A woman wearing a grey hoodie smiles at the camera. She is Varuna C Dev, a back-end engineer at Personio.
Varuna C Dev. Image: Personio

‘Continuous learning is fundamental to your automation career’

20 Jun 2023

Personio’s Varuna C Dev spoke to SiliconRepublic.com about her role as a back-end engineer and provided tips for those considering a career in automation.

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Varuna C Dev is a back-end engineer at HR software company Personio. Her favourite thing about working in automation is “the variety and complexity of challenges you are presented with when building a product”, she explains. “To solve them, you must tap into all the different tools and skillsets available to you.”

Another aspect she enjoys is the insights she gains from working as a part of a team. “Sharing skills and best practices and discussing the different ways you can tackle the problems means you are continuously learning and evolving.”

‘Great coding skills are crucial to success in my role’

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

I generally start my day by prioritising the work I have and seeing what needs to be tackled next and also checking my calendar. My team and I usually then hold a standup meeting in the morning, which is where we share what we are working on and any blockers or areas we may need support with.

For the rest of the day, I usually get to work on my ongoing tasks, which can range from writing design documents to pairing or mob programming sessions. I usually also have a couple of planning meetings with my team, and I often try to squeeze in a coffee chat with a colleague!

What types of automation projects do you work on?

Recently, I’ve been working on projects that use machine learning, which is an AI technique that teaches computers to learn from experience. It has the power to automate admin work that was previously eating into a HR manager’s time, which frees them up to focus on more strategic work.

An example of this project is Personio’s Conversation product and the new knowledge automation feature, which allows employees to automatically get answers to questions from knowledge documents set up by HR managers. This means that HR professionals no longer need to spend time manually responding to every request.

As I work on the back-end of engineering processes, it means I deal with data processing and managing. Solving the many challenges that data presents, but also harnessing the opportunities, is what I enjoy most about my job!

What skills do you use on a daily basis?

My work is often complex, and so writing reusable, scalable and readable code is a vital skill, because as a software engineer you focus on the design of the product from using the code as the basis point. Great coding skills are therefore crucial to success in my role.

However, as well as technical skills, softer skills like strong communication are also important. You must be able to effectively speak to your stakeholders and understand what is required to build the tools they need. Engineering also calls for a large amount of teamwork. It’s important for you and your team to update each other regularly, so that you can collaborate effectively to get the job done!

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

For others working in engineering and automation, pair-programming is a great way to get ahead when working on a complex problem. This is when you and another developer work together on one workstation – so while one person writes the code, the other person is able to review each line of code as you go. Two heads are better than one, so don’t be afraid to ask for help and work with others when it comes to solving a complex problem.

My other top piece of productivity advice is to take a step away from your screen when you are stuck on a problem. Sometimes, it might feel like sticking at a problem will lead you to figure it out. However, if you take a break, you may come back and find out suddenly the answer is right in front of you. It’s all about taking time and space when you need it to recharge and refresh your brain.

What skills and tools are you using to communicate daily with your colleagues?

At work, Slack is the main tool we use to communicate. However, when it comes to code and engineering, it can sometimes be easier to jump on a Zoom video call to solve the problem together.

Socially, I always make an effort to set up coffee chats with colleagues, both in person and remotely. By developing a personal relationship with your colleagues, it makes communication easier in the long run, and makes work more fun! I am also a big fan of team events that allow us to get to know each other better.

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

As the industry has grown rapidly, so have the tools and frameworks you need to be familiar with. This means that we need to be continuously learning and know what industry tools will work best for each specific use case. For example, using industry tools such as Kafka, Terraform and Kubernetes make it more efficient for a developer to build systems, while adapting to better monitoring tools, new technology stacks and better practices.

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

As I’ve mentioned, continuous learning is fundamental to excelling in your career. Make sure you are staying up to date with emerging technologies by reading blogs and books, and attending as many training courses as you can. Adopting this mindset will allow you to develop a strong technical foundation for any engineering career. Also, some strong problem-solving skills will certainly take you a long way in the world of automation!

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