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Ben’s path to a Senior Software Engineer at Gearset


  • Date 18 Sep 2023
  • Sectors Technology

Ben Scabbia is a Development Team Lead at Gearset based in our Cambridge office, and has been a software engineer for over 8 years. Ben’s taken a slightly non-traditional path to becoming a software engineer, which he shares in this article along with what a typical day looks like for him as a senior engineer at Gearset.

What attracted you to Software Engineering?

“My journey began during my time at Reading University where I was studying Economics (bear with me on that one)! A few of my housemates were studying Computer Science degrees and I thought it was cool seeing all the projects they’d built from scratch.

After completing my Economics degree, my partner’s company relocated to Cambridge. So, knowing no one there and having visited the place once or twice, we packed up and started a new adventure (and luckily so, as I later discovered Cambridge was the home of Silicon Fen).

Shortly after we moved, my partner gifted me a Raspberry Pi and a book called “Python for the Absolute Beginner” (which holds a place in my heart and is in view as I’m writing this sentence). That was the real turning point for me, and what kick started my obsession with becoming a software engineer.

Soon after, I decided to complete an online Python course to test the waters and see if coding was really as much fun as it seemed. Well, yes, it was! So, I enrolled in a Master’s degree in Computer Science at Hertfordshire University, which I completed with top grades, and I’ve not looked back since!”

What’s been your journey to a Development Team Lead at Gearset?

“I started life at Gearset just over 4 years ago as a software engineer. During my time here, I’ve worked in all the major areas of the code base and collaborated with every department. Whilst I’ve always loved the engineering side, I found that my biggest strength and the one that came most naturally to me was working with people.

I loved bouncing ideas around with the various teams at Gearset — sales, marketing, customer success, product, and UX folks. So, when I was offered the role as team lead I really couldn’t have asked for a better fit.”

What do you like most about the tech industry, and what tech intrigues you?

“During my time in the industry I’ve witnessed the shift to cloud computing, AI going mainstream, and the spread of IoT (plus a bunch of others too)! It’s been so fun seeing these developments, the speed at which they take place, and how these developments end up finding application across various domains. Whether it’s learning how Formula 1 teams are using AI and machine learning to improve the aerodynamic efficiency of cars, or how satellites (such as the NOAA-20) are combating illegal deforestation — if someone is applying tech to a modern problem, I’m interested!”

A day in the life

“I kickstart my day by doing 30 minutes of learning and development. I’m currently doing a React course — it’s fully funded by Gearset as part of our annual learning and development budget. Gearset not only provides us the financial opportunity to enrol on courses about anything we think necessary, but places an emphasis on learning and development too, which means you’ll be encouraged to find the time to commit to a course.

Next, I check Slack and reply to any urgent messages or teammate queries. I’ll then make a plan for the day and decide which tasks I’d like to accomplish, before jumping into some code reviews (a personal favourite). Once those are completed, I’ll start on my list, typically tackling the most challenging item whilst I’m freshest. This might involve driving key projects forward, collaborating with the product team, or assisting with customer investigations.

Later in the morning, we might have a team meeting (we run those every other day, with a longer session on Fridays). These discussions keep everyone aligned and provide another place for folks to ask for help. After the team meeting, I typically take my lunch break — since I’m working from home, I give my wife a well earned break and entertain our two young children while trying to eat some lunch!

In the afternoon, I check again for code reviews and continue working through my to-do list. Occasionally, there are watercooler chats (these are ‘coffee breaks’ with a random group in the company) or a technical roadmap session, which I try and actively participate in — I enjoy hearing the various improvements other engineers bring forward, whether it’s a case for UI testing, or the introduction of a static code analyser, or the development of a UI component library.

As the day winds down, I try to wrap up some admin tasks (emails etc.) so I can start the next day with a clean slate. Working from home demands a lot of self discipline so by 5pm I try to turn my laptop off, and begin my long commute… downstairs!”

What makes engineering at Gearset different from other companies you’ve worked with?

“For me it’s the combination of trust, amazing people, and the growth opportunities. There’s a healthy collaborative culture here that I haven’t seen so much of in my previous companies.

I try to contribute to a number of different projects and Gearset gives me no end of opportunities to grow! Whether it’s directly participating in the technical roadmap, helping out with customer issues, or getting more involved in the product side of things — there’s never a dull moment as there’s just so much variation. Add to all that the emphasis on wellbeing, learning and development — Gearset offers the perfect recipe for finding a happy balance between work and family, and being able to continuously grow.”

What sort of projects have you worked on so far?

“The team I was in (which is the same team I’m now leading) developed the Pipelines product. For me, it’s the perfect blend of technical and product challenges. Some of the most interesting technical challenges I worked on were helping the team come up with a brand new git branching model that would enable customers to effectively manage multiple Salesforce orgs. We ultimately developed the ‘promotion branching model’ which enabled us to integrate forward and back propagations of pull requests, whilst supporting a consistent user experience across the 9 different version control systems.

The other fun technical challenge was being the first team to heavily adopt react, redux and TS! This has presented a series of technical and product/UX challenges, which I’ve absolutely loved working on!”

What attracted you to join Gearset?

“The first thing that attracted me was the prospect of working on a DevOps tool, which is interesting in itself and an area that I had very little experience in. However, it was the conversations with the team and the positive Glassdoor feedback that truly convinced me.

Over four years later, I’m still loving life at Gearset and couldn’t ask for better companions. I can honestly say that each day is a rewarding experience. It wouldn’t be right not to mention how entirely supportive Gearset has been over the years on a personal level too. Be that during the pandemic, family sickness, when I’ve wanted to pursue a course, or the birth of my babies — Gearset has always had my back.”

And, finally, the burning question: tabs or spaces?

“Consistency is key! Maybe I’m in the minority here, but I’ve never had a strong opinion on either — just don’t leave a trailing whitespace!”

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