Local start-up’s valuable Victoria connections
22 Jun 2017 - 13:10:55 in AlumniA local start-up is praising Victoria University of Wellington’s Software Engineering programme for delivering hard-to-find job candidates. L-R: Victoria University alumni Stephen Nelson, Tim Jones and Luke Inkster at Montoux.
Montoux offers software that provides insights into life insurance companies’ products, pricing and profitability. The fast-growing Wellington-based business has clients in New Zealand and Australia. Dr Stephen Nelson was hired at Montoux as a software engineer fresh after his graduation from Victoria in 2012. Stephen completed a Bachelor of Science with Honours, and a PhD in Computer Science. “When I was job hunting I had a few different offers but decided on Montoux because it was a start-up. That was attractive to me,” he says. Stephen joined co-founder Gert Verhoog and fellow Victoria alumni Simon Doherty in a small office in Lyall Bay. Montoux’s development team has since grown to eight developers and the team has moved to the central city. “At the start, it was really an idea. Gert had developed a prototype that they wanted to turn into a product. I spent my first six months creating a web platform that was useable for non-technical people,” says Stephen. “I’m a full stack developer, which is a relatively rare role in New Zealand. I really like that my job is varied and I get to work on pretty much everything. And now working as team leader I get to contribute even more.” Stephen isn’t the only Victoria alumni at Montoux. The company currently employs four graduates and one former postdoctoral researcher from Victoria’s School of Engineering and Computer Science. Another three alumni have moved onto other positions elsewhere. Montoux is now starting an office in New York, and hiring a software engineer/data scientist to be based there. “Our connection to the University is very valuable to us. We've employed quite a few Victoria graduates—all positive experiences,” says Gert. “We hire senior software engineers because of the complexity of the work that we do and technology we work on. It seems to be a big jump from having an undergraduate degree to working on our large systems. This says a lot about the calibre of Victoria graduates.” This is why Montoux, similarly to companies like Google and Facebook, often hires candidates with postgraduate education. “The skills students gain through research is important—we apply a lot of research and theory to the problems we solve,” says Stephen. “Our employees learn a lot on the job, whether it’s programming languages or tools.” Victoria graduates Tim Jones and Luke Inkster agree. They were both hired as software engineers at Montoux in early 2017. “I’m enjoying the opportunity to be part of a company that’s doing cool things, in an environment that means your work is thorough and has to be constantly critiqued,” says Tim, who is in the process of completing his PhD in Software Engineering. Luke, who previously worked at Xero, says he really liked the idea of working at a start-up. “It’s interesting to build things from scratch and to be involved in the development of processes. At this point I still only know a tiny chunk of what the whole company is learning—you really have to apply yourself at Montoux. It’s great.” Victoria University is home to one of the leading programming languages research groups in the Southern Hemisphere.