Working as a software engineer in Paris, France, Charly works on multiple projects with small, focused teams. From the word go he’s been expected to show initiative and has been given multiple opportunities to really prove himself, gaining new skills and experience along the way.
What’s your name?
24 years old.
Where do you work?
AdaCore in Paris, France.
What's your job title?
How long have you been doing that?
Since September 2011.
How did you get there?
I had the chance to meet several AdaCore employees during lectures presented at the French engineering school EPITA (École Pour l'Informatique et les Techniques Avancées) in Paris. One lecture in particular entitled certification and DO-178, inspired me. The realisation hit me that a career in a company such as AdaCore, which provides tools and supports in the context of high-reliability and safety-critical software, was my idea of a job I would be happy to get up for in the morning.
At that time, AdaCore was recruiting new interns for various aspects of their technology. This is how I started working on the GDB (GNU Debugger) technology. GDB is free software provided by the Free Software Foundation (FSF), which is also maintained and improved by AdaCore to support the Ada language.
Working on that project for six months, I was able to gain valuable experience in both the GNU technology and the Ada language, along with confirming my interest in working for a company such as AdaCore.
After my internship finished, I was offered the role of software engineer in the Paris office. The main task assigned to me was working on the qualifying machine (QM) project, which involves multiple European projects focused on software certification in various contexts such as avionics and railways.
Without hesitation, I accepted that position, turning down offers from other companies such as Google.
What's the work and day-to-day experience like?
As one of the three QM project team members, my role is to design and develop the software, using both my experience and imagination to create an innovative solution that will be deeply involved in multiple European projects such as OPENCOSS.
This has been a great opportunity to meet with experienced engineers from well renowned companies developing safety-critical software. The intensive communication and relationship we have with these engineers is extremely valuable for a young engineer like myself. I am glad I have the chance to prove myself in such an international context.
I was also asked to work on another of the company’s products Ada-Java Interface Suite (AJIS), as my experience with multiple programming languages would be very valuable to the team. I soon started to meet with clients and help them solve their issues via AdaCore’s dedicated support systems. A key point of AdaCore's business model is to provide extensive support for its technologies.
Being a software engineer at AdaCore is very different from the stereotype of the common developer that many may think of. The engineer is really at the heart of things interacting with both the software and the clients using that software, whether it be other employees or actual clients such as BAE Systems, Thales. This makes AdaCore's support very valuable, and the experience as an engineer incredibly more interesting compared to the same position in any other company.
I was also quickly able to use my knowledge of multiple systems and technologies to join the system administrator team. This job is to provide quality support for AdaCore's employees for their day-to-day work (email, access to internal resources, build-farm management, crisis-situations).
What's the best thing about the job?
The first thing that comes to mind is the opportunity to work on multiple projects with small, focused teams. Being multifunctional is a required trait and it allows me to switch between multiple tasks on a daily basis.
Since the main guideline at AdaCore is to use initiative and manage our own time and workload, working on several projects is a good way to produce interesting and quality work. There is always plenty of work to do, and there is always a particular task to mirror your current mood.
And the worst?
Due to the heavy workload, it is not always easy to prioritise tasks. In particular, a recurring scenario is when I am working on the QM and I have to stop to support an incoming client request for AJIS.
How would you describe life as a working engineer?
I like the idea of being able to consolidate the experience I gathered from EPITA and actively apply it in my work.
The link between these two worlds is far from obvious as a student, and it is very pleasant to be able to use this knowledge to solve day-to-day challenges. I also like the independence and responsibility of coming up with my own ideas and solutions. The technical, hands on, aspect of the role is also of particularly interest.
What did you expect when you started work?
When I started work, the level of confidence of my colleagues surprised me. It was not important to them whether I had been an engineer for two weeks or 20 years, but rather the relevance of my ideas.
I also expected to be given opportunities to prove myself, and AdaCore allowed me to do exactly that by trusting my opinion and my choices and allowing me to self manage my time and choose the projects I wanted to be involved in.
Is there any advice you’d like to pass on to those about to enter an engineering workplace?
I would summarise it in one sentence: find out what you want, and learn how to ask for it. You need to enjoy doing what you are doing; this is the key to success and provides the enthusiasm to get up every day to go to work.
At AdaCore at least, you need to be proactive, and take the initiative to come up with your own solutions. This role certainly isn’t a nine-to-five job, but the intellectual benefits really are worth the effort.
What do you think you'll do next?
I'm enjoying my time at AdaCore and plan to stay as long as I am intellectually stimulated, which, given the foreseen workload, is guaranteed long-term. I live in Paris so working at AdaCore Paris is ideal for me, but I also hope to move to New York and possibly work from the AdaCore office there.
My long-term ambitions are improving my management skills and having a small team to work with on a dedicated project of my own. I would like the responsibility of being a team leader but I’d still want to remain hands-on myself and working at AdaCore would allow me to do this.