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Diego Mariani: Life as a self-taught IT contractor

26th November 2019

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“I want to challenge myself,” says 22-year-old IT contractor Diego Mariani. “I want to be out of my comfort zone. If you’re comfortable, you won’t be learning anything. You’ve got to push your limits - learning is growing, struggling and trying new things.”

Diego grew up in Italy and started teaching himself how to code when he was 16. “I really put myself into it. I spent all day coding and learning programming languages,” he says. At 18, he accepted a place at the Università degli Studi dell’Aquila on its Computer Science course.

But after a year, he dropped out to start a full-time developer job for travel tech company Trivago. “I dropped out mostly because I found it really repetitive and a little bit boring,” he says. “I wanted to work in a real company with real problems. When the opportunity from Trivago came up I knew it wouldn’t come by a second time.”

Diego works at his laptop
Diego Mariani, IT contractor, photo credit: Dashti Jahfar

New cities

In 2016, he packed his bags and moved to Palma in Spain, where Trivago has an office. He spent a year working for them as a full-stack engineer developing both the user experience and backend technology. One year on, he had his sights set on a new city: London.

His first job in London was at Busuu, a website and app that enables customers to learn foreign languages.

From permanent employee to contractor

His decision to become a contractor rather than a full-time employee marks another turning point in his career. “I wanted to have more independence and control over my time on how I worked with clients. I also don’t want to be shackled to the same place for months and years. It makes for a more exciting career,” he says.

As an IT contractor, he works alongside IT teams from various companies to develop the architecture of the software, website or APIs. “I do whatever needs to be done.”

Of course, there are pros and cons to working for yourself rather than a company. “You have more flexibility but there’s a lot more life admin - you’ve got to think about accountants, paperwork, keeping the business going,” he says.

A bank account for contractors

First on his admin list was setting up a bank account. As a developer, Diego keeps up with the progress of technology companies, including challenger banks and FinTechs. “In Italy, there’s nowhere near the quality of British challenger banks,” he says.

A navy Starling card on top of his phone
Diego uses Starling to manage his business finances, photo credit: Dashti Jahfar

He opened a Starling personal account when he moved to London in 2017. “I like how simple it is to use and the execution of the app,” he says. When it came to setting up a business account, he immediately turned to Starling. “I thought it would take about a week. It took 30 seconds. I was shocked - it seemed impossible.”

Starling customers can manage both personal and business finances through the app. There are no monthly fees and the account includes smart money management tools and integrations with online software providers such as Xero and FreeAgent.

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