What sets McLaren Applied Technologies apart when it comes to software engineering? What does it take to succeed in our health analytics team? And why it helps to be passionate about coding. Our very own Michael Griffiths provides the answers…
Q: What is your role at McLaren Applied Technologies?
I’m a senior engineer, primarily within the health analytics team. I’m also the team lead, so it’s my responsibility to ensure everyone in it knows what they’re doing and working towards. It’s about always making progress and working with stakeholders to ensure that what they envisage is aligned to what we are actually doing on a day-to-day basis.
Aside from that, I also write code. I try to do it most days to keep my head in the game. It’s something you have to live and breathe because the industry moves so quickly. You have to keep up. Even if you’re just a year out of date, you’re already significantly behind the times and it takes a while to get back up to speed.
There is an adage in Formula 1: If you’re standing still, you’re going backwards. That’s no different with coding. The pace of development is relentless.
Q: What is health analytics?
The ambition for health analytics at McLaren Applied Technologies is to build a platform where both we and our customers can interact with a wealth of data to gain insight from it. For example, this insight could be predicting when patients are going to reach the point of optimum recovery. Or you could take an entire population of data and establish whether there are differences in patient recovery times depending on demographics and geographic locations.
It’s all about taking data and deriving insight from it, but in a clinical and human performance setting. One of the most interesting things about our team is that we straddle both the clinical and human performance realms. That’s interesting because there are lots of parallels between them.
Often, the work and solutions we find in clinical are equally applicable to human performance. For example, predicting when someone will recover from a muscle injury sustained during exercise relies upon similar analytics used to predict when a patient’s knee is going to recover from surgery in a clinical setting.
Q: What projects are you working on right now?
We’re developing a number of products for a range of clients at the moment, but these projects are confidential. What I can say is that alongside this work, we’re building a health analytics platform to deliver these products quickly and efficiently. The aim is that once the platform is sufficiently mature and robust, we will then make it available to customers so it becomes a product in its own right.
Q: Why should software engineers join the McLaren Applied Technologies health analytics team?
It’s a very diverse cross-functional team. It consists of software engineers, data scientists, test engineers and representatives from the client so that the customer always has a voice in the project and is in the loop throughout. We all collaborate to achieve a common goal, and collectively we have the ability to achieve it. This makes for an excellent working environment.
Being part of a cross-functional team is particularly exciting because it enables you to work on what you already know, but also learn new skills which are not necessarily in your domain. For example, there are software engineers in the team who are interested in machine learning. McLaren fosters this ambition to learn and develop by allowing them to work closely with data scientists and even perform a data scientist role to build their expertise in this field. It adds more strings to their bow and complements the core competencies they already have.
Q: What do you enjoy most about working at McLaren Applied Technologies?
The variety of customers and the technology. Project types can vary greatly and that’s hugely exciting because it allows us as engineers to stay up to speed with latest trends at the cutting-edge, broadening our knowledge and skills base in the process.
The work we do is always interesting simply because of the sheer diversity. One day we can be writing a python service to enable patient prediction, and the next we are writing Terraform scripts to deploy something within Amazon Web Services (AWS). There is a lot of variety in what we do, as opposed to other jobs where you just come in, sit at your desk, write Java code for hours and go home.
Q: What type of person would best fit in the health analytics team and what skills do they need?
They need to be eager to learn because there is so much going on at any one time. They must be willing to step outside of their domain – their comfort zone – and learn something new, because on almost a weekly basis there will be a task they haven’t encountered before which they will need to get to grips with.
Q: Top tip to be a successful software engineer?
Always look beyond what you are currently doing. Anticipate where the industry is heading, and the next trends in product development so you are aware of what’s coming up and can prepare for it. It could mean learning a new skill or formulating a new business idea. It never hurts to be one step ahead.
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