Katie Coughlan EvolvE Recruitment Lead

EE Life Thu 13th January, 2022

A Q&A with EvolvE consultant Natalia Oskina

A personal account of EvolvE – Equal Experts’ mid-level talent development programme  

Equal Experts is known for delivering no-nonsense, reliable solutions for our customers. That’s down to our people; our consultants typically have over 10 years development experience, which means we can deliver excellence fast. 

That’s great, but we also want to grow talent from within, so now we’re putting a spotlight on the next generation of software developers through EvolvE, EE’s very own talent development programme

What is EvolvE?

EvolvE is an accelerated career development programme for mid-level software developers. It’s a UK-wide programme which focuses on Development, DevOps and Data, with the goal of creating the next generation of EE consultants. 

EvolvE candidates generally have around 3-6 years experience in development, DevOps or data roles, so they’re already good at what they do. What we do helps them to gain a more varied and challenging experience, more quickly, so they can expedite their career progression and provide even more value to the organisation. It’s a win-win!

How Equal Experts delivers expert career development

EvolvE participants join the EE team on a permanent basis and complete a 2-3 year, personalised development programme, working alongside senior consultants on customer-facing projects. They will work on between 3 and 6 different projects during their time with us, and have the opportunity to influence which areas they are exposed to, depending on their existing skills and areas of interest. Mentoring happens on an ongoing basis, and participants can take 2 non-billable days per month to develop their skills with additional certifications, training, hackathons and workshops.

What’s it like to go through the EvolvE programme?

Here we asked EvolvE participant Natalia Oskina what the programme has meant for her as a mid-level developer in a traditionally male-dominated industry:

Natalia, what was your background before joining the EvolvE programme?

I’d been working as a developer in another company for about 3 years, since getting my degrees in Computer Science and Creative Media. To be honest, I’d originally wanted to get into game development, but since getting my MSc in Software Engineering here in the UK, I really wanted to focus on that going forward. 

What skills did you already have that EE knew would make you a great match? 

My main experience was in Java-based languages, and I had knowledge of what delivery and clean code might look like in the pipeline. I had been involved with client-facing projects in the banking and insurance industries, and was used to working with Agile, which is a core focus for many of Equal Experts’ customers. 

How did you find out about EvolvE, and what attracted you to the programme?

I was a mid-level developer, and I was looking for more complex projects that would offer increased challenge in a variety of scenarios. A colleague knew someone going through EvolvE and thought it might be the right opportunity for me.

Who has been instrumental in your learning during your time on EvolvE?

Steve Morgan leads the EvolvE project, and he’s who I go to for suggestions on which projects would be good for me to develop the skills I want to work on. Steve knows a lot of people in the company, so he’s always able to give me pointers on who is best placed to help me with specific advice. However it really is my own responsibility to drive my progress. For example, if I feel I’ve learned as much as I can on one project, or I have an interest in a specific area, I’ll go to Steve and the network he’s built for suggestions on where my next move should be for more challenges. 

What’s been your most exciting EE project to date? What role did you play, and what did you learn from it? 

My most challenging project to date has been working for a large multinational retail client. It was a demanding project for everyone involved, and it was definitely the biggest responsibility I’ve had so far with Equal Experts. We were building a high-performance, cloud provider agnostic crypto as a service solution that enables this large multinational organisation to meet stringent data security requirements. I was involved in product support, so failure was NOT an option, which made the whole thing quite exciting! It was interesting to see the different approaches of the consultants on the team.

What was your biggest challenge?

My biggest challenge has been the pressure of delivering on the project whilst still learning. Although I’m still developing my skills, I’m also working on an equal footing as a developer alongside consultants who have 10+ years of experience, so I’m conscious of the need to be competent and consistent for the customer at all times. Making sure I bridge the gap between myself and my more experienced colleagues when I’m customer facing can sometimes feel quite intense. 

Has anything surprised you about the programme – or have you learned anything about yourself that you didn’t realise before? 

For me, the biggest surprise was being able to choose which direction I want to take in my self-development. If, for example, I want to develop my skills in front or back end work, or try mobile, Equal Experts will try to find a project which supports that. While I enjoy becoming more specialised in my core technologies I have found I really enjoy getting exposure to a wider range of techs and broadening my skill set. Also, if something interests me in a project I’m already working on, there are lots of possible contact points for me to get exposure to that at the same time. 

What are your goals now that you’re coming to the end of the programme? 

I want to stay with Equal Experts as a professional consultant. There’s still a lot I can learn from the breadth of experience in the people who work in the organisation, and ultimately my goal is to become a lead consultant.

Tell me how EE have supported your career planning throughout the programme?

The EvolvE programme is very self-driven, but everyone I’ve worked with is really helpful whenever I have something I think I need to work on. Whatever I decide I want to learn more about, I know there will always be someone with that expertise who I can talk to. 

What would you say to anyone who might be considering applying for the EvolvE programme? 

If you’re someone who wants to grow quickly, and you have an interest in more than just one speciality, the EvolvE programme will give you that. It’s ideal for mid-level developers who want to become more competent and competitive not just in their current field of expertise, but in a broader sense as well.