Here are just some of the amazing career journeys people have made on their way to Firefinch…
Barry McHoull (BEng)
I didn’t know I wanted to be a Software Engineer, but when I applied to university I picked a mixture of mechanical engineering and software engineering courses. I just picked my favourite when they came through! I left university in 2008 with a degree in Software Engineering and joined Lab901, a measurement company designing a novel low-effort electrophoresis device. As a small company Lab901 was perfect for a new start – it offered a wide range of technical challenges to learn from. After Agilent bought Lab901 I was lucky enough to be able to take on larger projects developing novel algorithms for the TapeStation platforms. I left Agilent in 2017 to found Firefinch Software with my co-directors. Firefinch lets me pursue my interests in solving biotechnology problems and writing code for a wide range of clients.
Steven Swan (BEng), Senior Software Engineer
Steven Swan (BEng), Senior Software Engineer
I’ve always had a fascination with computers from a young age, so it’s no surprise that my interest in technology led me into a career of software development, where I’ve been working for over a decade. Throughout my career, I’ve worked as both a software consultant and an in-house developer working on a wide range of fintech and biotech projects, Each one bringing its own unique challenges and opportunities for growth. At Firefinch I focusing on improving my development skills and work on a wide range of software projects.
Jimi Wills (PhD, MIScT)
Senior Software Engineer
My mum had an Atari 400 and I wrote my first code age 5, and was hooked. As a Glasgow graduate in Molecular and Cellular Biology in 2001, I couldn’t find a job at all. The only opportunity open to me was a PhD project on Parkinson’s Disease that seemingly nobody else wanted. So, on a shoe-string budget, and trading my educating and cleaning skills for mass-spec time at the Functional Genomics Facility, I became increasingly frustrated that the software available to analyse my data was not fit for purpose. I was also frustrated that my stipend was less than half the national average salary – officially below the breadline. So, I started coding, both in my PhD, and privately for cash. My mass-spec software ended up in my thesis, and I kept writing lab software for another 15 years, while also doing bench-science, analysing data and contributing to scientific articles. I was a post-doc working on molecular interactions for the first 7 years, and my contributions included a machine-learning in-silico organelle enrichment and a mass-spec protein-protein cross-linking prototype search engine and viewer. I then took on the role of mass-spec facility manager at the CRUK Edinburgh Centre, and a lot of my coding effort when into standardizing process and supporting infrastructure. Finally, with absolutely no software-related qualifications, I got a job as a software engineer at Firefinch. I was able to evidence my skills and experience, of course, and my passion for coding was probably quite obvious at interview. Firefinch also valued my experience in other responsibilities in my role, such as working independently, continually learning and improving, communication with a wide range of people (collaborators, clients, students, fund-raisers, patients, conferences, the public), and of course a general STEM background broader than just software. I started as a Software Engineer in 2021 and made it to Senior in just under 18 months. The work (mostly biotech/medical) is a lot of fun, chatting with colleagues and clients about new science and technologies, and it still gives me that feeling of contributing meaningfully to society.
Katie Smith (MChem)
I have always been driven by my passion for seeing results. During my chemistry degree, I sought visual outcomes, such as synthesizing carbon nanotubes and visualizing them using scanning electron microscopy. Transitioning to the biotech industry after graduation, I appreciated the tangible impact of accurate lateral flow test results. Embracing my love for communication and helping others, I then ventured into primary school teaching, relishing the satisfaction of witnessing my students’ “aha” moments. Now, as a software engineer, I tackle coding projects, take part in hackathons, and support the journeys of career changers and women into tech.