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Spotlight Series: Lucy Ironmonger, Tech Lead, Zuto

Lucy Ironmonger, Tech Lead, Zuto

ARTICLE SUMMARY

Lucy is a software developer turned tech lead for car finance marketplace, Zuto on the front-end acquisition team, working with a nice mix of React, NestJS, and TypeScript.

Her route here has not been a direct one: Studying an English degree led to falling in love with DJing, which led to 10 years working as Operations Director for an electronic music school, alongside hosting Manchester’s biggest techno events. Throw into that night school to train to be a plumber, then an electrician. After a lot of avenues explored, 2020 was crunch time: Lucy’s wife gave birth to their daughter, and that seemed like the perfect timing to do a 6-month intensive bootcamp to train as a full-stack developer (said no-one ever)! She hasn’t looked back since: Lucy joined Zuto in Jan 2022 as a junior dev, and now heads up their front-end team.

WE SAT DOWN WITH LUCY TO CHAT ABOUT HER AVERAGE WORKING DAY, WHY IT’S IMPORTANT TO CONSTANTLY BE LEARNING AND WHY IF YOU HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO GET INTO TECH YOU SHOULD BE GRABBING IT WITH BOTH HANDS.

WHAT DOES AN AVERAGE WORK DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU? 

We start off with laughing therapy – aka daily standup. Here we give work updates, and end with ‘small wins’, where everyone thinks of a positive from the previous day. You’d be surprised how hard people find this – hence it being specifically a small win; they are rarely work related and often food related. We love this on our team, as it gives you a little window into what everyone has been up to.

I try to stack useful meetings (if they need to happen) in the morning so the team can get on with deep work undisturbed in the afternoon. Often I will have additional calls with the product owner, UX designer, web analyst, and others in the business in order to help with mapping out the plan ahead – what tickets and in what priority order will help us move the dial, how to approach them in ways that will skill up the team, along with orchestrating what additional members we may need to hire to achieve this.

If I was on a curling team I’d be the one doing the backwards skating, frantically brushing the ice to help, whatever that thing is, get down the ice smoothly.

That’s kind of how I see my job.

On the tech side, taking ownership of the domain is a big thing for me – it’s a domain we all inherited joining the team, and there’s a lot to go at to be sure we’re happy with it. As a front-end team, having good observability of our domain is crucial to avoid fires– so building in solid monitoring and alerting, developing playbooks and putting in good knowledge-sharing sessions with the team is key. Taking time to look at the logs to see where things are falling down is definitely a skill I’m developing as Tech Lead, and these can often lead us to opportunities.

My role requires me to spread myself between coding and the other parts of my role – 1-2-1s with team members and the looking ahead part. Despite the title ‘Technical Lead’, I am actually not the most technical person on the team – far from it. The devs spend more time with their head in the code: they are the technical advisors. We make decisions collectively, and I do a lot of asking the (no question is too stupid) questions.

HAS ANYONE EVER TRIED TO STOP YOU FROM LEARNING AND DEVELOPING IN YOUR PROFESSIONAL LIFE, OR HAVE YOU FOUND THE TECH SECTOR SUPPORTIVE? 

The tech sector, and Zuto in particular, I have found to be really supportive of learning. Zuto has a Progression and Development Guild specifically for keeping the focus on how we can help people progress and hit their goals.

Every other Friday is a day to focus on whatever you feel is important to you – learning a new coding language, firming up concepts, coding a pet project – whatever you feel is going to help you become a better dev.

Safeguarding that time is key, and not writing it off by doing your ‘normal’ work!

HAVE YOU EVER FACED INSECURITIES AND ANXIETIES DURING YOUR CAREER, AND HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THEM?

For me only being a few years into my tech career, it’s hard not to compare my technical standing to the other amazing Tech Leads at Zuto, who each have at least 10+ years working in this industry, and genuinely all put the ‘Tech’ in ‘Tech Lead’.

However, I have come to realise that this is potentially a strength rather than a weakness. I have to ask a lot more questions and break things down into very simple terms for my own benefit. By doing this repeatedly, it has helped me overcome my fear of looking dumb, and I think it has made the team feel more comfortable with doing it too, which has built a lot of trust and camaraderie.

Our jobs in tech rely on us being well-rounded individuals – so if you’re like me and worried about not having all the technical chops right now, don’t let that overshadow what you might make up in spades for in other areas such as soft skills, or good energy.

ENTERING THE WORLD OF WORK CAN BE DAUNTING. DO YOU HAVE ANY WORDS OF ADVICE FOR ANYONE FEELING OVERWHELMED? 

If you’re getting into tech, then grab it by both hands – you don’t know where that next opportunity will come from so make yourself and what you’re doing known and visible. Once you’re working in tech, there are no finish lines; no matter how hard you push there will be always more you can do and learn, and that can seem overwhelming too.

In both these scenarios, to counter it, if you know that you put the hard work in, then also do due diligence on giving yourself a break. This won’t be when you reach the end of the to do list, as that time will likely never come. Don’t overwork, and do make time for your physical and mental health, as it will put you in a good place for when you do turn your mind to work.

If you don’t make time for your wellness, you will be forced to make time for illness. Read that again!

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE OTHER WOMEN WANTING TO REACH THEIR CAREER GOALS IN TECHNOLOGY? 

Back yourself, work hard and be brave when it comes to the stuff you find scary, as that’s where the growth is. Lean on the people and communities that you surround yourself with for support; just make sure to give back to others trying to do the same when you have capacity.

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