Abigail Pattenden, BSc Computer Science with a Year in Industry student

Abigail Pattenden

Why did you choose to study at Kent?

The applicant day was the decision maker for me – the day left me feeling excited about the subject after talking with enthusiastic students and staff alike. I liked how accessible the lecturers were when students needed them and learned about the many support mechanisms available at Kent, so I knew I would have support available when I needed it. The ‘Year in Industry’ opportunity was well organised, and I liked that students were supported and encouraged throughout that experience. I was also impressed at the rate of employment for Kent students within 6 months after graduating.

What has your course been like?

The course has been a fantastic balance of everything I expected from a Computer Science course at university – I’m constantly challenged, but not overwhelmed. The assessment methods stretch and assess various skills, and there’s scope to be creative so I am invested in and enjoy doing my work. The teaching and assessment material complement each other well, and I find the pace of learning easy enough to follow, but not to the point that it’s boring. There’s ample opportunity to engage in lectures/classes and ask questions, which is a great way to get a direct answer.

What is the most interesting topic you have studied?

The most interesting topic I’ve studied was Computer Security and Cryptography, where we learned various cryptographic algorithms and the known vulnerabilities in earlier algorithms and how they were exploited. It’s interesting to learn how today’s algorithms were designed to improve on earlier known vulnerabilities, and the challenges to cryptography in the future, with the rise of quantum computing.

Where did you spend your year in industry?

I worked as a Trainee Application Developer at a small-medium enterprise in London, called Fivium. The company produces digital workflow solutions and applications for government departments, agencies and public sector bodies. I wanted to get experience with all parts of the business and had close interaction colleagues from all teams, e.g. testing, infrastructure, client support, marketing and even the company directors.

What have you learnt while on placement?

I gained a lot of “soft skills” as well as improving my technical abilities. I learned presentation and demo skills, as well as how to communicate well with clients and clarify requirements with them. I became proficient in several technologies I had never encountered before, e.g. Fivium’s in-house web development framework, languages such as PL/SQL and Ruby, and development frameworks, such as Play (Java framework) and Vue.js. I learned to work to deadlines and how to manage and prioritise several critical tasks at one time.

What was the best part of your placement?

I was assigned to investigate and fix a complex bug in the last month of my placement. I spent a whole week on the problem and worked with several developers until eventually identifying the problem with help from the Technical Architect at Fivium. He and I then gave a presentation to the rest of the team about the bug, so that everyone could benefit from what we learned about solving issues of the same nature in future. Everyone was really impressed with my approaches to the problem, and I earned a reputation for handling complex bugs. It was tough work, but I felt valued and learned a lot in the process.

Has it changed your approach to learning?

Yes, I now have much more confidence in my ability to persist with a problem and solve it. I’m also better at taking challenges and mistakes ‘in my stride’, where previously mistakes would have played on mind for long after the fact. I also enjoy taking on more opportunities now – I handled a lot of responsibilities during my placement, so since returning to final year I wanted to continue pushing myself, and meeting new people, so I took up the role of Employability Ambassador, and help out on applicant selection days where I get to share my experiences.

What are your plans after you graduate?

After completing my placement, I was so pleased that Fivium offered me a graduate role as a Junior Application Developer, so I will be returning to work there.