaps the average person is, but I considered my skills to be best suited to humanities subjects.

When I started learning to code and found online communities of people working in tech with all sorts of educational and career backgrounds, I realised that there were opportunities for me to do this too. Working in technology gives me the opportunity to learn and figure things out every day whilst producing something that has real impact for its users.

Can you tell us a bit about your career/education journey that led you to work at Checkout.com?

Diana Ion: About 3 years into my Bachelor’s in Romania, I realized I do not really like Electronics and Telecommunications and started to look for “cooler” alternatives. First I discovered Blockchain and went on to study on my own and do small projects to gain a better understanding on the subject. Next, I saw cybersecurity as a much more mature industry and decided to pursue a Master’s in Cyber Security. Working on blockchain-related side jobs helped me finance my studies abroad. I still feel that choosing the double degree Master’s offered by EIT Digital was a life-changing decision.

Looking back, I could say my journey would have been completely different if not for a couple of ‘lucky’ encounters. However, the constant thought of “I need to do better” made me always look outside my comfort zone and chase opportunities across Europe. From a first couple of internships in Bucharest, to freelancing in London and working for a research institute in Vienna, while moving around between the Netherlands, France, UK and Austria, everything was a complete emotional rollercoaster. Pretty early before my graduation, I started looking for graduate opportunities in cyber security and went through a handful of interviews. By far the most amazing interview experience was with Checkout.com. All the people I interacted with, from initial recruitment to final interview were helpful and responsive.

What do you think the benefits of starting your career with a grad programme are? 

Olivia Unsworth-Brown: Coming from a “non-traditional” (though increasingly common) non-technical background, I was particularly keen to join a graduate programme. Graduate programmes are designed to give you opportunity to learn whilst working in a context where the company has made the decision that they want to invest in you as an individual to ensure that you can flourish. What really stuck out to me about checkout.com‘s graduate scheme is that you immediately start working within a technical team rather than jumping around multiple teams, giving you the opportunity to really get to know the codebases and team that you are working on.

Any tips for people who are interested in applying to the graduate scheme next year?

Diana Ion, Information Security Analyst

Diana Ion: I would say 100% go for it and don’t be scared. I had the chance to work for other companies before, but Checkout.com has been exceeding my expectations from day 1. The transparency of the recruitment process and the dedication of the people involved was beyond amazing. Also, the company culture is quite different from what I’ve experienced before. I feel it’s much easier to talk to people from different departments; everyone is really ‘approachable’, something I was not used to. Whenever I have a problem, I can find someone to help me in no time!

Olivia Unsworth-Brown: My top tips for applying to this graduate scheme (and indeed any graduate scheme or job) are to find the right balance of really highlighting your skills – there is no need to underplay anything – whilst being honest about what you don’t know yet and want to learn. The most successful interviews I’ve had have been ones where I haven’t known an answer to a question. Discussing your initial thoughts and highlighting that you are making assumptions, then asking an insightful question is always much better than making an answer up. I initially thought that a company like checkout.com would never hire me with my background for my first job in tech, but it is always worth a shot. Applying to checkout.com has changed my life and I will forever be grateful that I just submitted my application!

What’s been a highlight of your time at Checkout.com so far?

Diana Ion: Apart from the incredible London office, I think simply the fact that I get to work in a field I’m extremely passionate about and having on-going learning opportunities it’s something I’m really grateful for. However, if I need to mention one thing, it would be the chance to go to the Black Hat London conference and meet cyber security experts face to face.

What sort of work/projects have you found yourself working on?  

Olivia Unsworth-Brown: I work on the Portal team as a Backend Engineer. The Portal team produces the dashboard used by merchants where they can view all of the payments, disputes, returns etc. associated with their account. As my team within Portal is working on the Dashboard for merchants using the newer payment scheme, I have had the opportunity to work on numerous new features, contributing towards the team’s long-term goals. I get to see projects from start to finish, using .NET Core and various cloud-based AWS services.

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