The 6 greatest things I gained from my placement year

Abigail Pattenden is a final year student on the BSc Computer Science with a Year in Industry programme. She completed her year in industry at Fivium as a Trainee Application Developer and recently took up the role of Employability Ambassador for the School of Computing at the Canterbury campus.

1. Confidence
My growth in confidence is certainly the biggest change I’ve seen in myself from when I started my placement. Over the year I proved to myself and more importantly to my colleagues that I was able to take on a challenge and learn new skills. It teaches you to have greater confidence in yourself and in your skillset, and to trust in your ability to overcome obstacles.
I also now have much more confidence to take on situations where I’m out of my comfort zone. My role involved giving presentations and demos, and meeting with clients. All of these situations are things that I was so uncomfortable with before. However I had plenty of practice over the year in a supportive environment, and learned from colleagues who had tips and experience to share.
Since returning to university I applied for a Student Ambassador role where I knew I would be giving more talks and meeting more new people, and I’m glad that I’m still taking opportunities to put myself out there.

2. Real world experience with a broad tech stack
It’s well-known that the technology industry is constantly changing and there’s always something new to learn, one of the greatest challenges software developers and software companies face is keeping up with the most relevant technologies. A year in industry is an opportunity to learn a whole list of languages and frameworks on the job which you may have never encountered before. You’ll also find that you upskill in languages that you’re already proficient in. Even when using technologies that I was quite familiar with, I learned better problem-solving approaches from the professionals around me, and I’m finding that I’m a much more efficient coder in my final year.

The obvious benefits from experience with a broad tech stack are that it’s easy to learn new languages and frameworks because paradigms and syntax are transferable, but also that you’re much more employable when there’s a variety of technologies that you’re already experienced in and can bring to an employer.

3. Positive attitude and mindset
It’s a given that developer teams periodically come under a lot of pressure whether it be from client requirements, or time pressures as project deadlines approach. This is something that I witnessed and experienced in my placement year, and it was really useful to 1) observe how my colleagues handled these challenges and 2) be part of a supportive and co-operative team during these times.

Sometimes work gets hard and sometimes mistakes are made, they’re pretty much facts of life, and turns out that the saying – “don’t beat yourself up about it” – is very wise. A placement year is an opportunity to learn how to overcome new challenges, whilst remaining positive and persistent. It led to me having a rewarding and positive year emotionally, and it’s something I am taking forward with me into my final year and future career.

4. Life in a new place
A placement year can be an opportunity to experience working in and/or living in a new place, and some students take on the amazing opportunity and challenge of seeing another part of the world. I didn’t go too far afield, but I did get to experience living and working in London for the first time in my life. I was always skeptical of whether I would like being in a city, so I used my placement year to try it out.
I actually thoroughly enjoyed city life, and was sad to leave at the end, I’m hoping to return to living in London after graduation. I also saw Graham Norton in my local supermarket which was pretty cool.

5. Start of my career
Getting a degree is only half the battle of making yourself more employable and opening doors for your future career path. The truth is that even after graduation it can be a difficult and stressful time to decide on a career path and find a job that will take you on that path.
I really believe a placement year is or can be the start of your career, even if you find that the role you undertook wasn’t one that you would like to work as in the future.

It opens many doors for your future, and some employers may even offer permanent positions to successful placement year students. It’s a really awesome feeling to have already begun your career before you graduate, and it’s so exciting – I can’t wait to get back to work, and know a lot of people in final year who share this feeling.

6. Financial savings
Money isn’t everything, but the salary is an obvious positive of a year at work in the middle of a university degree. It’s difficult to get substantial savings behind you when you’re a student, but with a certain amount of discipline, a placement year can be an opportunity to make up some savings. These savings can then help out in final year and maybe even after you graduate before you start working again.

If you would like to be put in touch with Abigail to discuss how to improve your employability or to be mentored while searching for a placement please email csemploy@kent.ac.uk