An interview with cinch’s Software Engineer Ben Wainwright and Software Engineer Sarah Weeks.
Hi Sarah, Ben! How are you both doing today? Could you quickly introduce yourself and give a quick overview of what you do in your role at cinch?
Ben: Hi there! I’m Ben and I’m a full stack software engineer in the Product Details team. My team is responsible for (unsurprisingly) the Product Details page of the cinch website. This is the page which displays all the information about a specific listed vehicle; so it's our job to make sure prospective customers have everything they need in one place to be able to make an informed decision about purchasing a particular vehicle.
Sarah: Hello! :) Thanks for giving me the opportunity to speak to you, it’s great to get a chance to talk to you about my time at cinch - albeit quite short so far!
I’m fairly new to tech, which started with a coding bootcamp at the start of 2020 and now i’m here! Having learnt the basics of different tech on the bootcamp, I went on to gain experience specifically within .Net, Azure and Terraform. Whereas now here at cinch I focus on Typescript and AWS and I sit within the Partner Marketplace team.
Within the team I assist in building web applications which integrate with partner sites to support the business in sourcing and selling cars. We are currently working hybrid and mainly go into the office for collaboration sessions.
As you’ve both been in your roles at cinch for less than a year, what was the interview and onboarding process like?
Ben: I first interviewed with a tech lead (who is now my boss) and another staff member, then had a second interview with two tribe engineering leads. It was very relaxed. I interviewed for a lot of jobs that week and had secured other offers; I made the decision to go with cinch partly because the tech stack and engineering culture described was exactly what I was looking for, but also because I connected really well with all my interviewers.
Sarah: I found the interview process to be really pleasant and extremely professional. From first speaking to the internal recruiter right through to joining the business I found everyone really helpful and had constant communication throughout.
The interviews themselves were quite relaxed, it was a two stage interview process around technical ability and then cultural fit. During both of the interviews it felt like a two-way conversation as they told me all about how cinch work and how I would develop within the company.
The onboarding process was really structured and professional, the onboarding team were extremely welcoming and my diary was already organised before starting!
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced since joining the company? Whether that’s a particular project, or just getting started and remembering everyone’s names!
Ben: I have a tendency to want to come in and change the world in about a hundred different ways. I like getting involved in projects that improve things for everyone in the engineering community, for example - I’m in the process of setting up a TypeScript Community of Interest. There is loads of scope within cinch to get involved with this kind of thing, but as a squad-based engineer I have to ensure that it doesn’t take my focus away from my role in the squad too much; so the big challenge for me has been ensuring I don’t take on too much. I have learned that sometimes I have to just put good ideas in a list and come back to them when I’m finished with the other massive project I started.
Sarah: For me I struggle with imposter syndrome so I feel I need to know everything about everything even when it’s new (impossible I know).
This is just my second job as a developer so was out of my comfort zone learning new tech, which is still ongoing, it’s impossible to know everything, especially within tech, so it took me a few weeks to realise that I wasn’t expected to know everything and it’s about learning as you go rather than just stressing over unrealistic thoughts.
What are you both working on at the minute (that you’re allowed to talk about!)?
Ben: User research has shown that prominently displaying the condition of the vehicle is something that customers really value. We are currently implementing a simple update to allow users to get a little closer to the car. This will be released first behind an A/B test (an experiment where we only show the new feature to a subset of potential customers), in order to establish if customers engage with it. Once we are happy that it's a valuable feature, we will release it to the whole set of customers, and likely start to iterate on the user experience.
Sarah: As a team we are working on a number of enhancements to our services, around how me manage our stock. Specifically, I have been working on observability within our services, mainly DataDog, to ensure we have the correct monitoring and alerts in place. Also creating new dashboards within DataDog to allow us to effectively monitor our services, including individual lambdas, at a glance.
This has been a good learning curve for me, I had used DataDog previously but only slightly compared to how we use it here so it has allowed me to explore new aspects of how we can monitor our services.
Sarah, what sparked your interest in starting a career in software engineering as you’ve come into the industry from a non-technical background?
Sarah: I had an interest in tech for quite a while (back when MySpace was around and you could edit your profile in code - old school) but was never really sure how to get into it, I then worked as an air hostess for British Airways for a couple of years as I love travelling and then went into tech recruitment and started working at Footasylum. I decided then to take the plunge into tech and was accepted onto a tech bootcamp but was offered a place within Footasylum on their apprenticeship scheme which worked out perfectly!
I guess a lot of people have different roads into tech and mine certainly was a windy path but it’s extremely rewarding - it’s amazing working with such like-mindied people who are all constantly learning just as much as me.
Ben, how was the transition from working in a huge enterprise like the BBC to cinch, a tech scaleup? What did you find most exciting/challenging?
Ben: I have a lot of love for the BBC; I learned a lot of my skills from some fantastic people I met there. But where the BBC suffers is pace of decision making - the BBC is fantastically risk averse, which means that you often end up working on teams with a stagnating technology stack and a lot of legacy code.
In your opinion, what is the best thing about working at cinch? Why is it a great place to work?
Ben: We work on a cutting edge technical stack with an engineering community that loves to learn. We try to do things the right way, but acknowledge that we are all learning together and will make mistakes from time to time. Where mistakes are made, we don’t blame people, and use them as opportunities to learn and sharpen our skills. There are loads of opportunities for real engineering innovation, and lots of room for growth.
Sarah: The best thing about working at cinch for me is the people, it's important for me to be able to gain knowledge from experienced people as I'm early in my development career and want to learn from the best. The culture at cinch encourages learning and development, there are numerous ways to develop yourself whether that be advancing on something you already know or getting involved with something completely new.
There’s a lot of room for growth here, not only in terms of skill set but also career progression, it’s amazing to see other people growing in the business and it shows the confidence cinch have in their people and that they want people to progress within the business.
How does cinch support you professionally and personally to ensure you bring your best self to work every day?
Ben: I have a great relationship with Peter, my tech lead. I have a one-to-one with him scheduled once every two weeks, but he’ll be happy to arrange quick catch ups before then if there is anything that is concerning me. The company is supporting us through AWS certification, and allows us to use 10% of our time towards personal development. There is a vibrant community of engineers to learn from and the opportunity to get involved with a variety of different communities focused on a variety of technical specialisms, from TypeScript (*coughplugcough*), accessibility, security, devops, automation, backend, frontend, testing and many more.
Sarah: As I mentioned before the encouragement from cinch to develop ourselves and our skills is great. We’re actively encouraged to take time out of our week to develop our skills or experiment with something new. We’re able to join working groups across the business, there are different book clubs going on and also they help support us through AWS certifications - which I can’t wait to get started with. I’ve already learnt so much in my time here and it’s due to the amazing community that has been created, everyone is so helpful and is always willing to answer any questions.
Personally as well, I’ve found the business and people to be so welcoming, everyone genuinely cares about the business and each other - which I know can be quite rare. My manager, Ian, is so supportive and if there’s anything I need I know I can drop him a message and have a quick chat about anything that’s on my mind.