Alison Choy

I didn’t mean to get into software engineering.

I started out as a chemist and did a PhD in cheminformatics, applying machine learning and data mining techniques to predict drug absorption and metabolism. As part of my PhD I had to learn programming, so I taught myself how to code by watching YouTube videos. I enjoyed creating software so much that I created an application based on the scientific methodologies that I developed for my PhD. The software enabled a user to investigate the stability of specific drug candidate structures. If undesirable properties were detected, the application suggested strategies to improve the drug candidate’s profile.

Programming turned out to be what I enjoyed the most, there was no question if I was going to pursue a career in software engineering. I worked as a software engineer for Alfa, a financial technology company operating in the asset finance market. I was instrumental in transforming Alfa’s culture from that of a management consultancy to that of a tech company by organising their first two company hackathons. Alfa’s CEO described it as the best conference in the organisation’s 25 year history. This set in motion a chain of innovation projects that have been sustained even after I left the company.

I moved from Alfa to Starling Bank in 2018. My role initially consisted of integrating the bank’s backend application with other financial services providers to offer customers the ability to transfer their data securely from one to the other. I have since moved into a data science / data engineering role within Starling, where I am responsible for gathering and fulfilling the organisation’s data requirements from compliance and regulatory reports to financial reconciliations and investor documents. I am implementing a data warehouse so business users can obtain the data they require and carry out their own data visualisation without any technical knowledge. Now as Starling’s head of machine learning, I am working to improve upon the organisation’s data foundation, to accelerate data driven decisions and work towards using AI to improve our customer’s experience and their financial lives.