Part 2: Our team of techies

28th June 2018

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We’re a team of driven, passionate people who come from all corners of the globe. This week, we asked a few more of our developers to share their stories and career advice.

Hadrien Mazelier

Hadrien Mazelier

Hadrien began coding when he was 11. “I was thrown out of school, so I had a lot of free time and my parents bought me a computer,” he says. He spent time experimenting by adding memory, reinstalling windows and learned C (a coding language) through Site du Zero, the French education platform.

Having left school before completing the French Baccalauréat, Hadrien, 26, did an intensive year of study online in order to gain the equivalent qualification while also working as a model in Paris and Miami. He managed to cram in study in the evenings, at weekends and waiting between shoots. “A typical modeling day is 30% shooting, 15% styling and 55% nothing, so I filled that time with study,” he says. Nine exams later, he gained the qualification that allowed him to apply for the Engineering course at the international university SUPINFO.

After graduating, he set up a social application with a friend that would allow users to send photos and videos and gain instant insights on their impact. One year on, lack of funding brought the project to an end. However, everything that he had learned in that year combined with what he had learned from his studies meant he was offered a job at Expedia, the global travel technology company.

“I worked on both the back and front end technology for Expedia’s travel and expenses apps,” Hadrien explains. “When a recruiter approached me on LinkedIn and told me about Starling, I wasn’t looking for another job. But when I learned more about the app I decided to go for it. One of the things that attracted me to Starling was the beautiful architecture in both the platform and the visible design,” he says.

Since joining Starling in April 2018, he has worked on delivering the feature that allows customers to add notes and attachments to transactions. He is now part of the team developing Starling Loans. For Hadrien, the best thing about being able to code is the fact that “anything you can have in your mind, you can give it life.” His career advice for developers is to always keep up to date on what is going on in technology, especially in terms of the languages available.

Alison Choy

Alison Choy

Alison came to code through chemistry. As part of her PhD in Chemoinformatics (the use of computers and informational techniques to solve problems in chemistry), Alison, 29, had to teach herself to code, which she did through YouTube videos.

“I really loved science as a kid, I wanted to find out how the world worked,” she says. At 14, Alison taught herself English and moved on her own from Hong Kong to the UK. She went on to study Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge, a perfect course for her as it involved a range of different scientific disciplines. She ended up focusing on Chemistry for her undergraduate degree, Biophysical chemistry and proteins for her Masters, and studied how humans absorb and metabolise drugs for her PhD in order to speed up the drug discovery process – something that can take over ten years. Alison feels that the best thing to come out of her PhD was picking up programming: “I fell in love with it. I had to learn how to handle lots of data and coding was the perfect way to do this.”

Just as the puzzles of science drew her to chemistry, the puzzles of technology drew her to coding. “I love figuring out what went wrong when things break,” she says. She also likes the way that she can “have an idea that someone has never built before and then go for it,” reflecting the freedom of working at Starling.

She also enjoys the balance at Starling of working together as well as having responsibility for projects and seeing them through from beginning to end. “At my previous job, I’d never seen my code being used or making a difference to a product,” she says. “The speed at which we deliver at Starling is quite astonishing.”

When Alison joined Starling in January 2018, she started working on our Marketplace, the connective platform that gives customers access to the most innovative financial products on the market. Integrating with PensionBee was the first example of end to end delivery for her and launching it is the highlight of her time at Starling so far. She has also worked on adding the discount app Tail, the online investment platforms Wealthify and Wealthsimple, the online mortgage broker Habito and the insurance distribution network Kasko. She is currently building a framework for reporting on data for the bank.

Alison has “always found it odd that there aren’t many women developers” in the industry. She told us how she’s often one of the only women at developer events and has been handed empty coffee cups by people thinking that she was a member of staff not an attendee. “There’s absolutely no reason why a woman can’t be as good as a man. If you don’t think you can do it at least give it a go – you might surprise yourself,” she says. She is currently looking into mentoring and teaching female engineers with organisations such as Code Your Future, the non-profit organisation supporting refugees who want to become developers.

Ricardo Avalos

Ricardo Avalos

Ricardo started learning how to code while studying Engineering in Mexico, where he was born. One module of Computer Science lead him to a career as a developer. “Nowadays, you can learn to do anything on your own, but back then we didn’t have the resources or online platforms teaching people to code that exists today,” he says.

The best thing about being able to code for Ricardo, 40, is the ability to solve problems. “Even though it’s very precise, you could give the same problem to a hundred different people, and you would have a hundred different solutions,” he explains. “There is a creative element to coding.”

Before joining Starling, he worked for JP Morgan and RBS. He became frustrated with the slow pace and lack of innovation and began to look for alternatives. He met Greg Hawkins, now our Senior Technical Advisor, and Steve Newson, our Director of Technology, and they told him about how they were building a bank from scratch. Ricardo’s reaction?

  1. You’re crazy.
  2. I want in.

He described it as the developer dream job: “The tech wasn’t supporting the bank; the tech was the bank.”

Ricardo became a Platform Developer at Starling in September 2016. The Platform is the core of the bank. It is the back end technology that allows each element to communicate and connect.

When we asked him about his stand out Starling moments over the past 18 months, he replied, “cinnamon socials in the old office, cheese club in the new office, and seeing the company grow from the first card transaction to an office of almost 200 people with thousands of customers.”

Ricardo’s career advice is to “keep learning. Don’t stick to what you know, surround yourself with people that are more intelligent than you and work on things that you have a passion for.”


Thank you to everyone who has shared their story so far, stay tuned for more next week.

Next

Student banking: making sense of your money