Alex McHugh sitting at desk

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How a self-taught coder landed a career at Macquarie

Alex McHugh proves there's no such thing as a typical Macquarie employee. She joined the Technology division in April 2018, having never finished university. Instead, she taught herself coding and data analytics.

Alex has even surprised herself at her choice of career: “Had you asked me at school what a programmer or developer was, I'd have said, 'I have no idea'."

At university she studied psychology and economics. “After 18 months I realised I was learning a lot of new content, but not a lot of new skills."

Disheartened, she looked into alternative forms of education.

“I started seeing that a lot of forums for independent study were in the tech space – and many of the resources were free. I faced this question: 'Could I actually teach myself to code?'"

Alex embarked on a Nanodegree in data analytics from an online technology educator. “I started teaching myself to code and really enjoyed it. I knew that, whether or not I pursued it professionally, the skills would be transferrable to any role I ended up in."

As a fulltime online student, she completed subjects including machine learning and data visualisation.

“I loved the freedom. If a topic fascinated me, I could give myself time to explore it in detail."

To convince potential employers of her skills, Alex did a side-project, building an app to teach herself Turkish. She also attended meet-ups with Code Like A Girl, a social enterprise that gives girls and women skills, confidence and support to succeed in technology.

Macquarie is a national sponsor of Code Like A Girl, and at one meet-up Alex got talking with members of Macquarie’s technology team, who were impressed by her determination and passion for tech.

“I'd progressed in my learning to a point where I felt comfortable applying for a junior role."

Alex is now a member of Macquarie's Infrastructure Automation team, who have been “developing a new offering for server provisioning on private cloud.”

“We’ve created what we call the Cloud Native SOE (Standard Operating Environment), which essentially enables application teams within Macquarie to fully configure and own the infrastructure that they provision."

Alex has filled in as a scrum master and attended the Amazon Web Services Summit. She relishes every learning opportunity: that's what drew her to tech.

“Senior developers learn from junior developers, junior developers learn from senior developers. It's a great culture to work in here."

Alex continues to be a workshop facilitator with Code Like A Girl. She volunteers with Women Who Go, a support network for those who use Go open-source programming language. She also helps with the Girls' Programming Network, which is aligned with the National Computer Science School. At work, she volunteers with Macquarie’s Women in Technology employee network group.

Alex aims to inspire more women into technology and offers her support to anyone who needs it. She is still surprised by the opportunities she's had to continue to develop her skills since joining Macquarie and wants to ensure she passes on the knowledge that she's learnt.

“If you'd told me when I first started teaching myself to code this is where I'd end up, I wouldn't have believed it. I am very grateful for the opportunities I've had and am excited to see what the next chapter for me is at Macquarie."

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