Case studies, Software

Turning scientists into software engineers with Anthony Nolan

18 September 2018 by Isla Lightfoot

The code written by Dr. Zabeen Patel saves lives.

A back-end developer for blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan, the 36-year-old biologist is part of a team overhauling legacy systems which match stem cell donors with patients in need of a transplant.

Anthony Nolan invested their Apprenticeship Levy in enrolling Zabeen and two colleagues at the Corndel Software Engineering Academy to acquire up-to-date C# coding skills.

Lifelong learning

Zabeen has worked for Anthony Nolan for eight years since completing postgraduate degrees in Bioinformatics and Biology. She embarked on her software engineering apprenticeship with Corndel shortly after returning from maternity leave after the birth of her first child.

She spoke to us about the need to keep developing new technical skills.

“We have been using computers and digital information for a long time. But over time the computers, the way in which we write code, and software engineering itself has changed, and continues to change every day. The issues we face now are scalability, efficiency and maintainability." She said.

"The existing systems are written in languages that are outdated, so it is difficult to find people with the skills to update them.”

“Rather than hiring contractors or outside firms it makes a lot more sense to develop the people we already have, especially when we are paying the Apprenticeship Levy."

“We already have all this organisational knowledge about our internal business processes, and now are getting the latest technical knowledge in software engineering. That combination is hugely valuable to the organisation.”

She added: “I’ve found the whole experience very enjoyable. The training has been very good, the tutors are hugely knowledgeable, and the content is exceptionally useful for the work I am embarking on."

“The goal of the apprenticeship is to be a fully-trained software engineer, and I feel I am heading in that direction."

"It has improved my object-orientated design and C# coding skills. I am writing better code right from the beginning of my project.”

Skills for the future

Laura Phillips, the charity’s Assistant Director of Technology, said: “The reality is that for the majority of our projects, we need both exceptional and specialist subject matter expertise, as well as technical skills to deliver on our digital projects."

"It was important to us that we took the existing team members on the journey with us as we work towards replacing outdated legacy systems."

"The Apprenticeship Levy has given us the ability to do this without compromising on the skills we need in the future."

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