Behind the tech: A Software Engineer’s guide to getting started in edtech

10 September 2021 | By viviedu

At the end of 2019, Vivi software engineer Andrew Pritchard was looking for a fresh start. He had spent the previous three years working in Western Australia as a public dentist when his partner received a job offer in Melbourne and he saw an opportunity to rewrite his resume focusing on his core passion: software engineering. 

Armed with a portfolio of side projects, I discovered a dynamic tech startup in Vivi. Despite a diverse tech stack, Andrew’s early role was mainly limited to front-end JavaScript to be used in the customer-facing application. Vivi was growing fast and for a company to hire a software engineer with a medical background, it was clear they were willing to entertain a level of risk and be courageous in bringing in the best possible people. 

Joining the company shortly before going into lockdown in March 2020, Andrew experienced hyper-growth in a remote setting and was soon attacking projects related to Vivi Central, a cloud-based admin portal, where he quickly added back-end experience. In the interests of idea diversity, Vivi engineers are experts across various components at the same time. 

One of Andrew’s main interests in his own time is functional programming. This allows him to see solutions to problems in different ways than the others in the team. At Vivi, the team has a particularly diverse set of skills and everyone benefits from each other’s ideas. If you have a good idea at Vivi, it will be heard, discussed, and refined by the collective experience of the team. Andrew’s first big idea was a much safer and ergonomic method to validate input from over a network using his knowledge of functional programming. The method was implemented successfully and now the team can enjoy some peace of mind knowing that aspect of the code base is a little bit more robust. 

Perhaps one of the more surprising aspects came when it was time for a quarterly performance review. Inside the little box marked “How would you like to improve”, Andrew expressed he would like to work on something a bit more low-level, to broaden his software engineering knowledge. In previous jobs, these goals tended to be associated with some unmanaged, self-directed learning. However, at Vivi, tasks that were relevant to his professional development goals magically seemed to find him. It wasn’t long before he was writing an interface for CEC hardware, or a driver for macOS. 

On the flip side, there was always the need to go back to some front-end work. This was a great opportunity to improve his software engineering ability and focus on clean, principled code. The team has a sharp eye and doesn’t let much through, with a focus on consistency and precision. Their comments and pointers have certainly helped Andrew become a better software engineer. 

Overall, Vivi could not have been a better start to Andrew’s software engineering career. With a diverse set of technologies, an experienced team, and supportive management, Vivi has proven to be a place where if you have good ideas and are willing to take a deep dive into potentially anything, you can achieve work that truly makes a difference in the education space.