Where Will a Placement Take You? We Asked, Students Tell

Students in the school of Computer Science and Digital Media have an opportunity to take a summer or year-long placement during their degree, usually after their second year. It’s a chance to get real life industry experience and put into practice the theory they have been studying. We spoke to some current and past placement students about where they went and what they did.

Annabelle Macleod (CS): Software developer at Total (TEPUK), Aberdeen
Eilidh Southren (CS): Software developer at the Science and Technology Facilities Council, Oxfordshire
Serena Battistoni (CGA): Graphic designer and content editor, Empowering Her
Alessio Gadaleta (CS): Software developer at Solab, Aberdeen
Luke Fisher (CS): Software engineer at Codify, Aberdeen

What was the interview process like?

Annabelle: Welcoming and fairly relaxed, felt more like the two interviewers were trying to know me rather than interrogate me; also had the chance to ask questions about how the placement would work.

Eilidh: I emailed in my CV and cover letter; had a telephone interview with some personal questions, then a face to face interview on site with some coding exercises. They paid for my transport and accomodation which was nice!

Serena: Phone call and a meeting in Glasgow.

Alessio: It was a 3 step procedure: 1: CV Screening. 2: A practical exercise in C# (a console application). 3: Face to face interview with a senior software developer.

Luke: Initially, interviewees were provided with a technical challenge, a simple exercise to show your ability to solve problems with code. We completed this at home and submitted our solution back. After completing the challenge I was invited for a face-to-face interview with the support manager and a few other employees. Primarily this was to run through my experience I had outlined on my CV and to get to know me as a person. It was also useful for both parties to run through my submission for the challenge to understand my reasoning for coding the way I did.

Take us through your average day.

Annabelle: Involved a mix of customer support (bug fixes, quick guide productions) and development (request for upgrade on apps, adding features, booking systems). Worked mostly on .Net applications and SharePoint based intranet and applications.

Eilidh: We work in an Agile team so we have a daily stand up to talk about what’s going on; my main project is re-writing software to control an electromagnet, so there’s meetings with the user scientists to get requirements and demoing work in progress to them for feedback. Happiness is an an uninterrupted afternoon with my headphones in, writing code.

Serena: Conference call with staff; organising my work and then working on the project.

Alessio: Every day started with a stand up meeting, where everyone said what they achieved in the previous working day, and what was going to be done today. It was a great chance to know more about the environment and projects everyone was involved with and the best time to ask for advice. After that I have been mostly working on individual projects, so the day was divided between developing a plan to tackle the current task, code, test and repeat.

Luke: Typically a day in support starts with a short turnaround meeting; which involves each member of support detailing what tickets they’ve been working on, if they’ve encountered sticking points and what they aim to work on today.

Tickets range from fixing incorrect data input to implementing new features and resolving bugs within software. There’s an incredibly diverse range of work for members in team support, making each day different, which I think positively adds to the experience.

For more difficult problems, two team members can be seen resolving an issue together. Original software developers from the projects team may be involved in discussing how the original specification has been translated into code and using their experience to help complete tickets.

Now that I am back at university, Codify kindly offered me part-time employment working on internal projects. Typically I would come in on a free day to work on our bespoke ticket management software or the customer portal.

What are the main languages and platforms you use?

Annabelle: VB.net/ASP; JS; SQL. Bulk of work on .NET environment but some JS scripting required to customise sharepoint pages on occasion.

Eilidh: The team uses LabView, Python, Java, C, JS, SQL and many others across the whole project. My work is primarily done in Python, Java and C, as well as lower level scripting for hardware drivers. In terms of IDEs I mainly use Eclipse and PyCharm.

Alessio: C# in the ASP.Net using mostly the MVC pattern, it required some HTML and JavaScript as well.

Luke: At Codify we develop software using Microsoft technologies: C#, .NET, ASP, SQL Server, WPF. Most of the business software we produce is targeted to run on Windows. Recently we have built single page web apps for customers and ourselves using the Aurelia framework.

What’s the best part about your job?

Annabelle: Seeing things I made being used by people in the business everyday; satisfaction of solving a problem.

Eilidh: The software I write will be used by scientists to conduct some very cool experiments. The campus has around 40 interns across the whole site so it’s very social in and outside of work. Also the flexi time hours!

Serena: Applying in the real world what I was studying in University.

Alessio: Being immersed in a professional environment and being able to see how the other developers tackled the problems, and also learning while working.

Luke: Definitely beer o’clock! Joking aside, it is working with the smart team at Codify, on our common goal of building and supporting the best bespoke software for businesses.

What have you gained through your placement?

Annabelle: Confidence in my abilities, different outlook at coding practices from user error reports, experience with a new platform/language, insight into how a business operates.

Eilidh: How large software projects are built, maintained and deployed. I’ve learned what good code actually is in practise. Learning how a software team operates is something that’s difficult to learn in a classroom.

Serena: Confidence.

Alessio: Knowledge, experiences, contacts and money.

Luke: I have gained valuable technical skills and knowledge working with Microsoft technologies. The experience of working in industry is incredibly useful and the skills gained can be applied to your studies: time management; teamwork; communication.

Would you recommend a placement to future students?

Annabelle: Yes most definitely! It is a great experience and what I gained from it could not have been learnt in the classroom.

Eilidh: Can’t recommend it enough. My confidence in my abilities has skyrocketed. I didn’t think I had enough knowledge to work in ‘real life’; but they’re aware of that when they hire you and the people in my office couldn’t have been more supportive in teaching me.

Serena: Affirmative!

Alessio: I think it’s a great opportunity to improve our professionality and learn more about our interest in the field.

Luke: I would highly recommend working at Codify, especially if you’re interested in software engineering and working with a dynamic friendly team. I consider myself very lucky to be working at a company like Codify.