“It’s a bit surreal having my code out there in the real world after 3 years at uni but I’m proud of what I was able to achieve in my first few months here.”

Holly Helton, Software Developer

Holly gained an honours degree in Applied Computing from Dundee Univerity. She joined Star Data Analytics in 2019 as a software developer where she utilises her skills and knowledge to have a positive impact.

    What is your role within Star? How long have you been with the company?

    I’m a software developer within Star Data Analytics working on Ethos, a performance optimisation and energy management system for refrigeration plant. I’ve been with Star for 8 months now.

    Where did you study and what qualifications did you gain?

    I gained an honours degree in Applied Computing from Dundee University. Applied Computing is a bit of an obscure degree as most people interested in this field study Computer Science. I’ve always described it as Computer Science with less of a focus on mathematics and theory, and more hands-on coding projects.

    What attracted you to the industry?

    Honestly speaking, before I applied for the job at Star I wasn’t aware of how significant the refrigeration industry is and I definitely didn’t expect there to be a need for software developers in this area. I had always hoped to use my skillset to make a positive change in the world in some way and when I learned about how the Ethos service is helping businesses across the UK reduce their energy usage I knew this was the role for me.

    What do you specialise in now? What type of projects do you work on?

    Since SDA is a relatively small team, I do a little bit of everything in my role. The majority of my work is back-end web development using .NET but I’ve also dabbled in native desktop application development, database administration, and internet of things services. I’ve had the opportunity to try my hand at a lot of different things, which isn’t always a possibility for junior developers. Right now, I’m working on developing an automated weekly email summarising the information collected by Ethos. This has been more challenging than expected as some email clients, like Outlook, block images and CSS styling in emails which can make it quite difficult to design an email that looks good.

    What would you say to other women who are considering coming into the ACR industry?

    I haven’t been in the industry long but I’m hearing from those that have been here much longer than I have that there have been positive changes in recent years with many more women being welcomed into the industry. Software Development can be a particularly tricky field to navigate for women as developers tend to be a brutally honest bunch. If they don’t agree with something, they’ll usually let you know about it! It can be hard, especially as a young woman, to feel heard amongst the other opinions in the room but my experience at Star has been very positive, and I’ve always felt that my contributions have always been taken seriously by my colleagues. I consider myself lucky to have found a role in which my input is valued especially since I’ve only recently graduated.

    “I currently spend 10% of my time per week on training which has been invaluable as it allows me to keep up to date with current technologies and brush up on skills that I’m not so familiar with.”

    What do you like about working for Star?

    I really appreciate the emphasis Star puts on continual learning and professional development. I work with a great team of people that always support me and have never made me feel like my input is less valuable as a more junior member of staff.

    Where do you see your career developing?

    I hope to continue improving the Ethos service and making sure we stay ahead of the curve when it comes to data-driven optimisation software. In the short term I want to keep learning as much as I can while I have the opportunity to. One of my major goals is to improve my front-end (in other words, making web pages look good) development skills so we can deliver a better user experience to our clients. Longer term, if we have the need to grow our team of developers, I’d love to move towards a lead developer role. I think a role like this would satisfy my itch for planning things without having to give up the practical side of development.

    What are the challenges of this industry?

    In the context of the Ethos software a big challenge we face is keeping our digital twin algorithm up to date with the massive variety in the types of plants Star sells, and in some cases plants that weren’t provided by Star. It seems like every week we see a drawing with some unusual aspect to it! However, the silver lining to this is that every unique set up we integrate into Ethos helps to refine the algorithm, allowing us to model the real world more accurately.

    Any general career highlights?

    I’m not sure if it’s possible to have career highlights when you’ve been working less than a year, but my biggest achievement so far has been the re-development of the Ethos Bridge software. This program sits between the control system and Ethos’ cloud platform, streaming data from sensors on site to our database. This was one of the first tasks I was given when I first started at Star and it was a big one! I had to dig into some pretty hefty manuals to learn how to speak “PLC”, and I had to make sure that my code was as performant as possible to make sure we didn’t lose any of our customer’s data. Ethos Bridge is currently deployed on 17 sites with more expected to come online in the coming months. It’s a bit surreal having my code out there in the real world after 3 years at uni but I’m proud of what I was able to achieve in my first few months here.
    Holly Helton, Software Developer