As an employee of an engineering giant, I enjoyed all the perks of working for a large organisation. Then earlier this year, I left after working there for a little over two years to join Rock Solid Knowledge. A risky and bold career move, some might say.

I started my career as a Software Engineer at a large engineering firm, after having completed a year-long industrial placement with them during my university degree. I worked on a product with a large budget. I had a great manager who appreciated my skills and hard work and gave me career-building opportunities. Not to mention the perks that came with working for a large organisation, such as a yearly bonus and on-site gym. All this seems great on paper and more than good enough for a graduate stepping into the world of work. So why did I choose to move?

Decision making

You have probably experienced it - a proof of concept is released to customers and ends up being the final product. Or you had to ship code based on timelines that your development team didn’t make. It happens. But I found that working in this kind of environment led to a struggle for me to keep up with ever-evolving technology and best software practices, especially since I was working with a legacy codebase and there wasn't a push to employ the latest technologies. It was important to me as a fresh graduate that I had the opportunity to learn my craft.

Working with a legacy codebase was not an entirely negative experience, as troubleshooting was great for learning the impact of poor design and architecture choices. However, I realised that after two years of working at the company, I had gained a vast amount of domain-specific knowledge. But my technical skills had barely developed beyond my university studies. In fact, the knowledge I had acquired at university was slowly becoming outdated too.

So I had a choice to make, I could keep my stable job at a large organisation but fall behind with the technology and become less employable elsewhere, or take a risk and move to a smaller company like Rock Solid Knowledge, which uses cutting edge technology and encourages continuous learning and development. I chose the latter.

The transition 

It was a pretty significant change going from a large company with a major organisational structure to a company with less than 30 employees, smaller office and flexible working. However, it was a positive and smooth transition that was made effortless by everyone at the company.

I soon realised that the corporate structure and bureaucracy that I was used to didn't apply at Rock Solid Knowledge. Instead, an emphasis is given to collaborative, efficient and transparent processes. I also feel that I have been given a voice to influence positive changes within my team and the wider organisation.

At my previous company, I could not possibly know everyone, even in the office I was in, much less regional or international locations. At Rock Solid Knowledge, we are like a close-knit family. It is refreshing and enjoyable to work with people who want to see you grow and succeed, and to build meaningful connections beyond work.

My work/life balance has also improved dramatically, going from a very rigid structure to flexible working. There is an added sense of freedom and trust, accompanied by passion and dedication to achieve the company vision and objectives.

Lastly, I was surprised to have the option to choose my equipment instead of receiving hand-me-downs. It brought out a tech geek inside me that I never knew existed.

Life at Rock Solid Knowledge

I have now been working at Rock Solid Knowledge for eight months and feel like an essential part of the team. While at a larger company, it can take a few months to get out of the "new employee" phase, I felt like a valued team member from the beginning. Within the first few weeks, I was taking on increasingly important tasks and helping make design decisions. The company culture has played a massive part in this, as well as the incredible people I work with.

It was a big change to go from working in a team where many software engineers were from non-technical (Maths/Physics) backgrounds to working with highly technical people that are experts in their field. The directors were trainers/consultants before they got together to form the company. If we ever have a programming problem, we get taught how best to solve it.

We have a continuous learning culture, where we can spend 10% of our time researching and learning new skills and technologies. What I have found the most refreshing is that if you have an idea, it happens here. You don't have to wait for months or years to get approval from the proposal committee.

We learn from one and another in a flat organisational structure through in-house training and brown bag sessions. Currently, we have weekly training on Design Patterns, Test-Driven Development and Machine Learning, and fortnightly technical writing classes to improve the technical writing in our teams.

We also share knowledge with the wider software community through blog articles and talks at conferences such as NDC and SDD. We often host or support Bristol meetups including umBristol, the Bristol Umbraco User Group. Members of our team also publish PluralSight courses and personal technical blogs.

Apart from in-house training and knowledge-sharing within the company, we also attend tech conferences and have external training sessions by industry experts, which can really help break up groupthink and offer a fresh perspective.

I recently had the opportunity to attend my first ever tech conference, NDC Oslo, one of Europe's largest conferences for .NET & Agile development. It was a 5-day event comprising of a wide range of workshops and lectures. Even though we couldn't travel to Norway due to Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, the virtual event was an amazing opportunity to connect with people on a global scale and to learn new skills and cultivate a new perspective. Attending a tech conference is not something I could have imagined at my previous company, and I am grateful to Rock Solid Knowledge for offering me this and countless other amazing opportunities. If there is training you wish to undertake or a conference you wish to attend that has a business use case, all you have to do is make the directors aware and they will facilitate and ensure it is made possible.

Lastly, we also pay back to the open source community. We are an official Umbraco Gold Partner and are the sole commercial support partner for IdentityServer.

Future at Rock Solid Knowledge

The past eight months have flown by and have been a fantastic experience. Although large organisations have their perks, I have had far more learning opportunities than I did for over two years at my previous company. My work is recognised and appreciated and helps grow the entire company. I feel a great sense of enthusiasm for my work and dedication to achieve the company goals. We strive together to deliver products that we are proud of.

Although we are a small company for now, we have big plans and are always looking for new talent. If you are looking to work with bleeding-edge technology, to challenge yourself and continuously learn and develop your skills, then a company like Rock Solid Knowledge will be perfect for you.

Check out our careers page and join our ever-expanding team.

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