Engineering and Product

Tarah Carpenter, Principal Engineer at Re-Leased

Although a career in tech was never really on the radar, it was love at first university class for Tarah Carpenter, Principal Engineer at Re-Leased.

We caught up with Tarah to learn more about her career journey into software development. Tarah paints a nice picture of software development being akin to playing lego in many ways. She also shares some really useful insight into the fact that working in tech is a team sport and knowing when to ask for help is super important. Thanks for sharing your story, Tarah.

“My job is a bit like Lego.”

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

My job is a bit like Lego. I must combine many different pieces of code and technology - the bricks. They must be built into what has been asked for in a way that is both wonderful and useful.

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

I am a full-stack software developer at Re-Leased where I work with the .NET stack and other web technologies.

Each day I work with a team to produce software features or changes that make the product better and more useful to the client. This involves working through the layers required such as database, API, front end, and applying any required change or new items to each layer.

Sometimes I work on proof of concepts for new ideas or work with a buddy to peer programme. I also review the code of my teammates (and they review mine!) so that we can catch issues or make improvements before they get released to clients.

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

All programmers have been working with computers since they were little and must know everything to be successful.

Software developers come from all walks of life. Some even transition from other completely different careers. It is not possible to know everything, technology just moves too quickly. You must pick what you enjoy and what helps advance your career.

“I didn’t choose a tertiary path until the course I ended up taking was just about to start!”

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

No. I had two initial plans that fell through and left me floundering at the end of high school: chemical engineering and art, with a focus on restoration.

Technology and computing were hobbies though; I played games and created community content for some of the online games I played.

I knew I wanted something creative and challenging as I loved art, building things and problem solving in mathematics.

But I didn’t choose a tertiary path until the course I ended up taking was just about to start! It was computer systems and I fell in love with programming in the first class.

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

My journey to Re-Leased is a circular one.

In my second year at university, I attended the final years’ presentation evening and met a local developer whom I then approached for a summer job. So, I began my career at Birdwood Software Solutions!

I then continued working for the company when it merged with two others to form a bigger unit, Red Jungle. My last year of university was part-time work and an internship there.

When I graduated, they offered me a job. With Red Jungle I worked on many different projects for clients in New Zealand and abroad, including working on Re-Leased.

Through Red Jungle, I had the opportunity to gain both tech skills and soft skills in leadership and communication.

At the time that Red Jungle became Re-Leased, I was offered a position in the Netherlands by one of the companies whose software we had built.

The company, Treams, wanted help to build a team in the Netherlands and transition their code to that local team. I spent three years in the Netherlands working with a great team who were all committed to building a super product.

I always knew I would return to New Zealand one day, but COVID 19 pushed that return sooner than planned. While on holiday in New Zealand COVID fully began to unfold and I got stuck in the country.

I spent a year working remotely with the Netherlands before making the tough call to stay in New Zealand permanently.

As I had worked in small teams for my entire career, I was interested in working in a larger team in my next role. I wanted to work in a company with quite a few other senior developers with whom I could interact, learn from and continue to grow as a developer.

While in the Netherlands, I had kept an eye on how Re-Leased was doing. They had grown so much. It was exciting to visit and see so many new faces and some old ones.

The direction they were going was exciting and the culture was very aligned with my own values. So, I was really happy to be offered and accept a position at Re-Leased.

“Learn when to ask for help when you need it.”

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

Learn when to ask for help when you need it.

You can learn a lot by figuring something out on your own. But it may take a long time and you can end up exploring avenues that are dead ends before getting on the right course. A good balance between being independent and asking for help is important.

When you ask for help there might be someone in the team who knows the answer right away and you can learn from them.

Maybe no one knows and so you investigate together which has the benefit of being faster and two people are learning and sharing knowledge rather than one.

What do you love about working at Re-Leased?

There are many people with different experiences and expertise to call on for help and advice. There are challenges I get to take on code-wise.

I enjoy working with the team, helping other people, and feeling like my work makes a difference. I feel like I can contribute ideas and be heard. I also feel like I can grow my skills and learn new things.

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