Hackathons and Hobbies - meet Kirstine and learn how she's working at home

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Kirstine Boyd is a Senior Software Engineer at Liberty IT and has been with the company since she was a student at Queen's University Belfast. She has been keeping a lot of our employees motivated and engaged with each other while we work from home due to Covid-19, so we had a chat to learn more about her and her vast array of hobbies (and ferrets!). 


How long have you been at Liberty IT and what is your current role?

I’ve been at Liberty IT now for seven years, including three years during my time at university. I received the scholarship in my first year at Queen's and just kept coming back as I love it here. I am currently a Senior Software Engineer, just recently promoted through our internal self-nominated promotion scheme.

I work in the Payment Hub team where we aspire to be Liberty Mutual’s global payment solution. It’s a really interesting space using AWS, Java, typescript and all the ‘fun’ stuff, which is a change of pace for me as I was on a legacy .NET app before joining this team.


What was your journey to working here? Who inspired you?

I came here from Queen’s after completing a BEng in Computer Science, but that was a weird one as I actually didn’t want to go there. I finished my GCSEs at Cambridge House in Ballymena(hi) and went back for my A levels – after a year of doing ICT, Biology, English Lit and Media Studies I dropped out. I wanted to code, not learn ‘where is the mouse and monitor on this picture?’. 

I attended Northern Regional College after that and completed the NP IT diploma (which wasn't fully about coding either, but did have more than school).  I was inspired there by a lecturer Mairead Mackle who encouraged me as a woman in tech to pursue a career in computer science. She pushed me to my limits and I received the highest score in the class, so from there I had the confidence to go to uni.

I got myself a system admin job from May to September that year between tech ending and uni starting and I actually really loved it. One of my favourite memories from it was when an older lady phoned in and wanted to know how she could get a picture from an email to a word document – I gave her a class in copy and paste that day, and without shortcuts, fully with the mouse.

My mum has also been a massive inspiration to me throughout my journey to Software Engineering (and life in general!), always encouraging me and as a child she enrolled me in lots of adult computer classes. I was always the youngest in the class but this sparked my love of all things computers and for that I am extremely grateful!


What have you been most proud of recently?

In work I’d say the most recent proud moment was winning a company hackathon against seven other teams from Liberty Mutual. It was a really awesome experience. We were a random team thrown together but we worked extremely well.

The team consisted of myself, Arif Tahir, Ismael Florit, Lauren Little and Ruth Dodridge. We were the only team from Belfast and had just three days to prepare. The idea came from Andy O'Sullivan in our Emerging Tech team and was about how to check and route a vast quantity of emails. This can be extremely time consuming and tedious and in a world where we have machine learning at our fingertips, why wouldn't you leverage it?

In one day of coding we managed to put together a complete solution for this! We used MS Flow to handle the emails, AWS for our ML/Data handling, and Angular for our UI so that profiles could be added/changed by the users themselves.

In the end we won! There was some fierce competition. We learnt so much throughout the hackathon and have already started using some of our learnings in our day to day work. Most importantly (even though there were some tense moments) we're all still talking and ready to take on another one together, should the opportunity arise! 

We're currently using two hours a week of innovation time to make this production ready, but have already hit some issues surrounding production data so it's definitely still about learning. I would encourage anyone to take part in a hackathon, it is genuinely a really worthwhile experience!


How are you inspiring yourself and others while working from home during Covid-19 restrictions?                                  

With all this working from home it's been quite hard, I love staying at home alone on my terms, but this is a bit crazy! It's the right thing to do though. I have been trying to find ways to make it a little less crazy. Inside of work I have been running a company quiz.

The quiz is virtual and can be played in the background or you can join the call set up for it to have some banter. I've been finding it an awesome way to break up the day and distract from the worries for half an hour. I am also sending out daily puzzles in slack, it's super to watch people come together to solve a crossword... the cryptic one did take considerably longer though.

During the evenings I have been keeping busy by knitting, calling friends and family, reading, doing yoga, meditating and I’ve recently just started embroidery and cross stitch. I finished my first embroidery project and I’m quite proud of it because for a first attempt it doesn’t look too bad (I think anyways). I'm also running a family quiz every Friday night. I thought there was competition in the company one, but the Boyd family take it to a whole new level!

I think it's really important to stay in touch and talk at this time. If you want a chat about literally anything, to join in on some yoga or want to video call some ferrets hit me up on twitter @KirstineChaos and we can get through this together!  


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