21st February 2022

From Tech Grad to Software Engineering Lead: How Vodafone’s Propelled My Career Forward

Samuel Dowse
Software Engineering Lead

I first joined Vodafone via the technology graduate scheme. I landed a role as a software developer for the VBIT Transformation team, developing web portals for order forms that were previously developed in Microsoft Excel. From there, a few new developers joined, and the team became known as the VBIT Digital Ninjas before ultimately renaming as the Independent Platform Development team.

Vodafone has an enormous quantity of applications, from older systems in need of a refresh to new project ideas; there is no shortage of work here for a Software Engineer! In just 5 years I’ve gone from graduate to Software Engineering Lead with a team responsible for developing everything from MVPs (minimal viable products) up to full-scale applications used internally within Vodafone.

Choosing Vodafone’s grad program was a great move

When I got here, I’d done a lot of self-teaching on top of my university degree, so they took the programming skill set I’d acquired and put me into teams around the business that needed someone with my skills.

The Grow with Vodafone learning platform also provides courses to refresh or learn new programming languages, and fellow team members are always willing to provide a quick tutorial.

I've been in about six different teams now, and worked on 20+ projects, each different from the last. Vodafone has been willing to help in any way possible to make sure I have everything I need to be the best I can be.

But the technology graduate program here is more than just technical development. It’s also focused on learning about people management and setting achievable goals with stakeholders and trying new things. While I had studied ferociously to get to where I am with my programming, I had neglected to work on my social skills and business acumen. Vodafone has really helped me in these areas, which were well outside of my comfort zone!

By providing roles as a Scrum Master and a Product Owner to get me out of programming and more into project management, I was able to gain skills and experience that have been incredibly valuable for my career since.

The 'Acceptance into Live Service' (AILS) project

Being in the position to hear people complain about a piece of software at Vodafone, and then being the person to action those problems is one thing. But the recognition earned from the users once you've removed the problem is something else. It’s an indescribable feeling.

I recently completed something called the ‘AILS’ project. The original AILS process was very clunky and time-consuming and involved a lot of back and forth getting approvals from customers before a service could be considered live.

With the help of my colleague Kate Dean, who did a fantastic job managing the admin for this project, we created a generic Excel form, unifying all the existing forms into one generic form. From here I took the generic Excel form and built it into a web portal, storing the data onto an accessible database. This allowed the online web portal form to be sent as a link between users, rather than emailing the Excel documents around. I also developed a workflow for the portal in Power Automate to automatically send out any emails, and even chase up on approvals, which were now captured within the portal too. Game-changer!

Seeing a tool that you've built being used by people and working seamlessly is beyond satisfying. Also, being able to build and fix these tools gives a real understanding of how processes around Vodafone work, and it's interesting to see how everything can be so different, and yet so similar.

Love the life at Vodafone

Vodafone has a progressive nature, growing and innovating. There is always a drive to improve what already exists, and there's a passion for developing new tools to fill in gaps that were previously overlooked.

As an Independent Platform Developer, we have complete autonomy; we work with stakeholders to set deadlines, but how we get to those deadlines is entirely up to the developer. The curiosity from both stakeholders and developers to try something new is always refreshing! Don't get me wrong, it’s not all smooth sailing, but the camaraderie between the developers helps to overcome any challenges that crop up.

I’d recommend our grad scheme to anyone looking for the best start to their career. My big tip is not to focus on a single programming language when you’re a new developer. It's easy enough to become a master at a single language, but to also understand other languages is key. I've worked on at least five different languages here so far, and wouldn't be where I was if I’d just stuck to the one I thought was best.

My other advice is to be yourself and have fun here! Projects become special when you put a bit of yourself into it: a flashy little animation, or a little happy message on loading screens. Vodafone’s got such a great culture and having fun is definitely a part of that!