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Arbnor Aljilji is an associate software engineer at T. Rowe Price. In this Q&A, learn more about his unexpected career path. He also discusses the incomparable culture at the firm, the importance of professional development opportunities, and the benefits of pursuing a career in tech within financial services.
Like so many others, Arbnor Aljilji had a change of heart about the direction of his life after the pandemic hit. While working as an HR professional, he reflected on his university days when he tinkered in tech. Suddenly, Arbnor was inspired to jump back in and seek out a new career, even if it meant dusting off some old skills before he felt confident enough to land a job within the field.
After a few weeks of refreshing his abilities by coding various games he built from scratch, he began getting serious about his next move. And then, a Google search led him to a post for a DevOps role at T. Rowe Price.
"The interview was incredible," Arbnor recalls. “And even amid the pandemic, they let me come in (safely) for a face-to-face interview to see what the culture was like." This was critical, he says, especially because he puts company culture before a paycheck.
"I got to meet people who were part of the team before I sat down. It wasn't what I expected—it was much more relaxed than I anticipated. Everyone thinks it's all suits and ties, but it's a much more relaxed environment," Arbnor explains.
He was onboarded to the T. Rowe Price team in London over a year and a half ago through the firm's apprenticeship scheme. Shortly after that, he attended a special boot camp that helped him bolster his technical credentials, learn to do back-end coding, and build functions into apps. Then he was ready to join the Developer Services group.
Now Arbnor works in a hybrid capacity. Each week, he meets with his team in the office for assistance and team-building purposes and then dives into projects while at home. We spoke with him about his personal experience working at the firm.
Please describe your role and how it contributes to the mission of T. Rowe Price.
I'm on the team called the Developer Services group. We have a big role, even though we're a small department that few people know about. We enable engineers, such as software engineers who are our clients, to help develop apps and put it all into a cloud infrastructure. The moment they build an app, they could deploy it within a day or a couple of hours.
Our team is essential to helping T. Rowe Price build and maintain relationships with its clients. The firm's clients need immediate access to these tools. Software engineers also require accuracy as they present data to their clients.
What is a typical day like for you?
I'm part of a team of around 12 people in the UK, and we look after approximately 2,500 engineers. We supervise Linux VDIs from 9 a.m. until about 3 p.m.
The [engineers] create tickets, and I'll spend a few hours on some Microsoft servers. So if anyone has issues with the machines, like logging in to the servers, or if they need new subscription licenses, I authorize that.
At the moment, I am also building on apps. I'll spend a few hours coding or trying to understand where things are broken in my app and talk to other teams.
What are some of the skills you need to thrive in this role?
From the beginning, I always ask questions no matter what. Being upfront helps you quite a lot with your career. Also, it's good to be a people person. If people like to work with you, they don't find your questions irritating. Instead, they'll help you.
A skill that helped me later throughout my career was being a bit more confident. I was quite nervous right at the beginning because I'd just done a career change, and it was my first day in a corporate role. But I became confident enough to set up meetings with tech leads even though I didn't have much knowledge.
What are the advantages of choosing to work in tech at a financial firm versus a traditional tech career?
Many people don't realize the amount of advanced technology that we have here. When you come to a firm like T. Rowe Price, you learn how to set up the cloud infrastructure from the beginning. You can't really learn this in a new firm, like, let's say, a new fintech firm, because they pretty much have to start from scratch.
How do you define your experience at T. Rowe Price regarding mobility, mentorship, and ongoing development in your career trajectory?
I'm laughing because I've had so many mentors and coaches to the point where I had to pause myself from getting all this help. I had so many meetings with external coaches to ensure I was doing well in my apprenticeship. I was part of a cohort of 50 engineers, and we all had individual mentors and coaches.
I had a coach who was a senior engineer and someone who worked in business development. I had someone who worked in corporate law, and all these different departments helped me build the confidence I didn't have a year and a half ago.
So now I guide all the new apprentices in the London office, and I am also becoming a mentor to help new people settle in. There are many programs that you could get involved with, and you can become a mentor yourself for someone new. There are just so many opportunities for career development.