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Engineering & Product

Ali Haydar, Software Developer at Multitudes

From aspiring teacher to software developer, Ali Haydar, Software Developer at Multitudes has found a craft that has enabled him to be continually learning and at the same time supporting others as they grow.

We caught up with Ali to learn more about his journey into tech, some of the common misconceptions around software engineering and why he so excited about working at Multitudes.

Ali shares some wisdom about letting go of comparing yourself to others and instead embracing your own unique self, advice that almost everyone could take heed of. Thanks for sharing your story, Ali. 

“..the tool could be a game that helps you count the number of toys you have; I would need to listen well.”

Firstly, how would you explain to a five year old what it is you do?

I collaborate with my teammates to build applications; these are tools on the computer that help people achieve their work and succeed. 

It is crucial to talk to people, listen to them and understand their needs to build the right tool. For example, for people your age, the tool could be a game that helps you count the number of toys you have; I would need to listen well to you to understand which toys you'd like to include or not in the count.

For a doctor, this could be a tool to help them generate a prescription rather than writing it by hand.

To build these tools, we need to learn new languages to instruct the computer on what to do (I would also guide them through https://scratch.mit.edu/ if they were interested).

And for the adults, what does that translate to in regards to your day-to-day?

I develop software solutions. It is a process that involves multiple stages (some of them go in parallel), and I enjoy contributing to all of these stages, starting from planning and designing the solution to developing, testing and deploying an app that can be used easily by our customers.

I spend lots of my time thinking, writing code and testing that code to deliver high-quality software that offers excellent value to the users. In addition, my day-to-day work entails discussions with colleagues about design options, different implementations, reviewing code, etc.

“Many people don't have the privilege to spend their time practising to be good at their primary job..”

What are some of the common misconceptions about working software engineering?

There are many misconceptions about working in software engineering. A few that come to mind:

  • Software engineering and coding are synonyms. Though coding is a primary activity in the development process, software engineering is more about solving problems. That's what customers want. Problem-solving could be achieved through technology, either software you buy and integrate with or software you develop. Coding is part of this process.
    A person must be brilliant to be a software engineer. There are many intelligent people in software engineering, similar to any other industry. It is not fair to associate this with being successful in building software. Software development is an iterative process where no single person knows all the answers. Through this process, software development teams brainstorm solutions and create the best software given requirements and constraints. It's worth noting that usually, lots of learning happen through this process, which I would consider a constant activity in the life of a software engineer.
  • You must stay late at night coding to be considered a sound software engineer. This is a bit related to the previous two points and had many arguments on social media not so long ago. I think it's cool to develop software, build side projects and code after working hours if you like it, but that's not related to being a successful software engineer. It is a fake expectation that adds lots of stress and negatively affects one's mental and physical health. Many people don't have the privilege to spend their time practising to be good at their primary job. Even if they did, it's worth spending this time taking care of themselves, enjoying things they like or just relaxing.
“It's a way to expand my understanding of the topic, and at the same time, it helps make software development more accessible for people, which I value.”

Was working in tech something you dreamed about doing as a kid, if not what was?

I wanted to become a teacher when I was a kid, probably because my parents and family friends were all in the teaching space. I enrolled in Math / Physics at university, then branched into Applied Maths, majoring in computer science. I first tried development in my second university year, and I loved it.

Teaching continued to be a hobby of mine. I practised it a bit through private tutoring during university. I also had multiple opportunities to do workshops and sessions about software development, test automation and AWS server-less. It's a way to expand my understanding of the topic, and at the same time, it helps make software development more accessible for people, which I value.

“I had no clue what QA was at that time, but I went forward with it due to the lack of alternatives.”

Tell us a little bit more about your career journey and ultimately about how you ended up working at Multitudes? 

After graduation, I started working as a software engineer for a services company, developing an app using "Action Script", a language by Adobe. The project finished after a few months, and I moved to a QA role.

