Work placement – six months in

An image of University of Kent student on work placementsHi! If you read my previous post, you’ll know I’ve now spent six months working as a web developer for my year in industry. Here are some of my top tips/discoveries:

1. Don’t be scared to ask for help
If the company you have chosen to work for this year is anything like mine, they will welcome your questions, in fact they will encourage you to ask more of them! Everyone was super friendly from the start and I got a lot of help not just from those on my team, but from those in other departments too. Whilst it’s good to try and figure it out yourself, remember you will most probably be working on client projects with deadlines – you don’t want to spend too much time working it out when a little push in the right direction could mean the job is done in five minutes.

2. You will be taken out of your comfort zone, and you’ll love it
I’ve never been much of a public speaker; school presentations were my absolute nightmare. So at our biweekly staff meeting I was told every newcomer must stand up, and introduce themselves a little bit to everyone. Much to my surprise, it didn’t go bad at all. Similarly, I’ve never been much of a sporty person either, yet when asked if I wanted to join in on weekly bouldering, I said yeah! And again to my surprise, I loved it and got to know some of my colleagues outside of work which was nice. You might be feeling extra lazy that day and just can’t wait to get home but trust me, you don’t want to come across as that student who never joins in on anything – so attend that office party. Your colleagues will become friends this year so make an effort in getting to know them.

3. Take this year to really learn what it is you want to do
I initially started off doing a lot of back-end web development work as I stated that this was my weak side and would like to learn more about it. I realised however a month or two in that it wasn’t for me. What I love to do is front-end – taking those Photoshop designs from the design team and developing the website to make it look just like them, not the nitty gritty part behind the scenes. I told my boss that this was my strong suit and what I enjoy the most, and soon enough I was assigned to front-end tasks only. It’s good to have some knowledge in both (or more, depending on your course) areas, but this year will help you choose what you want to specialise in, which is crucial.

4. You will use a lot of the material taught at uni
I was surprised at how much stuff was familiar to me from what I learnt during my software engineering module. The jargon was the same, the agile design patterns I had learnt to implement in Java were being used in PHP; it was slightly mind-blowing when I realised some of it wasn’t all that much new to me. So please listen out, you never know when you might need to make use of that process (or formula, etc etc) this year..

5. This isn’t just a 9-5 job
It took me five months to realise that eight hours a day isn’t enough time to do client work as well as work on your continuous personal development. Newer and better frameworks are being released, languages are being updated – I have to keep up. So if I have time to practise something new during work hours, great, otherwise, some research after work doesn’t hurt. The key thing here is to keep practicing. I can honestly say I don’t think I would have learnt as much as I have already have in this amount of time independently. Coding everyday meant there was no risk of me forgetting the syntax and made me understand what worked and what didn’t in different scenarios.

6. Make the most of this year!
So far this year; I’ve coded prototypes for client pitches, helped with social media at the company’s annual events, been a part of the team to win 2nd place at the internal hackathon and 3rd place at the London Start-up Weekend hackathon sponsored by Google. I’ve expressed my interest in travelling to front-end conferences around the world, I regularly attend different technology meet ups in London with colleagues and have met some very talented people along the way. Take in as much as you can get and say yes to every opportunity.

7. You will most definitely miss Canterbury (Venue), but that’s okay – time is flying by, you’ll be back before you know it.

This post is by Natalie Mclaren