A woman smiles at the camera with a tree behind her. She is Agata Dzierzak, a software engineer at Fidelity Investments.
Image: Agata Dzierzak

In engineering, ‘soft skills are sometimes more important than technical skills’

11 Apr 2023

Fidelity Investments’ Agata Dzierzak talks to SiliconRepublic.com about her role as a software engineer and how she tackles the challenges that come with a job in the engineering sector.

Agata Dzierzak has been a software engineer at Fidelity Investments since 2020. With a passion for mobile development and accessibility, Dzierzak began her current role after joining the company through their graduate programme, LEAP.

‘Reaching out for help can sometimes be challenging, but it’s so important to ask for help if you’re not sure how to proceed’

If there is such a thing, can you describe a typical day in the job?

I like to start early in the day which gives me about two hours of uninterrupted work before any meetings. After our team’s daily scrum, the day varies –  sometimes it can be full of meetings, other times I have the whole day free to really focus on my stories. I also try my best to include a walk or some form of exercise during my lunch break. Going to get a coffee from the local coffee shop once or twice a week has slowly become a part of my work routine.

Keeping the day very structured doesn’t work for me – instead I make to-do lists and make sure I devote enough time to get everything done. It gives me the flexibility to switch between tasks if it’s needed.

What types of engineering projects do you work on?

I work in the mobile development area, I have been working on creating reusable components other teams can use for building hybrid mobile applications. I really enjoy front-end and mobile so it’s a perfect mix for me.

What engineering skills do you use on a daily basis?

I have been learning a lot about mobile accessibility over the past year or so, which has been challenging but exciting.

Soft skills are sometimes more important than technical skills, which is something I think a lot of people don’t expect. If you’re a good communicator and work well in a team, it’s much easier to reach out for help or learn new technical skills. Teamwork is crucial; we often work together to solve an issue and it’s also a great way to learn from your teammates who may be more knowledgeable about certain topics.

What are the hardest parts of engineering, and how do you navigate them?

The most challenging part is knowing when to take a break. It can be hard to step away from an issue you have been working on for a long time, but breaks are essential. I enjoy going for a walk during my lunch break, but small movements throughout the day are also important. I find that it helps me clear my head and I can come back to what I’m working on with a clear mind and new ideas.

Reaching out for help can sometimes be challenging, but it’s so important to ask for help if you’re not sure how to proceed. Documenting your challenges and their solutions is a fantastic tool to have, chances are you or someone else will come across those same problems again.

Do you have any productivity tips that help you through the day?

For me, taking short breaks is key to staying focused. Tools like the Pomodoro technique are very useful.

I also have a big notepad on my desk to take notes during meetings and make to-do lists for myself — it helps me stay organised. I prefer pen and paper over digital — it’s more convenient since it’s always right there.

What skills and tools do you use to communicate daily with your colleagues?

Since we have a mix of in-office and at-home working, we use Teams and Zoom as our main means of communication. We try to keep Zoom calls to a minimum to avoid ‘Zoom fatigue’. My team has also been using virtual reality headsets for the daily scrum meetings, which is a lot of fun.

How has this role changed as the engineering sector has grown and evolved?

I think there has been a big push on accessibility, especially in the mobile space, which is great to see. I hope to see accessibility being talked about more and more. The speed at which technology changes also surprised me at first, I think you’re not exposed to it as much during college.

What do you enjoy most about working as an engineer?

The work can be challenging, which is what keeps it interesting. It’s fun to find solutions to difficult problems and I find it satisfying to fix difficult bugs. Constant learning is also a big part of this job which I enjoy. It’s exciting to see your work being used by others every day. I think it also makes me appreciate software that I use daily since I know how much work goes into it.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to work in engineering?

I think this is a field where you have to enjoy what you do, otherwise it will be very difficult. What I did before deciding that this is what I want to do was some free online courses – I did one for web design and one for Java and it’s something I recommend everyone does before really committing to working in this field.

Teamwork and communication are also essential skills to have which can sometimes be forgotten about in college. Soft skills in general should be worked on as much as technical skills to be successful in this role.

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