09 December 2019
Alin Rohnean | Senior Software Engineer
“My key advice for prospective applicants would be to stay curious and continue to improve your skills. Be open and honest, focusing on what you can bring to the business.”
–– Alin’s advice to new applicants
We recently caught up with Alin, Senior Software Engineer at Atkins, a member of the SNC-Lavalin Group, in Aberdeen. He shares his career journey, passion for his craft and his view on our industry’s future:
Which childhood interests and characteristics have made you the developer you are today?
I had a strong passion for computers and Maths fairly early on and loved solving complex challenges. I wrote my first piece of code when I was 10. And by the time I was 14, I became our neighbourhood’s ‘go-to’ expert for computer software and hardware. At 15, I could basically hack into most things (granted cyber security wasn’t as advanced back then).
I started studying advanced Maths and Computer Science quite extensively, at a young age. I was really competitive, taking part in over 100 regional, national and international competitions. In the 9th grade, I self-learned the whole Computer Science curriculum for the 9th – 12th grades just to be able to participate in certain contests.
What advice would you have for young people applying to Atkins?
Stay curious and continue to improve your skills – be open and honest, focusing on what you can bring to the business. No one is expecting someone in the early stages of their career to have all the answers and all the experience in the world: I wouldn’t expect that from anyone, at any level.
“Do something you’ll enjoy and it won’t feel like work.”
Your mindset, behaviours and talent, or potential, are key for a successful career. So make sure you find a role that you’re passionate about and allows you to do what you enjoy – it makes everything easier. It’s a journey, so surround yourself with great people, stick to your core values, keep it real and humble and continue to do the right things – the opportunities will come naturally.
What do you enjoy the most about your work?
The really enjoyable part is being able to see that the software we develop makes a tangible difference and adds value to whatever our clients are doing. Allowing them to complete tasks better, faster, do things they weren’t able to before. It’s rewarding to be able to unlock people’s time so that they can focus on doing clever things, as opposed to the boring or laborious tasks that we can teach a computer to do.
What is your ‘super power’ at Atkins?
Being able to develop high-quality, smart technology that the end users would treat as borderline magic. Turning something complex into an “I didn’t even know that was possible” reaction.
Tell us what you’ve been working on…
Our team has a few projects on the go, each exciting in its own way. Some are technically demanding, others need a strong engineering understanding or a complex problem solved. Others just overcome the limitations of current technology.
Pushing the limits offshore
We recently developed a motion monitoring system for an offshore platform. It needed to take live sensor data from accelero-meters installed on it and run a spectral analysis to detect a potential brace severance. It threw up some complex engineering challenges and workflows, but also a few technology ones.
“Tackling exciting challenges every day is what makes Atkins fun!”
Being able to work on these kinds of projects across a wide range of domains, seeing how your work can positively impact what others are doing, and having different challenges to keep you entertained each day. Atkins is the place to be if you enjoy solving complex challenges.
What makes software ‘clever’?
Software able to properly fill a user need that couldn’t be easily achieved without it. It must also do it in a consistent, technically rigorous, robust and highly usable way. If a really clever software has usability issues that stop people from using it, then it’s not good enough. It also needs to be generic and flexible to future-proof its use, and enable changes to be easily implemented.
Which unexpected talents or abilities have you discovered through working at Atkins?
I guess it would be my adaptability to different domains, working on a variety of projects requiring advanced engineering concepts and knowledge. To be able to produce a software that is technically rigorous, whilst also being flexible and generic one needs a fair bit of fast learning and good understanding of engineering.
“I’ve learned how to adapt quickly!”
One day I have to think and act as a structural engineer, the next I’m learning how process engineering works, etc. I need to adapt quickly and soak in as much knowledge as possible from the inspiring people around me. Then, there’s also an artistic side – having to work as a graphic designer to create the branding, user interface design and experience for all of our products.
Why are Software Development teams generally quite young?
The fact that young people are seen as better at technology is not because of age. Technology doesn’t discriminate. It’s just that anyone who wants to learn a new technology – generally students, recent graduates and people with that continuous learning behaviour ingrained in their culture – will always look for the current trends. And by the time that technology becomes the most popular, they already have all the relevant skills ready to use. Having said that, our team’s average age is quite young – around 25.
What are the top three challenges for developers moving into the future?
Our biggest challenge remains the unbelievable pace at which new technologies are being developed. You have to put in a lot of time and effort just to have proper awareness of the spectrum and what’s available. Continuous learning and improvement will always be a paramount part of the software engineering culture.
Another key challenge is fully understanding the problem a client is facing and translating that into a set of requirements for a pragmatic solution. At Atkins we work closely with our clients to ensure that whatever software we build is fully aligned with what they need and works exactly as expected.
With the large amount of open source packages and technologies available, another challenge is deciding when it’s best to use those and when it’s easier to develop your own, initially squarer, wheel to perfectly meet your needs.
Name your dream project.
I’d love to bring together a dream team of smart people to work together to implement an applied Artificial Intelligence system that could solve some complex issues that the industry is facing in an innovative way. Making the impossible possible.
How about working with colleagues who are just as talented as you? We’re hiring. Apply now.