Transitioning from Data Analysis to Software Engineering
Sau Yee started her career in the IT industry in data analysis, but her curiosity drew her to switch career tracks to software engineering. She began her software engineering career at HENNGE, where she leverages her experience to deliver a better result for the business and customers.
Sau Yee first moved to Japan from Singapore straight after high school, having received the MEXT university scholarship. After she completed her bachelor’s degree, she obtained her master’s in France, and completed an internship in Singapore, before finally returning to Japan to work as a data engineer.
Following a number of years working in the IT industry on the data analysis side, she turned her eye to software engineering because “software engineering is interesting because you are actually making your own thing instead of reusing and dealing with data that somebody else made.”
As you get more curious about where the data comes from, how the technology works, you want to understand how all the puzzle pieces fit together and that’s how I got interested in software development.
When applying to HENNGE, Sau Yee appreciated that they put the take home coding challenge as the first step. She said, “You can take your time on the coding challenge. HENNGE’s approach kinda gives everyone a fair chance. It doesn’t really matter if you didn’t study computer science in college, if you can solve the challenge they’re willing to take a look at your application and I really appreciate that.”
Now she works on HENNGE’s Access Control team, which at 14 members is the biggest dev team at HENNGE. She said, “I’m in the back end sub-team. There’s also a front end sub-team, a mobile sub-team, a QA sub-team, and infra sub-team. We do maintenance of the current product as well as adding new features that our customers have asked for. We have over 2000 companies and 2 million users using our product suite.”
With so many users, it can be a challenge to decide what features to dedicate resources to. Sau Yee said, “We work with product managers that help bridge the business side and the developers, organising user interviews and getting insights from customer and internal teams. Our product managers review the feature requests that come in and then decide what seems worth working on, what needs more research. Then we have a brief discussion on whether it’s feasible and how much effort it will require.”
Sau Yee has also been able to use her past experiences to push for improvements to this process. She said, “Because I formerly came from the data analysis space, I was really interested in how HENNGE leverages data to make decisions, for example, what product adoption goals are considered success for feature launch? Do we need a hundred customers using it? Is there a sort of monetary value? Like we measure usage, but as far as I understand, I don’t think there’s always a goal before we launch. So it’s something I’m working towards with the product managers.”
I talked with my managers and my team leader and then I got more involved in initiatives related to that. I got a better understanding of how data is used throughout the company - learning to promote the use of data or doing some forecasting for the company, leveraging what experience I’ve had from my previous jobs.
The team also influences what they work on, by pitching ideas on how to improve the customer experience. Sau Yee says in her team “everyone is free to suggest things they want to build. They can talk to our product managers, or if it’s purely a software thing we can decide within the team if we should prioritise it. If you are passionate about something, you can always make a proposal or suggest things to people, they’re quite open.”
Sau Yee feels that HENNGE encourages developers to take charge of projects that interest them and encourages them to be proactive about career growth: “the overarching principle at HENNGE is you have to plan your own career. For example, if you want to get promoted, you have to make your own application to be promoted to the next level. There’s this Excel matrix with all the requirements, you have to think about, hey, am I matching up to that? What else do I need to get myself to the next level? You have to really be able to explain what you’ve achieved, how you’ve contributed to the company.”
HENNGE is invested in balancing the flexibility of remote work while maintaining strong team connections. Sau Yee said, “They want to make sure we have the freedom to work from home while making sure there’s that human connection. We had this gathering for a week in Kyushu last year for the entire tech team, and they’re gonna do it again this July”. There are various (optional) office events, including monthly office days, where Sau Yee’s team catch up in person and enjoy company sponsored lunch together.
In closing, Sau Yee had many good things to say about the diversity and freedom at HENNGE for other developers considering applying: “I think HENNGE is pretty unique as an English speaking IT company in Japan. You work with a lot of Japanese members, but there’s a very diverse team of developers in our department. You get to work with people from different nationalities, different backgrounds, different interests. They’ve been investing a lot of effort into promoting inclusion and diversity. There’s a lot of freedom to decide how to want to locate your time. The work-life balance is also pretty good for a Japanese company. I’m happy here.”