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National Coding Week: Meet the iProov Coders

15 September 2022

At iProov, our mission is to make the internet a safer place for people and organizations around the world. There’s a huge amount of complex effort that goes into this, and for National Coding Week we decided to put our technology experts into the spotlight. 

Our two main coding branches are our Science and Technology teams. These teams work on a huge range of projects. Some are involved in training AI to protect against increasingly sophisticated digital injected attacks. Others focus on analyzing our completion rates and identifying areas to make our technology more efficient. 

Although each person’s journey into code is different, what’s similar is their passion for coding. We posed three questions to our iProov coders:

  1. What got you interested in coding?
  2. What do you enjoy about working in coding?
  3. What piece of advice would you give to someone looking to get into coding?

Read on for some fascinating insights!

What got you interested in coding?

Evgeny: I started working as an electronics/control and instrumentation engineer. The whole industry shifted away from electronics to computer-based solutions. For me, it was a very natural move toward computer-based systems, and along the way, I got into coding.

Gemma: My first experience of coding was Lego Mindstorms when I was 10. It allowed you to build a lego robot and program its behavior with some simple logic that utilized its sensors and motors. I found it really fun but I didn’t really “get into coding” until my first year at university when I studied Physics. I had a module on Python programming and I discovered that I could use Python to analyze data from my experimental modules much quicker and in a way that was more interpretable. By my second year, I was an assistant tutor on the first-year Python module. Teaching others to code further solidified my appreciation of code as a tool to solve varied and complex problems.

Will: I enjoyed being able to build things that leveraged connecting friends, and displaying cool colors on the screen was great! Unlike Lego, your parents couldn’t step on and injure their feet on a computer… at least with the hardware that’d run Windows ’95!

Richard: In 1980, I was 12 years old and my brother had just got a Sinclair ZX80 with 1k RAM. He had just figured out what coding was and shared a simple ten-line bubble sort algorithm that he had written in (Super)BASIC. It took him an hour to convey the concept of IFs and loops, and what code was, before it clicked. At the time Maths was my favorite subject at school and so the first thing I said was:  “Wow! Math that moves!” I was instantly hooked.

Laolu: I decided to study an optional computer engineering module at university which got me into coding…although I do also give credit to a favorite TV show of mine: Silicon Valley!

Paola: Coming from a country with high unemployment rates (especially for young people) I was looking for a career that was both super interesting and something I enjoyed but would also ensure opportunities for myself that were well-paid both in my country and abroad. Learning to code fitted the mold for me. 

Peter: I started coding as part of my MSc, but honestly, I wanted to find the most efficient way of answering simple questions that would take far too long to count, and coding allowed me to do that.

Ed: I remember watching a YouTube video explaining how to train an AI to play Super Mario and thinking I’d love to be able to do that!

Julius: I got really interested in deep learning prior to starting my PhD.

Amitabh: I was primarily influenced by family. But a secondary influence was learning that computer programs/software helped the Apollo 11 astronauts navigate to, and land on, the moon, and that inspired me.

Violet: I have been coding since my early teens. I was lucky enough to attend a specialist school that taught programming alongside advanced mathematics. We had a whole classroom equipped with PCs to practice on (over three decades ago that was quite rare!)

Stefan: In high school I had a basic coding class – it was far more interesting than all my other subjects!

Kiran: A slightly controversial introduction to coding; but I started out doing it at university and really didn’t like it! But in my first role post-uni, I was an analyst and it’s there I really saw the benefits it would have and the difference I could make with coding – it was so important to have that hands-on experience!

What do you enjoy about working in coding?

Evgeny: Coding allows you to work with interesting and very advanced technologies across lots of different areas and industries. I mean literally; from the simplest website to launching a spaceship!

Gemma: I’m an engineer at heart and writing code is an amazingly satisfying way of building something. There are so many problems that you can solve, and you can immediately see the results of what you have built.

Will: There are a lot of ways to keep things fun. For me it’s being able to visualize and understand the system as it runs so that the design can be refined, waste removed, and instructions optimized over time. You can also isolate an aspect of your build and focus on that, whether it’s cost optimization or working on user experience.

