Case studies, Early careers, Software

Zoopla: Meet our Software Engineer apprentices

07 October 2020 by Heidi Marshall

Zoopla’s ten trainee Software Engineers are now approaching the end of their 12-week bootcamp, the first stage of an 18-month Corndel Software Engineering apprenticeship diploma. We asked four of the learners to share their personal stories about how they came to start their careers in software development. 

We're proud to be supporting the Tech She Can Charter, which aims to change the ratio of women in tech. Seven out of ten of Zoopla's cohort of Software Engineer apprentices are female, and each apprentice has had a unique journey to get them to this point.

Louise Gilligan

“Software Engineering was not something that I was encouraged to learn at a higher level in school - my year just missed out on the big tech push. I went down the arts route and did a history degree. It wasn’t until I came into the working world and became a recruiter for software engineers that I found out there were huge teams of people building products. I quickly realised that I am much more suited to that side of things. Whilst I learnt great skills in sales and was always up for the challenge, my passion is technology and I feel lucky to have a role where I can learn, create and analyse every day.  

I’ve always been really keen to have my own company or building a product in the future that makes a difference. I think that having skills in software engineering will set me up to achieve that.    

Through my recruitment consultant role, I was aware of the lack of women in tech. So when I started my search for getting started as a software engineer, I focused on companies that were keen to bridge that gap. That’s when I came across the Zoopla opportunity.    

About two years ago I started teaching myself some coding but found it tough by myself. I thought I’d invest in an introductory course through an organisation called 23 Code Street, which focused on getting women into tech.   

We’re now 10 weeks into the boot camp stage of the apprenticeship and I’m feeling a sense of community with my fellow apprentices as well as being engaged with the Zoopla team through joining weekly IT team and line manager meetings, slack employee engagement activities such as a Sunflower Grow-Off and a Meet the Apprentice video activity. I feel very welcomed and included, despite still being in a Covid-19 working from home set up. I’m looking forward to meeting colleagues in person.    

When the bootcamp is complete and we start our placements we’re going to start by replacing lots of old code and building new features. The Corndel programme has prepared me well for that work. It’s such a great opportunity for me. I’m so grateful and happy to be here.” 

Chilli Mahendra 

studied Psychology at university and prior to that software engineering hadn’t crossed my mindDuring my degree, I really enjoyed the data analysis side of things and so I went along to a data analysis bootcamp which included an element of programming for data analysis. Once I’d dipped my toe in the water, I knew that it was what I wanted to do. 

My first job after university was working as an e-commerce assistant. I learned a bit about how websites worked and spent time fixing simple tickets. The developer there was self-taught and I asked him many questions. He was an inspiration to me and became an early mentor, giving me mini projects to work on that would normally be given to a junior developer. That piqued my interest and I changed role to work on A/B testing on site personalisation and content management, which involved a lot of building things in HTML and CSS. I then knew that software development was the way to go for me and started the process of looking for a company that would train me.  

I’m looking forward to completing the boot camp and being fully integrated into Zoopla life. I can’t wait to start working with my Zoopla team and to be focusing on specific areas for longer periods of time. My manager has been fantastic so far and I know that he’s fully committed to ensuring I have the opportunity to cover everything that’s needed for the remaining months of the apprenticeship. I’m hopeful we’ll be able to collaborate as a group of apprentices as we start work in our different Zoopla teams.  

I feel like I’ve learned so much – the content is getting harder and I’m still enjoying it and can already look back at what we covered at the start and can see how far I’ve come. 


Viktorija Buklajeva

I come from a creative background, having studied textiles at universityDuring my studies it occurred to me that much of textiles is not sustainable or environmentally friendly and I wanted to push my creative skills into something more sustainable. The obvious choice was software engineering because it’s about bringing your ideas to life through technology, and doing that at scale. In my second year at university I was doing a simple code project with microcontrollers and some LEDs sewn into a garment and that was the very beginning of my codingBeing able to make the electronics do what I wanted them to gave me a real buzz.  In the workplace, I have several years’ experience in managing people and was keen to bring it together with a career in technology. 

I heard from a friend who did an apprenticeship in real estate and felt empowered by the programme, and so having looked at the credentials on the Government website, I decided to apply for the programme with Corndel 

In terms of external inspiration for a career in software engineering, I would say I am inspired by Ada Lovelace, mathematician who converted her work into code and the person who started the programming revolution. She is a strong female role model who made such as difference within the tech environmentEven today there are so few females in tech and there are still inspirational women who are paving the way for future generations. As Margaret Hamilton showed nearly 60 years ago by writing code, by hand, for Apollo 11, women just need to be empowered and to be nudged in the right direction. 

I did a short coding course prior to joining the programme through an organisation called Code First GirlsOver the last ten weeks of bootcamp, mknowledge within code has increased dramatically. On reflection, I had a false confidence going into it and have now learned so much! The course moves quickly, but our tutor is incredibly patient and is dedicated to ensuring we understand what we’ve covering. The programme content is incredibly informative and it’s empowering to be acquiring so many new skills so quickly.  

Even before I have written a line of code for Zoopla I have connected with the team. There is daily connection with the Zoopla team over video. My new colleagues have been extremely welcoming. I get invited to all morning stand-up meetings and end-of-day meetings and I have even already run one of those meetings, despite not even having formally started my role yet. My product manager and I ran a quiz for the whole team 

I’m looking forward to completing my first ticket – and having that sense of achievement and proof of where this course is leading. It’s really exciting – the best job offer of my life! 

George Thomas

I was first introduced to programming in school, where we covered the fundamentals of Python. That exposure hooked me in and coding quickly became a hobby outside of school. After A-levels I went into retail and continued to learn programming in my spare time. I decided to look for something that would push me to learn more and help me turn my hobby into a career. began to look for software engineering apprenticeships, carefully weighing them all up. I came across the Zoopla advert and liked what I saw in terms of Zoopla’s company culture and what Corndel offered as an apprenticeship provider.   

I’m loving the bootcamp. There is a lot to take in and it’s so satisfying when things start to clickAs a cohort of apprentices, we all support each other as we work through what is a challenging programme. Just today we were reading code that 6-7 weeks ago would have meant little to me. I meet regularly with my new manager, who is currently in the process of building a new team. My team will be working on a product that Zoopla ships to estate agents. This product sits on a bed of legacy code and we have to re-work it to make it look nicer and more fluentwithout affecting its functionalityI’m really excited by that. 

We’ralready well on the way to becoming engaged with Zoopla colleagues. We have all made videos to introduce ourselves and each one goes into Slack channel with 500 members – this is quite daunting but everyone seems so friendly and welcomingI’m eager to see where this career can take me – software engineering is such a valuable skillset. I like the fact that technology is always changing. Always having something new to learn really appeals to me. 

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