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Cassandra Zara

What were you/are you studying?

I completed a Diploma of IT over the last 12 months in the form of bootcamp covering different programming languages and technical skills. I initially completed a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Microbiology, Immunology and infectious disease before progressing to a Master of Teaching. Prior to completing the coding bootcamp, I was teaching in a secondary school specialising in VCE Biology and Maths.

What appealed to you about the Ocean Graduate Program?

I love to learn so the opportunity to try out the different roles, such as tester, business analyst, and developer in the different software teams was very appealing to me, as well as getting to meet and work with so many different people. The transition from working on projects independently as a student to working in a team at Ocean, has highlighted the importance of having a solid understanding of the skills required for each role and the tasks completed by each person in the team and how this understanding helps to enhance the team’s ability to communicate and collaborate more effectively.

What is your current focus at Ocean, what skills are you learning day-to-day?

I am currently completing my developer rotation, so my skills are improving all the time. Prior to this rotation, I worked on writing automated tests, putting together a video showcase and writing user stories. Recently, I have mostly been working on the frontend to make improvements by refactoring and in doing so, get to learn the intricacies of the codebase. Some aspects of the project were new to me, like using Redux and TypeScript so I’ve been learning as I go, and the team has been very supportive in helping and teaching. I have been using version control and DevOps to work collaboratively in a team of people working individually on different tasks. Ocean follows the agile methodology and I’ve been able to learn more about Scrum and Kanban approaches every day, including having the chance to facilitate the Retrospective at the end of the last sprint.

What are some of the things that you’ve learned so far that have surprised you? 

I learned quite a lot during the Business Analyst rotation and was surprised by the amount of collaboration and detail required to design user stories, so they are ready for development. I gained insight to the Scrum approach with backlog refinement and sprint planning to see the flexible nature of the team at work to make the product the best it can be, based on user needs.

I’ve also been able to see this approach in the development rotation as the code is refactored and new tools are integrated when they can make the product better, rather than just sticking with the tools that were used initially but may not be as effective. It’s been great to see how the teams discuss changes and carefully decide on an approach that is going to be most effective.

Starting at a new workplace and working remotely has required a fair bit of extra learning as well! We have been able to get into the office now (during December), and I was surprised by how much easier it was to discuss points in meetings because everyone has the benefit of body language which helps with communication so much. In saying that, so many people reached out to me and offered to have calls anytime while working from home, so that has also been great for one-on-one support.

If you could give some advice to your student self now that you’ve had a bit of exposure to workplace what would it be?

Experiment using all the industry tools with your friends so you can learn from your mistakes (like committing your changes to the wrong branch!). Practice integrating different tools and libraries into your projects and offer to do some reviewing for other projects, so you get used to reading code that you haven’t written and following the logic. Ask lots of questions and focus on understanding the processes including the agile manifesto. Reach out to people you know who are working on projects you are interested in and ask for a rundown. So much of my course was during the pandemic so I couldn’t go to physical meet-ups but I attended some online talks and was a part of GradGirls and would recommend going to events like these in person to network and to be inspired.

Is there anyone in the industry who you follow on medium or other platform that you can recommend people read and why?

I follow quite a few people on Instagram like Adrienne Tacke, Ally Watson, Chloe Taylor, Estefannie (@estefanniegg) and Julia (@coding_unicorn) who are developers or in tech doing cool stuff and giving helpful tips and talks on tech concepts and industry. On LinkedIn, Code Like a Girl, Vic ICT for Women, Robogals and SheCodesAus as I have a passionate interest in getting girls involved in STEM and supporting and meeting other women in tech. Julie Zhuo’s Medium articles are great for insightful career advice.

What advice would you give to others considering doing a graduate program?

I would recommend a graduate program as you get to join a company with a very explicit learning mindset that allows you to experiment and learn. It’s also a really nice way to learn about the company culture, vision and interact with a lot of people you might not otherwise come across in a junior position focusing on specific work.

If you are at the point of applying: First, find out the different kind of programs available and do your research early on so you don’t lose the opportunity to apply by missing the application cut-off dates. Have examples of your work and be willing to talk about challenges you’ve worked through and skills you are learning. Practice your interview technique with friends, peers, teachers or anyone who will listen in order to develop your communication skills. Be kind to yourself – everyone has been in the same situation as you when they are starting out. If you are keen to learn and enjoy working with other people, be confident that you will be able to contribute.

Interested in participating in our graduate program? Enter your details here and upload your CV, or a short cover letter.