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Welcome to our blog series, people of PA. With each post, we’ll feature one-on-one interviews with the talented individuals on our global team. You’ll get to know the people inside the company, their story of hyper growth and what it’s really like working at Particular Audience.
Meet Murtaza Ali, Development Team Lead at Particular Audience. At work, Murtaza is an engineering leader. Outside of work, Murtaza is a father of two who went from learning how to swim a few years ago, to now being a volunteer lifesaver.
Murtaza has a relentless commitment to learning that everyone at the office admires (including me). From swimming, to scuba diving, abseiling and completing a course at Yale, if it’s on Murtaza's to-do list, he’ll do it.
Here’s some background on Murtaza and insight into his role at PA.
A: After completing my bachelors degree in Computer Science, I worked in Pakistan for a year. After I got my masters degree in Software Engineering at UTS, I got a job at Orchard. I was at Orchard for 6 years - and I never thought I would leave!
After 6 years, I realized I needed a change. This is a common theme throughout my career and my life. I’m dedicated to learning and developing my skills, so will always look to add value and make sure I can still do that wherever I am.
Through a mentee at Orchard, I was given my next opportunity at the National Rugby League. I built the CMS and website for NRL - including all the club sites.
While James initially reached out to the person I was mentoring, he had just gotten a role at another agency, so he passed on my details and that’s how I met James.
All of these things are, to me, a reminder of the importance of being kind, open and committed to learning. Something I take with me wherever I go.
Q: Tell me about your journey to becoming a volunteer lifesaver?
A: I always wanted to learn how to swim. But, before 2016, I never got the chance.
After living in Australia for a couple of years, I realized that swimming is an integral part of Australian culture. And I wanted to be part of that culture.
I will start by saying, as an adult, not being able to swim felt like a great barrier to overcome. In 2016, I took my first swimming lesson. I remember saying I could do freestyle, and then trying to do it. In swimming, you can’t pretend like you know how to do something you don’t. That’s a very humbling thing.
So, I needed to start from the beginning. I learnt how to swim for 6 months. After signing up to 10 classes, I could do 50m of freestyle. But I wanted to get better.
I then joined a squad to increase the distance I could swim and my speed. After I passed that hurdle, I wanted to stay close to something that brought me back to the water.
That’s when I was presented with becoming a lifeguard. There’s a specific opportunity for lifeguards who emigrate to Australia.
Becoming a lifesaver was my next challenge. To do this I needed to pass an exam - completing an ocean swim in a very quick time.
Long story short, I failed my first time. Then, after training every day for two hours, I tried the exam a week later and passed.
Since then, I’ve started getting into scuba diving - and got my scuba diving license!
Of course, this whole process was a big investment. But I’m proud that I can swim and that I’ll have this skill for the rest of my life.
This experience taught me to look for adventure. And, now, this is part of who I am as a person.
Q: Now, tell me a little about your time at PA to date?
A: Well, to go back a year or so, I was the first .net developer in Sydney. My journey at PA, to now, has meant starting and now being a team lead and leading a .net team in Sydney.
We currently have 2 .net developers - and soon to be 3!
I remember when I first joined PA. Everything used to be a lot more manual. I remember the first ticket I did, and I remember building the processes as I went.
Now, all of our API is Microsoft. Patrick and the product team have built a product roadmap - and we want to take that on in Sydney.
Optimizing processes is super important to me. So I’m excited to always optimize what I can, which is ongoing. I’m currently focusing on the developing PA Retail Media - which I think is the most exciting product at PA.
Q: What does a day at PA look like for you?
A: For me, a normal day includes mentoring developers and taking care of the team. Making sure there are no bottlenecks with development and that there’s a good vibe.
Another element of my role is helping out project managers and engineering leaders with deliverables. As well as, very importantly, having banter with the marketing team.
Q: What's it like leading a team?
A: People management isn’t always easy.
In managing a team across Sydney and Vietnam, I’m learning to be more agile across time zones and work with different styles and in different languages. I’m learning a lot and it's really rewarding to see things operate efficiently.
Q: What have you learnt over the past few months?
A: For the most part, I’ve learnt how to manage people better.
Around 3 months ago, I started a course at Yale in Accelerated Management (Accounting and Business Management). I’m proud that I got over 90% in all of my assessments.
Becoming a leader is a different challenge altogether, and sometimes it's hard to predict. But it was my next learning curve to overcome, and here we are.
Now, I’m on to the next thing on my bucket list!
Q: What advice would you give to someone on a similar journey?
A: I’m not here to give advice.
What’s worked for me has been believing in myself. For me, working hard has been the key to success. Seeing so many Indian CEOs makes me feel like I can do it too.
I’ve learnt that the first time is always the hardest. And that it gets easier from there.
Q: Enough of the work chat. What do you do for fun?
A: For fun, I go swimming and scuba diving. Other than that, me and my brother have started abseiling and canyoning. I’ve been to the Blue Mountains a few times recently to do it. It’s an incredible experience.
You know, I used to stand on top of the Blue Mountains and wonder what it was like below. And now I know. Abseiling is so serene. It's an amazing thing.
Outside of activities, I enjoy being around my wife, Maria and playing with my two kids. I try to bring the fun to work, too. Life’s too short and we spend too much time at work for it to not be a good time!
Stay tuned for the next installment of People at PA, when we interview Sahan Wimalasiri, Senior DevOps Engineer at Particular Audience.