Michael Berry – from UG to PHD and beyond

Michael Berry

Name: Michael Berry
Degree course: Computer Science with a Year in Industry

Why did you choose Kent?

One of its biggest attractions was the sheer amount of space! I was never a fan of the city campus universities, and Kent seemed to offer the best of both worlds, being spacious yet close to Canterbury. I was also debating doing a year in industry at the time – and Kent seemed to be one of the few universities where that was encouraged and supported.

Did you do a year in industry?

Yes – at Pfizer in Sandwich, which (at the time) was a major research centre, though has since been downsized significantly. It’s definitely something I’d recommend – as well as the benefit of industrial experience, it also provides you with great contacts who you can draw upon after you graduate. I’m still in touch with my ex-supervisor over a decade later.

How did your degree course lay the foundations for your chosen career path?

The undergraduate course gave me a solid general knowledge – not just of programming, but also other low level architecture, networking, machine learning, etc. – those are all important topics that provided an excellent foundation. The PhD was a completely different kettle of fish of course – as well as the inevitable research & development experience, simply working on one particular project for 4 years inevitably requires a good work ethic!

Could you describe your career path since leaving Kent?

I left Kent in 2015, and worked for just over 4 years in a company called Asperato, a start-up whose product managed payment collections in Salesforce. I now work at Sainsbury’s in their supply chain team where we’re rewriting a critical piece of their infrastructure from scratch.

Could you describe a typical day in your current role?

We have an hour or so to catch up on emails, remind ourselves of what we’re doing for the day, take a look at any outstanding tasks or reports that need work as a priority, etc. Then at 10 we have our daily standup meeting (usually around 5-10 minutes where each team member announces what they’re working on for the day; we adjust our Kanban board accordingly.)

Beyond that it’s rather variable. I’m usually doing a mixture of development work, reviewing other’s code, meeting with others to discuss any issues / new tasks, or meeting with stakeholders to discuss progress & priorities. The most typical day might be around 80-90% development work and the remainder on other tasks, but it’s not uncommon for that figure to flip!

What are your future plans/aspirations?

I’ve always struggled with this question – whenever I make plans they seem to have a habit of changing rather quickly! I’m in a challenging, development based role that I enjoy at the moment, and long may that continue. I don’t think I’d want to take the “typical” path of eliminating the development side of my role and moving solely into management. Fortunately more companies these days are offering increasingly senior development based roles – so that’s likely to be the heading I aim for.

Finally, what advice would you give to someone thinking of coming to Kent?

Whatever university you go to, make sure you put in the work – not just to scrape by and pass, but to really understand the concepts being taught (particularly programming concepts, as they will likely form the foundation of your career.) Don’t be afraid to use lecturer’s office hours, or ask seminar leaders for help if you’re stuck. If you choose to go down the year in industry route then do your best to excel in that year – it’s a double investment. It can boost your degree result and provide you with great contacts (sometimes even a job offer after you graduate.)