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Changing careers: a big move from finance to coding

Software Engineer at Ravelin, Alexandra Dresco, discusses her move from a career in finance to coding, why she made the switch, and how to support others who work in tech.

Changing careers: a big move from finance to coding

Can you tell us a bit about your role at Ravelin and what a typical day looks like for you?

“I’m a part of the account takeover team at Ravelin, helping our clients to stop fraudsters from unlawfully gaining access to online customer accounts.

“I love that no day is the same. I can spend time building features for our machine learning models, which looks at behavior patterns and flags any abnormalities, then switch to working with our product manager to help a client get the most out of our system, for example understanding what fraud looks like and how it’s happening.

“While my role isn’t typically client facing, I work closely with our broader team to make sure the development of our technology adapts to our clients’ needs.”

So why did you switch from finance to software engineering?

“I fell into software engineering by accident. I initially studied business and then, to challenge myself, I did a master’s degree in finance in the Netherlands. While I enjoyed my time in finance, I knew it wasn’t the industry I wanted to stay in long term because of the long hours and rigid structure. Being able to travel and having a work–life balance is important to me.

“During my master’s I worked as a billing intern and we had a client form on the website that broke. The team asked if any of us wanted to help fix it and I jumped at the chance. I spent three weeks learning how to code, going to free learning events run by codebar, which is a charity for those who are keen to learn how to code. I even help run these events now!

“If the website didn’t break, who knows where I would be? It turned out to be a defining moment in determining my future career.”

How did you find the transition from finance to coding?

“The problem-solving element is similar in both areas and that’s something I very much enjoy doing, so this was definitely a transferable skill. I was lucky to be selected for the Makers sponsored programme which landed me a great bootcamp and my first job in software engineering which helped a lot. In my new role, I like being in the background, but with an option to manage people and be client facing at some point in the future.

“The skillset that is required for both jobs is also similar, but the career prospects are very different and that’s what drove the transition for me. As a software engineer in the fintech sector, I’m excited by the fact that my career can go in lots of directions and that I know I’ll be making a difference.”

How do you think more women can be encouraged to start a career in tech?

“I believe we are getting to a place where there are more women in tech, which is great to see. Some job descriptions can appear overly complicated and therefore less accessible to women. Many women I know in coding have been unsure about their ability to succeed in a role because it seems too complex.

“I believe it’s important to promote female voices in business. When women see others, they can relate to speaking out about their career and the diversity in their organisation. It encourages them to apply or take the step into a new career. Women inspire women!”

How did you come to join Ravelin after making the switch?

“After I completed the courses at codebar, I took part in an Elsevier bootcamp to become a software engineer, which was great as it combined training and a job in software engineering.

“However, at that early stage, I didn’t really get to do any work that was having a direct impact on the organisation and I was keen to make a big difference. I moved to London to search for a new opportunity and went to a WomanX conference, where you can learn about new companies and the kind of work they are doing.

“The conference format was a bit like speed dating. First, you heard from the companies and what they were doing and then you got to meet a bunch of people who worked at those organisations. That’s how I met two engineers at Ravelin, including my current manager, Alice Cheung.

“Everyone had really good things to say about the culture, environment and ethos at Ravelin, so I put myself into the hiring process and here I am a year and a half later!"

What’s the best thing about working at Ravelin?

“One of the big reasons I like working at Ravelin is that we fight the bad guys. I feel my job has a purpose.

“But my favourite thing about working at Ravelin is the people and the culture. I had a few offers on the table when I was considering a role, and what made me choose Ravelin was seeing how great the team was. Everyone is passionate and supportive. It really is a great place to work."

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