What led you on the path to study at UNSW’s Computer Science and Engineering (CSE)?

I’ve always loved creating and building things from a young age playing with Lego. Writing software is like the ultimate form of that, you can build anything you want, you are only limited by your imagination.

I had been writing code since high school for fun, and it made sense to make a career out of it, so I went on to study Software Engineering at UNSW.

What was the highlight of the degree?

Honestly, this is a difficult question to answer! During my degree, there were lots of assignments and projects that flexed my creativity. I met some of my closest friends during my degree, and together we built really interesting things. For instance, an app we named The Scenic Route which is a web app that you give a start and end point and it provides the user with points of interest close to the route you were going. We built this during one of the software engineering workshops and won a group prize for our work.

What advice would you give to students who are just starting their degree?

There are a lot of clubs and societies at UNSW. Join some! Make friends. Have a study/life balance.

I understand that you’re a consultant software engineer. What sort of projects do you work on?

I have a particular interest in building web applications. In the last five years, tooling and browser support have really matured. You can create complex, useful User Interfaces - things that would typically have been a native desktop application that might be limited to specific platforms. Now they can be made using web-based technologies that reach everyone.

Most recently, you developed CASTLE (CAsual Timesheet Log for Educators) for CSE. Can you tell us about this project?

Last year CSE came to me with a problem – they had over 250 casual teachers, and the process of paying these staff and allocating teaching shifts was all manual.

The School needed an online way of managing their casual teaching admin activities - an online system for teachers to submit their casual hours, for the forms to be reviewed for payment, and the ability to allocate and change teaching shifts.

There were a lot of stakeholders involved, and the required functionality grew during the project. The project took about six months and the end result was an app that is used by school managers, teaching support staff, lecturers and demonstrators. 

I’ve been told that the Castle app has saved the School many (many) hours of admin work (and trees!). In fact, UNSW Engineering this term has rolled out the app to four other schools.

I guess this project is a good example of why I love being a Software Engineer – solving a problem that makes a very tangible difference.  

Reach out to Alen via LinkedIn.