Meet Ravneet Shah – VP of Engineering at Allica Bank

*This Q&A took place while Ravneet was Allica Bank's Lead Integration Engineer, ahead of her taking over the wider engineering and technology team.

Tell us about what you do here at Allica  

Providing a great banking experience depends on moving data from one place to another quickly and securely.  

Typically, there’s a bank’s ‘front end’ (what the customers see), the ‘back end’ (our core banking systems) and third parties (other companies and organisations). Each one will have its own database, and its own ways of communicating and working. My job is to plan, design and implement a way for them to integrate seamlessly and talk to each other.  

Take a customer application, for example. Instead of asking a small business customer to put in every little detail about themselves, we’ll pull this information automatically from Companies House and other third-party systems. My team make sure we can do it as efficiently and securely as possible. 

Or take our customer service team. We help them by ensuring they have full visibility of what’s happening on every one of our customers’ accountsThis means our customers don’t have to speak to multiple people about the different products they have with us. 

What led you to a career in technology?  

All of my cousins were engineers, so it was just a case of figuring out the kind of engineering that I wanted to doI enjoyed programming – had always been good at it – so it was computers for me! 

What is it you enjoy about working in financial services? 

I started out working in Big Data. This was a great learning experience, but I never saw my work in action. In fintech, it’s much more satisfying. I can see customers interact with the products I build and how they’re helping them 

And I won’t lie – it’s pretty intense. We’re a bank, so everything has to be extra secure. When you’re building things you’re constantly asking yourself: how can I do this better? Is the performance good enough? Is it fit for purpose?  

It helps that I enjoy a challenge! 

What made you decide to join Allica Bank?  

First, it’s a great place to learn and explore. Everything we do we’re building from scratch. At a larger, established organisation everything’s done for you and there’s little room for experimentation. Here, you’re given an opportunity to explore other technologies and programming languages. You’re asked for input on a granular level. I find that really empowering.  

What’s something you’re most proud of?  

When I joined Allica, everything on the front end was hard-coded, which meant that any changes were slow and cumbersome to make. We were challenged to create a more flexible coding environment to make it easier to roll out new products and services.  

I wasn’t a hundred percent confident it could be done, especially considering the ambitious timeframe. In the end though, we managed to complete the work in a couple of sprints – just two weeks from start to finish!

Tell us more about your team  

There are six of us currently, but we’re growing fast! Everyone works hard and understands whaAllica is all aboutEveryone is proactive and comfortable expressing ideas for how we can improve things across the bank, which is important, because Allica’s technology is the glue that holds us together.  

What I’m most pleased with is the team’s diversity. Throughout my career, I’ve become used to being the only woman in the room. Right now though, there are four of us – two-thirds of the team! 

How was your experience of Allica transitioning to lockdown?  

It helped that we had already been working remotely one day a week before the office closed. I have to say though, the IT team did a great job of getting everything up and runningWe need secure access to our servers – we couldn’t just use wifi and a browser – and there was no disruption at all 

When lockdown started I was the only person doing this job, so I’ve learned a lot about recruiting and onboarding over Microsoft Teams. I’ve never actually met many of my team face-to-face, which is weird, but I know I have the people and systems in place to get the work done.

Any exciting projects coming up?  

Yes! We’re working on an internal portal for our operations team. It’ll offer a simple, single view of all loan applications and how they’re moving through the pipeline. At the moment, the team have to go to various places to get the information they need. It’s a real game-changer in that respect.  

What job did you want to have when you were growing up?  

Oh, this is easy. I was always going to be a teacher. I even had a whiteboard at home. My poor friends – we would get home from school and I’d sit them down and start lessons all over again!  

You’re given a week off and can do whatever you want. What are you doing?  

What with work and house admin, I always feel guilty that I’m not spending enough quality time with my family. So I’d take everyone – my parents, kids and husband – somewhere nice on holiday. Maybe back to my home town in Punjab, India. I love cooking and reading, so there would be plenty of those, too! 

What would you say to someone considering a role at Allica Bank? 

It’s a great place to learn and develop new skills. You’ll be exposed to far more varied work than if you worked for a larger enterprise. Also, the people are super nice. Everyone is friendly, helpful and proactive. The leadership team is supportive and recognises you for the work you do.

Fancy joining the Allica Bank team? We'd love to hear from you! Check out our careers page to find out how.

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