I had no clue what QA was at that time, but I went forward with it due to the lack of alternatives. Soon enough, mainly because of the fantastic team I was working with, I loved the QA work. In addition to learning about testing and its essential role in software engineering, QA helped me get involved in the architecture, deployments, toolings and processes when creating the software, baking quality in.

Over a few years, I progressed career-wise to lead numerous initiatives and teams working on test automation and performance.

While in QA, I worked on various products and industries, including Law firm management, Healthcare, Accounting, Restaurant Franchises and Biometric solutions. The latter was the most exciting. I started as Integration and QA lead with the company at an early stage, enabling me to wear multiple hats.

Over about three years, I got involved in requirements gathering, user acceptance testing, customer relationships, product delivery and team management, including development, testing and tech support. I progressed quickly and got offered a Project Manager role. That was a wonderful experience where I learned heaps about leadership and management. I enjoyed this type of work but was also starting to miss the hands-on technical work.

I then moved to New Zealand and worked for a few companies, building test automation and leading QA and Development teams. I had a mixture of experiences, met incredible people and made awesome friendships. In addition, I joined the "Ministry of testing - Auckland" meetup and later contributed to talks and workshops with them.

Being curious about features development and expanding my knowledge beyond QA and test automation, I started entertaining this idea when working at Figured. The inclusivity and knowledge sharing at Figured was superb, which helped me understand how development work would be at a low level. That was encouraging to consider development seriously.

I wanted to develop software features, but I didn't want to lose the seniority and financial benefits I acquired through long years working in QA and leadership. That created some hesitation about what to do next. Should I progress to managerial roles traditionally considered a step up in one's career? Or should I step back and immerse myself in code, adding depth to my knowledge in software?

I went through another role change towards leadership/management before deciding it was time to get into software engineering from the developer lens. I've done many studies, online courses, and projects to equip myself for the development role during this period. I was privileged to have friends and colleagues to help me through the decision and the transition, and also privileged to accept a significant pay cut.

I joined Spidertracks as a Software Engineer. My previous experience was very relevant, which helped me progress quickly. I started learning about AWS and got passionate about serverless development. After that, I contracted with ClearPoint, extending my knowledge about engineering practices and DevOps ways of working. During this period, I got accepted into the "AWS Community Builders" program, which offers AWS enthusiasts technical resources, mentorship and networking opportunities.

“I loved what they're doing around equity, inclusion and diversity as it aligns with my values.”

As I was scrolling through my LinkedIn feeds, I encountered a post about Multitudes going to the Beta stage with their product. I loved what they're doing around equity, inclusion and diversity as it aligns with my values. I've worked with lots of teams, and I've seen them struggle to get things done at the same time while maintaining a healthy, fair and safe culture.

The Multitudes mission is to shape the system to give teams and individuals a more equitable space to work and operate in. I wanted to be part of this mission, so I reached out. I contracted for a couple of months with Multitudes, then joined them permanently.

What is the best piece of career advice you have ever received? 

Every person is unique, and there's a great value in this uniqueness, so don't compare yourself to others and always bring your authentic self to work.

“I love the product we're building, knowing that it aims to help teams better collaborate, work together and succeed.”

What do you love about working at Multitudes?

I love the product we're building, knowing that it aims to help teams better collaborate, work together and succeed. This means happier and higher-performing teams, enabling each team member to grow and thrive in a psychologically safe environment. 

In addition, the product is built by software engineers for software engineers. I feel this strengthens the connection with our customers and improves feedback and empathy, especially since we use the app ourselves at Multitudes.

In addition, the work with the team has been a delight, and I like that everyone gets the opportunity to wear multiple hats. That helps me keep learning and leverage my experience in various functions in software engineering.

Lastly, Multitudes continues to grow and evolve, what are the key traits and characteristics of people that will be well placed to work there?

Multitudes’ ideal candidate is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion at work and excited about supporting our bigger mission – making equity the default at work.

We are a small team that is fun to work with. We come from different backgrounds and cultures. We have different ideas and personalities, and we express ourselves differently, but we all align on the mission, collaborate well and deliver value for our customers. Our opinions are heard, and everyone in the team has the opportunity to learn and grow.

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