Richard: I once read that of all the careers there are, coding fits perfectly in the middle between procedural and creative. You have to remember that we are engineers building something that has no corporeal form – it isn’t real. So, we have to imagine that it is a machine and give names to parts that match something meaningful. The concept of the machine we build is thus all held in our imagination.

The best bit for me personally is solving problems. Coding is architecting and engineering that is designed to solve larger problems, but that in turn consists of many smaller problems.

Laolu: I enjoy the massive amounts of innovation and creativity involved in solving really tough problems.

Paola: I like the sense of achievement of being able to understand, build and maintain a complex system.

Peter: I enjoyed being able to set something going at the beginning of the day and get results much later due to the automation we’ve set up – it’s really satisfying.

Ed: You can make anything you want with a bit of imagination!

Julius: Honestly, it’s quite rewarding when something finally works. And you feel like a bit of a wizard just clicking run and it works!

Amitabh: I like that my work has a direct impact on end-users. I have an opportunity to improve their lives by simplifying and automating tedious manual processes. As the world becomes more and more digital, I am excited by the opportunities it presents to build cool new products and services that need great programmers and software engineers to make them. 

Violet: Any technology can be used for both good and bad. I like putting my specialist skills and brain power to good use, to create something valuable that helps other people. 

Stefan: Problem-solving, the variety the role offers, and the creativity involved. There are new tools, technologies, and research popping up every day. At iProov specifically, I also have amazing teammates.

Kiran: Not always knowing the answer. It’s a constantly evolving environment. So you’re always learning.

What piece of advice would you give to someone looking to get into coding?

Evgeny: I would give two pieces of advice: don’t just do surface-level coding when you’re learning. Know what happens “under the hood” – get really stuck in. The second piece of advice…study Linux!

Gemma: I have three main pieces of advice: 1. Find a problem to solve; something simple that you care about, perhaps a boring repetitive task that could be automated, or a data analysis task that is awkward in Excel. 2. Once you have your problem, solve it! Learn the techniques you need to do what you want to do. It doesn’t need to be an elegant solution, just a solution. 3. Practice! Solve varied problems and focus on making your code readable and efficient. This is easier if you have someone to talk to about the challenges you face, and to discuss potential solutions, so find a coding buddy!

Will: Work iteratively, and don’t overthink it. The concepts are the same no matter if you start with drag-and-drop programming, spreadsheet formulae, or any of the popular languages. It helps to have a problem you want to automate in a space that you understand – that way you can focus on learning the new stuff, get version 1 out, and then go back and improve it.

Richard: My advice to anyone looking at anything as a career: find what you really enjoy doing, and do that, because then you cannot help but be happy and successful at it. Talk to some people about what those jobs entail.

Laolu: Be proactive in teaching yourself. There’s a lot to coding and teaching yourself the foundations is essential.

Paola: When trying to learn something new it really helps me to pick something that I would like to build or a problem I’d like to solve and use that as a driver for my learning process, as opposed to just passively studying without a goal.

Peter: Find a project that you’re interested in and use it as an excuse to practice programming. This can be anything, from counting everything in a spreadsheet or creating a list of all the movies done by a particular actor. Finding a problem and then trying and solve it with code gives you such good motivation to keep going. 

Ed: Practice Practice Practice! Don’t be afraid to get stuck in, and make mistakes. It is the best way to learn.

Julius: Always be learning! I found Stack Overflow a handy tool, so to begin with I’d recommend using that.

Amitabh: Coding requires patience. You should always keep your end-user in mind, and put yourself in their shoes. Build something with which they will fall in love. Keep an open mind, and be willing to learn about new technologies and methodologies. Be willing to experiment when an obvious solution isn’t available. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel, but be willing to build it again and again when learning. Last but not least; follow software development principles – take them to heart because they will help you build phenomenal things.

Violet: The qualities required are: attention to detail, a logical mind, and the ability to hold multiple things in your head at once. If that’s you, then everything else is merely a matter of practice. But the most important thing is to understand why you want to learn it. What’s your own purpose – what do you want to achieve with it? It is merely a tool, a means to a bigger end.

Stefan: Study a lot, learn new things on a regular basis, and enjoy the process. This industry thrives on constantly improving and bettering the tools and practices of software engineering and coding in general. 

Kiran: Give it a go! What’s the worst that can happen?

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