Holly Tumelty, Software Engineer at CME Group, shares her journey to success and standout qualities after winning Highly Commended Developer of the Year at the Digital DNA Awards 2023
From FinTech to Software Development, Holly reveals how she once disliked programming and never considered a career in IT. Fast forward to today, Holly has been awarded the prestigious title of 'Highly Commended Developer of the Year' at the recent Digital DNA Awards and is thriving as a Software Engineer.
In this Q&A interview with VANRATH, Holly discusses her unique journey and the standout qualities that propelled her to where she is today. She also advocates for young girls and women in tech, encouraging them to “have faith in their abilities, make a difference, and leave their mark”.
Whether you're an aspiring developer or simply curious about the world of software development, this story highlights the endless possibilities that the local tech sector holds.
Interested in a career in tech? Check out our latest IT roles available HERE!
Congratulations on winning Highly Commended Developer of the Year at the Digital DNA Awards – how did this make you feel and what do you think made you stand out?
I'm not going to lie; I was rather stunned! However, hearing my name get read out felt incredibly fantastic. The effort paid off and it felt good to be acknowledged for the job I've done with CME Group thus far. I believe that my strong work ethic and commitment to lifelong learning helped me to stand out. I had a lot of ground to make up because of my less technical background, but thanks to my own determination to improve, I can now produce work that is on par with that of more experienced professionals.
Did you always know you wanted to work in IT?
Not at all! When I was in school, I disliked programming and the idea of working in that field never entered my mind. I didn't realise how much I loved programming and the ongoing problems you had to work out until I was an undergraduate and had finished a course that taught us the basics of java. The course was on the fundamentals of programming during my time studying at Queen’s.
What did you do before working in your role now as a Software Engineer at CME Group?
Prior to working at CME Group, I worked in a few summer internships in various industries to determine what I wanted to do after completing my degree. I invested a significant amount of time in the fintech industry, particularly the auditing side of it. These summer internships required coordinating with clients, collecting and compiling data, and helping with audits. While I was finishing my degree, I also worked for Tesco as a checkout team leader.
RELATED TO: Full Stack Engineering: does it really exist?
What made you want to make the move into software development and how did you get into this?
Through my Business Information Technology course at Queen's University, I became involved in software development. This required a split between business and IT programmes, and after completing both, I grew to adore the IT modules more. My decision to enter the software development industry was primarily influenced by my ability to tackle diverse problems. Every day would be different, and you would constantly be thinking creatively to find the best and most practical solutions.
Do you need a technology background or any specific qualifications to work in your current role?
I don't think you need to be an expert in technology; I had a limited understanding of it growing up, and I was still able to accomplish the same things as others with more experience than me. You can succeed in the technology sector if you're willing to admit that you won't know it all and have a drive to learn. Much of the knowledge I require for my current profession is taught and learned on the job, while some background knowledge from a degree can support your experience in your role.
What was it like in your first technical role as a Software Development Intern at CME Group?
Beginning as an intern was nerve-wracking and intimidating for me because I had a degree that did not focus on programming and was concerned I wouldn't be able to handle the job. Even though it was remote working because of COVID, CME Group was outstanding and offered plenty of help. Their assistance and direction gave me more confidence to perform to the best of my abilities.
We received a lot of technical and competency-based training throughout my internship year, and by combining this with working on tickets of work for projects, I was able to improve my knowledge while also learning new skills. During my internship, I had access to a variety of opportunities, from training sessions to social gatherings like escape rooms for all the interns. I believe I made significant growth from the beginning of my internship to the finish of my internship. With little assistance from my peers, I was able to work on more complicated projects and solve more difficult challenges.
What is a typical day like in your role today?
After the daily commute, I start the day off with a coffee from Caffe Nero, ready for the morning stand-up where the team discusses the work they performed the day before and what they will be working on for the day ahead. I then pick up tickets for the project we are working on and work through them with my headphones in listening to some music. At lunch, I grab some food with my peers and head down to the canteen to play some pool and table tennis.
After lunch, I go back to working at the tickets I have picked up. There tends to be a few meetings throughout the day such as sprint planning or meetings to discuss the implementation of workflows. In the afternoon we tend to get a game of table tennis to break up the workday. Some days the team would head out for a few drinks and a good chat.
What’s one project that you are working on or have worked on that you are particularly proud of and why?
There are two team rotations that you go through as part of the graduate programme at CME Group. This gives you the chance to broaden your network of peers and introduces you to new languages and technological systems. The project I worked on during my first rotation in the graduate programme is the one I am most proud of. I was ecstatic to have finished this job far before the deadline, which allowed me to add more features.
Then, after they had travelled to Belfast from Chicago, New York, and London, senior members of our business team gave me the chance to present my work to them. The work I did was highly welcomed by my team and other employees of the company and helps to enhance our testing experience. For my work, I got a lot of positive responses. The fact that senior management wanted to expand a project I worked on and make it available to other teams showed me enormous pride and encouragement.
What advice would you give to other young people or girls considering a career in tech?
I would suggest that the technology sector has a place for everyone. Too many times, girls are put off from pursuing careers in technology because they believe it to be a field dominated by men. Simply have faith in your own abilities to enter the tech industry, make a difference, and leave your mark. After all, if we don't make the leap and pursue a profession in technology, we won't be able to bridge the gap. You will adore a profession in technology if you have the curiosity and ambition to discover new things. There are always opportunities and business demand in the technology sector, so you can find what you're looking for there.
Interested in a career in technology? We have new job roles live on our website - VIEW HERE!
Our team of specialised IT consultants can help with everything from interview tips to CV advice and landing your dream job! Do not hesitate to get in touch today at or send your CV to email@example.com
Keep up to date with all our latest blogs, tips, advice and news HERE!