From Drums to Development: Tom’s Journey to Backend Engineering

2024 January 30

Successfully rebuilding a career from scratch in a completely different field with no formal education or work experience is tough. But Tom Slaytor managed to defy all odds and successfully become a Backend Engineer, despite starting from a very different line of work. Read on to find out more about Tom’s remarkable journey into Vinted via our Engineering Academy, and discover how we at Vinted welcome and support our thriving career changers into our teams.

Meet Tom Slaytor

After working as a professional drummer for several years, followed by a role in sales, Tom Slaytor decided to pursue a new career path that ignited his passion. After developing an interest in engineering by chance, Tom stumbled upon an advert for the Vinted Engineering Academy and decided to apply (spoiler alert – he got the job). But switching careers is never easy – particularly without formal education or training. In his own words, let’s find out how Tom got on with this mammoth transition from professional drummer to Backend Engineer at Vinted, and hear the advice he’d give to people thinking of applying for the Engineering Academy.  

It all started with an app

My work experience is pretty varied. After studying music at University, I worked as a professional drummer for several years. Following that, I had a job in sales within the finance sector.
A career in engineering was never a consideration. Until one day I had a sudden idea for a training app for drummers. Without having any technical knowledge of engineering, I asked a developer friend to help me create it. As I worked alongside him, I watched him work on the code. I was immediately drawn to it, and found myself quickly getting to grips with what he was doing. The problem-solving element was particularly appealing, but without any experience or training in the field, it never occurred to me that this could be something I could do for myself.

Time for a change

My job in sales came to an end, but I soon realised I didn’t want to pursue another role in this field. It didn’t spark my interest, so I began looking for another job that I felt more passionate about.
I had some time and savings to fall back on, which gave me the opportunity to pursue something else. I took on some freelance work in the meantime, and set myself a deadline to begin applying for jobs, or start getting into a different field within a year. This was the springboard that allowed me to take the idea of programming more seriously, and further develop my skills in that area. As time started running out, the more I realised I really didn’t want to go back into sales.
I always liked the idea of working for Vinted – it looked like a good company to join. But I didn’t feel like I had the skills, confidence, or experience to apply for a regular engineering role. I almost jumped out of my seat when I saw the advert for the Engineering Academy, which requires no experience to join. I applied straight away.

Making the cut

The selection process was pretty relaxed. We were asked to share examples of some projects we’ve previously worked on, but there was no strict specification. We just had to showcase the extent of our skills and experience.
After that, I had to do some tests and scenario-based questions designed to find out if I would be a good fit within the company’s values and culture, making sure that I had the right soft skills to thrive here.
The next stage in the whittling down process was technical. We had to complete a homework assignment in our own time. It was quite challenging, but interesting. I learned a lot from it, and I took it as a good sign that if I found the assignment interesting, I’d find the job interesting as well.
Finally, there was the interview with a couple of future team members. It wasn’t as daunting as I expected, and felt like a discussion. Half the questions were centred around my values and how I would react in certain situations or overcome challenges, and the other half were about the technical  decisions and choices I made during the homework assignment.

Finding my way

After successfully making it through the selection process, I was hired. On my very first day at Vinted I learned that there’s a structured onboarding process for academy participants. This came in two parts: technical onboarding, which really focussed on the academy, and general company onboarding.
For the first week of technical onboarding, we joined a lot of workshops, and got to grips with the basics. It was all very structured, and we had the opportunity to learn more about how things work, the different workflows, and the programming languages used at Vinted that we were unfamiliar with.
After that was Vweek – company onboarding for all new joiners (not just academy participants). We were introduced to different departments and had the opportunity to get to know colleagues in different teams from all over the world. It was a great introduction to what the company is all about – it’s like a big community.

Expectations vs. reality

It sounds cheesy, but working at Vinted is even better that I thought it would be. I’m genuinely excited to wake up every morning and come to the office to work.
I was expecting loads of pressure to achieve more or do more in the Academy, but that’s not the case. We push ourselves because we want to. Even with lack of experience, in an unfamiliar system, with languages we’ve never used before, we’re never made to feel not good enough. Many of us haven’t worked in an environment like this before. It’s very comfortable and stress-free.
From the people you’re working with, to the projects we’re working on, managers’ expectations, and the way everybody within the company helps each other, the atmosphere is really positive. I’ve quickly bonded with people both inside and outside of the Academy. Everyone is really supportive and accepting of one another. The people and the company culture really make this a fantastic workplace to be in.

Want to join the Engineering Academy? Here’s my advice

Engineering skills are important. But they aren’t the be-all and end-all. To be successful in any company you have to feel like you belong, and that your values align.
Stay curious, and keep solving problems. Get ready to tackle new challenges. If that means having to learn a new language, or familiarise yourself with a new paradigm, just dive in and have a go, even if you’re unsure. Take it step-by-step, and eventually you’ll find the answer.
If you’re on the fence about applying, I’d say go for it, even if you’re not sure you’re ready. I wasn’t sure I was ready either, but here I am. What’s there to lose?
Are you looking for a new career challenge in engineering like Tom? Find out more about the Vinted Engineering Academy, or apply here.