A man wearing a baseball cap smiles at the camera in a home office setting. There is a brown wall behind him as well as a computer. He is Shaun Haren, a software development intern at Fidelity Investments.
Shaun Haren. Image: Fidelity Investments

‘STEM is as much about small improvements as the big breakthroughs’

28 Aug 2023

Fidelity Investments’ Shaun Haren discusses his software development internship and the most challenging elements of a career pivot into tech.

Click here to view the full Starting Your STEM Career series.

For Shaun Haren, the most enjoyable part of working in tech is getting stuck into coding.

“I’ve had days writing code whereby I look at the time and its 5pm already, the day just flew!”

Haren is a software development intern at Fidelity Investments. Having spent many years happily working in the pharmaceutical industry, he decided to try something new by switching from active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) manufacturing to the financial software industry.

Haren says that he has always been drawn to technology. “At work, I was the one who would be drilling down into automation issues to see what was happening and why.

“In my spare time, I loved reading about new technology and seeing what is the next new technology that is out there.”

What made you decide to pivot away from your previous work and move into the tech world?

It was one of those big life events. In my case it was redundancy. While we were given plenty time and notice, it is still a challenging and disruptive event for anyone to go through.

‘It can be really satisfying to see your code work on huge datasets’

How did you go about making that move?

I found the Fidelity/FIT Tech apprenticeship programme. It is a two-year technology apprentice programme whereby you learn as you work, in the way any other apprentice learns their trade, except it is applied to software development.

Fidelity have really embraced this programme. I am one of 12 tech apprentices that started last year. From the beginning, Fidelity had a support team in place. We were all given mentors to work with. The mentor’s job is to guide you, answer questions and provide help when you need it.

The first few weeks on site is the toughest as you try and get familiar with the work environment. The supports really help as no amount of theory can prepare you fully for the workplace. It’s getting over the hurdles of such a complex and dynamic workplace, I can get over most problems in programming, but it can be non-technical things that you need help with.

It’s very enjoyable to be part of the programme. In Fidelity, everyone is approachable and helpful. I’ve gotten help from my teammates even though I know they had a workload themselves to get through, but it didn’t phase them. You feel part of the team.

What does your role entail?

As part of a team, I work with data, big data. It’s hard to appreciate what it is until you work with it! There is so much raw data in finance, it must be processed and transformed into usable information. So, my role now in asset management data services is basically extracting data, and loading and transforming it into usable information. It can be really satisfying to see your code work on huge datasets.

Did you find you were able to transfer some skills from your previous career across to your tech role?

Some of the skills that easily transferred include documentation, time-keeping (which is a breeze for anyone who worked shift work), other things that you don’t readily notice such as being able to approach people, get involved, asking for help, teamwork etc.

I think the nature of my previous work gave me a sharpness and a work ethic to not presume things.

What were the most challenging elements of making a career pivot into tech and how did you navigate these challenges?

Getting a foot in the door and gaining work experience is the most challenging. Study too, although if you find something interesting it makes it a lot easier. I think that Fidelity removed a lot of the hurdles to making the career change.

Managing my self-perception as I make this change later in my career in comparison to graduates. The reality is your team leader is glad to have someone on.

What advice would you give to others considering a career pivot into tech?

STEM is as much about small improvements as the big breakthrough discovery. Don’t be put off by how dramatic and huge everything in STEM is portrayed as. Yes, it’s fascinating to read about some mega construction project or the latest in artificial intelligence, but working in STEM is often about small increments and improvements to existing everyday things. Once you are curious and like to problem-solve, then go for it!

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