A Year as a Software Engineer Placement

After a long 11 months, I have finally come to the end of my software engineering placement.

It’s crazy to think that this time last year I was preparing myself to start this placement. I was super nervous about it because it was going to be my first full-time job. It was also going to be the first time I was doing a job that was related to my university degree and I was worried that I was going to mess it up in some way or another.

We all hear those stories of people working in software who have been able to bring down important servers/websites/services. I was worried I was going to be one of them.

Luckily, nothing like that happened.

But it was still a concern, I was also worried that I was going to have no idea how to do any of the work that was expected of me. I had only been programming for two years, and I wasn’t sure that was enough.

So I was definitely feeling the pressure before I even walked into the place. But I suppose the hard part was already done, I had applied to a lot of places and been to a few interviews, and then I was lucky enough to be offered a placement at one of them.

Next thing I knew, I was picking out something to wear on the first day and making my way to the office.

The first few days were about learning things, health and safety talks and lots and lots of training. Not the most exciting but things that had to be done. Getting all of the training done early meant that you didn’t have to scramble to get it done before the deadlines.

After that, it was just a matter of waiting to be assigned tasks.

Thankfully the tasks I was given were not completely out of my range, I thought that the first time I was given work to do on a program I wouldn’t even be able to read it never mind understand what was going on. But none of the code that I looked at looked too different from what I was used to seeing before, it was just doing different things.

Of course, there was still a lot I had to learn while working too, things I hadn’t encountered in university or hadn’t been taught. Luckily everyone on my team was nice and was able to help me. So I didn’t feel helpless or that I couldn’t do my job. And of course, if all else failed there was Google.

For the most part, I did enjoy the work that I did, and it gave me more confidence in my abilities as a programmer. And allowed me to learn a lot about the industry as well.

I was also happy to work with a team of people that were passionate about what they were doing. The only other teamwork I had done was at university and it was always hit or miss with teammates. But it really makes a difference to your productivity when everyone else is passionate about the work and wants to see the projects you’re working on succeeding.

When I think about my team, I think I was placed in the right one for me. Everyone on the team was kind of quiet and very focused on the work that they did and I felt I fit right in. It took a while for me to really be able to talk to everyone and learn more about them but once I did I thought it was great.

At first, I thought it was a bit weird to be surrounded by so many people who were at least ten years older than me but it wasn’t at all. The fact that they respected me and treated me as an equal was great, they didn’t dismiss my ideas or opinions because of how old I was and that is something I really appreciated.

We didn’t really have any team outings or social events until towards the end of my placement, which is something I do wish we had done more because when we did all go out we had a good time. It would have been nice to spend more time outside of work as it gives you a chance to get to know people more personally. But aside from that I really enjoyed working with them and couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to help me while I was there.

The only other people that I really interacted with outside of my team were the other placement students. I was grateful that when I started working I wasn’t going to be the only one who was starting out, not having a clue what to do. We were quite a big group and it was nice to be able to meet up with them to talk about work and other things.

When we first started work, we all ate lunch together in the canteen. There was a long bench that we filled and it was comforting to not have to worry about where to sit at lunch and things like that.

After a while, we did sort of split into two different groups at lunch who did our own thing but that was to be expected. I enjoyed the company of people who were the same age as me, as we could relate to each other a lot more and were able to talk about the work we were doing and compare experiences as everyone was on a different team.

Towards the end of the year, it felt really weird to say goodbye to other placements. It kind of felt like saying goodbye to people when we were leaving secondary school. We’re all going to go our different directions but there is a chance we might come across each other again. So it wasn’t really a permanent goodbye.

Another thing I was involved in during my placement year was People Strategy. It was a group of people that met on a regular basis to organise seasonal events inside and outside of work, as well as organise things like town halls.

It was really nice to be involved in something aside from my main work, I liked organising things that got people away from their computers every once in a while.

Towards the end of the year, I put together a Mario Kart tournament on the Nintendo Switch and it was a huge success and really fun. We also did things like bake sales and floor lunches. It gave us a chance to interact with people we normally wouldn’t. Which meant we got to speak to people outside of our teams, and I think that’s great because the company is more than just your small team that sits at one end of the floor.

Overall I really enjoyed my placement. I think that I learnt a lot and am more prepared for the working environment when I graduate from university.

Will I go back to work in the place that I did my placement? I don’t know yet. I think I want to see what else is out there for me. But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t come back in the future.

But for now, it’s back to university for my final year. It’s going to be tough and it’s going to be stressful but I think placement has also helped me with dealing with stressful situations, so I should be okay. It’ll definitely be weird going back to university though, I feel like you don’t have the same kind of routine there as you would with a 9 to 5 job but at least you get to sleep in.

I would highly recommend getting a placement if you can while you are studying your degree. It gives you experience in the working world and helps you figure out if this is something you can really do. I also think it really helps with your confidence in your field of study and is a nice change of pace from studying.

~ Courtney x