Lucy Ironmonger

Three years ago, Lucy Ironmonger took the plunge into a six-month Software Engineering Bootcamp and didn’t look back. She is now Tech Lead for Zuto on the frontend Acquisition team, working with React, NextJS, and Typescript.

Tell me about your squiggly career.

I’m just a few years into my tech career, so it’s hard not to compare my technical standing to other professionals with much more experience than me in this field. But I’ve come to realise that the role relies on being a well-rounded individual. Skills that I’ve acquired through other aspects of life and learning can be applied to achieve successful approaches to projects and team cohesion.

I love tech – but it took me a while to find that out

I joined Zuto as a junior developer, fresh from a 6-month software engineering bootcamp with Command Shift followed by an intensive 6 months working on thinkmoney Academy’s banking app. 18 months later, I’m Tech Lead on Zuto’s Acquisition team, which looks after the website and the application journey for customers.

My role is very much full-stack but with a focus on front-end. My main stomping ground is JavaScript, HTML, CSS, React, NextJS, and C#. I’m loving getting lots of experience with AWS, micro-frontend architecture and microservices, as well as ownership of the full CI/CD pipeline.

Now I’m in the tech world, I realise it’s what I should have studied at university, but I must admit, the learnings I’ve had along the way have been crucial in developing me into the person I am today.

My background – a squiggly route

My A-levels were Maths, Physics and IT but my degree was in Creative Writing. I started university as an extremely shy teenager, but getting into DJ-ing in my first year helped me overcome a lot of social anxieties. It also led me to move to Manchester to study Music Production at the School of Electronic Music (SEM). When I finished the course, I was offered a job and worked there for 10 years in several roles from admin, tech support, and eventually Operations Director.

Not one for sitting still, during this time I completed 2 years at night school to become a plumber, and a further 2 to become an electrician, having a stint where I ran my own plumbing business on the side. When my wife gave birth to our daughter in 2020, it felt like crunch time and I decided to embark on the tech path.

What I learnt on the way

The confidence I accrued from DJing at uni, and then hosting Manchester’s biggest techno events has powered me through. Working at SEM was full of challenges which have helped my resilience and ability to stand my ground, especially in a male-dominated industry.

When I read the grug-brained developer manifesto, I understood that the ‘Fear of Looking Dumb’ is something a lot of people worry about in a work setting. I have to ask a lot more questions and break things down into very simple terms for my own benefit. Doing this repeatedly, it has helped me overcome my fear of looking dumb, and I think it has made my team feel more comfortable with doing it too, which has built a lot of trust and camaraderie.

How this translates to my current role

It’s good to embrace this ability to ask questions. Despite my title Tech Lead, I am not the most technical person on the team – far from it. The devs spend more time with their head in the code, they are the technical advisors. We make decisions collectively, and I do a lot of asking the (no question is too stupid) questions.

The operational experience I gained at SEM has stood me in good stead for managing, developing, and growing the team. I’ve enjoyed taking part in interviews and helping shape that process, as well as mapping out the plan: what needs to be done, how to approach this in ways that will skill up the team, along with orchestrating what additional members we need to hire to achieve this.

Zuto is all about providing a positive, inclusive workplace and that’s what we instil in the tech department. We start off with laughing therapy – aka daily stand-up. Here we give work updates, and end with ‘small wins’, where everyone thinks of a positive from the previous day. You’d be surprised how hard people find this – hence it being specifically a small win; they are rarely work-related and often food related.

In tech, there are no finish lines; no matter how hard you push there will always be more you can do and learn, and that can seem overwhelming. But I have found the tech sector, and Zuto in particular, to be supportive of learning. Zuto has a Progression and Development Guild specifically for keeping the focus on how we can help people progress and hit their goals.

Every other Friday is a day to focus on whatever you feel is important to you – learning a new coding language, firming up concepts, coding a pet project – whatever you feel is going to help you become a better dev. Safeguarding that time is key, and not writing it off by doing your ‘normal’ work!

The soft side of tech

I often think of my role as if I was on a curling team: I’m the one doing the backwards skating, frantically brushing the ice to help the puck get down the ice smoothly! I class the following soft skills as crucial to getting the job done well – for me and my team.

  • Have a willingness to learn.
  • Overcome the fear of looking dumb: ask questions.
  • Nurture team communication and understanding.
  • Ringfence time to develop skills.
  • Have a laugh, it’s a great way to bond with others.