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Meet Bethan Collier: Back End Developer at Ripjar

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ARTICLE SUMMARY

We recently had the pleasure of getting to know Bethan Collier, Back End Developer at Ripjar. In this quick-fire Q&A we got to know why Bethan focused on data science, why her career highlight motivated her further and what tools and resources have helped her in her journey so far.

Read what Bethan had to say about working in the tech sector. 

Was it an easy decision to study Computing at University? 

I actually didn’t know what I wanted to do when the time came to apply for university. Maths was my favourite subject at school, and the only one I actually enjoyed doing homework for, but I didn’t have the confidence back then to apply for it because I didn’t think I was smart enough.  

I applied for International Wildlife Biology at the University of South Wales as I’d always loved watching animal documentaries and thought that could be a fun career, but I ended up dropping out in November as it just wasn’t for me. I’d actually been missing doing maths work and had started learning to code as a hobby in my free time. So, I waited out the year and got a job in a hotel to pay my rent and then reapplied at the same university for Computer Mathematics, giving me the best of both worlds! I enjoyed it a lot and came out with a first-class honour, so although I took the long way, I ended up making the right decision. 

What attracted you to Ripjar in the first place? 

Q&A with a back End developer at Ripjar sharing career advice and top tips

During my Data Science Masters I was job hunting. I hadn’t heard of Ripjar until I saw their Machine Learning Engineer job ad. It immediately struck me as somewhere I’d like to work; the work environment looked incredible, the people friendly and the work exciting. Ripjar helps global companies and governments to detect criminal behaviour, ranging from financial crime to terrorism. That is not only exciting, but incredibly important, which feels good to be a part of.

What made you decide to focus on Data Science then Machine Learning? 

A Data Science Masters was the best way for me to continue my education, which I really wanted to do, and stick with my enjoyment of both mathematics and computing. I most enjoyed Machine Learning as it encompassed them both. It’s also incredibly satisfying to tweak a model until it can predict independently; small things like what digit the handwritten number shows, up to more complex things like predicting what country of origin a person comes from based upon only their name. Higher complexity with machine learning leads to ever more powerful and interesting tools, such as deep fake videos that are almost impossible to distinguish from truth. 

What do you enjoy most about your current company & role and how does it fit in with your career goals? 

Q&A with a back End developer at Ripjar sharing career advice and top tips

I most enjoy the company environment. Everyone is incredibly friendly and fun to work with, and I think that’s rare. We have lots of company-wide channels for people to get involved with, like gaming and baking channels, and we have office-wide parties when the time calls for it. We are also gifted with a pool table in the office. These things really improve the atmosphere and allow new starters, like I once was, to get to know people in a fun way.  

Unfortunately, with the pandemic, we haven’t been able to gather in the office in a long time, but that’s another thing so great about Ripjar; the transition to remote working was smooth and now it’s almost like normal. It’s a great place to work. 

 In terms of my role,  I’m surprisingly no longer a Machine Learning Engineer; I did a stint in one of the engineering teams for 6 months to improve my background engineering and ended up staying there permanently. I’m now a Junior Full Stack Engineer, learning under some of the best engineers around, including one of the Ripjar founders.  

My career goals haven’t changed: I want to enjoy what I do, and I want to be good at what I do.  

What’s been your most memorable project to date? 

My most memorable project is the first one I did in my engineering team, because it was my first. I got thrown right into the deep end, which is why I enjoyed it so much. We have a Data Processing Unit which is where we store our data; I did some final steps to link systems up to it so that customers would now access the data via this unit, rather than have a copy on-site. Having their own copy was not an issue when we had only a small customer base, but now we’re growing it’s much more efficient to store our data in one place and have it accessible.  

What’s been your career highlight so far? 

I was shuffled to the top of the pool ladder. I mentioned earlier that we have a pool table in the office. The Ripjar Pool Ladder is a way to play competitively; we play as part of a leaderboard. Every so often the pool ladder is shuffled so people get a chance to play different people. I was shuffled to the top of the ladder, which made me the pool champion for a very short period! 

Also, the amount of growth I’ve done since graduating from university. I’ve learned a lot since starting here, stuff that you can’t learn except by doing and I’ve had great people to learn from. A saying I heard at Ripjar describes how I view the state of my knowledge: “the more you know, the more you understand how little you know”. I’m a lot more confident with my skillset than I’ve been before, and that’s a great feeling.  

What emerging technologies or trends are you most excited by? 

Q&A with a back End developer at Ripjar sharing career advice and top tips

There are breakthroughs in technology like optical sensors that mimic the human eye and electronic skin that can sense temperature and touch which are very exciting. There are possibilities here to help people that need transplants and such. It’s also another step to creating humanoids. We just have to be careful that we don’t create an ex-machine any time soon.  

I like the remote working trend at the moment; I think it’ll stick around indefinitely for the jobs that can hack it. It means parents can do the school-run, we can live on the opposite side of the country from where we work, there’s no commuting and more time to the day for those of us that it suits.  

Any tools, resources, organisations that you have found valuable? 

When I moved over to engineering, I hadn’t had much experience in JavaScript; I ended up getting basic knowledge using sites like Codecademy and Codewars. There were also new technologies like Apache Kafka and Ansible that I was getting some experience in, so I turned my attention to newsletters and started reading the manuals.  

Q&A with a back End developer at Ripjar sharing career advice and top tips

If you want to learn more about working life at RipJar and what roles they are currently hiring for, check out their Company Profile. 

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