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

Working Gal – Six Months On

It has been a while! I am not sure how often to make these posts although considering I only have five months of placement left, I think there might be one or two more. I guess it depends on how much there is to share about how placement is going.
Since the last time I wrote here I have obviously become more adjusted. I now feel like a part of the team like everyone else. I have recently been working on something with some other members of the team rather than an individual project and so I have been interacting with more people. Before I would only ever really talk to my buddy but that’s because he was the one giving me work.
I also feel like the addition of a graduate to our team has really helped the integration. Our team is kind of a quiet one, we only ever really talk to each other if we have to. So it’s usually very quiet around our bay. But with the grad there, he’s very outgoing and so he sparks a lot of conversation between us which has been really great. It’s good to be able to have banter between your teammates, it helps you get by.
Sadly though he won’t be on the team for much longer because he has to rotate to another team in a few months. So I wonder what the team will be like without him or if they will get another graduate to replace him. All graduates rotate between teams before they choose where they want to end up in the company. But for now, he’s on our team and I think he will remain there until after I leave, so the banter will continue.
Aside from the team banter, my workload has increased recently. This is definitely a good thing because it means time goes by a lot faster. Sure, it can be stressful but it’s not been too bad. Although it hasn’t really been any development work so I would like to get back into that soon. Coding is where I feel most comfortable, even though I know that isn’t all of the job.
I also recently had a meeting with my manager to discuss my year-end review, which sounds weird because I’ve only been working there six months. Everyone has to fill in a self-evaluation at the end of the year and that included me so I did the best I could. The meeting went really well and I found out that I don’t suck at this job which is great. My manager asked me if there is anything that I wanted to be doing while on placement and I said anything. I still don’t know exactly what I want to focus on when I leave uni so I really want to get the most out of my placement as possible. So basically anything that they are willing to let me do, I will do it. So I guess we see what comes from that.
Then there are the other placements, not much to report there. Although we have now kind of split off into smaller groups, we used to all sit together in the canteen but now we all do our own thing. Which was bound to happen because there are so many of us. But we are all still friendly towards one another and it’s so much easier to talk to people now that we have split off into smaller groups.
Overall working has been good, I don’t have any complaints. It’s been a great experience so far and I am confident that I will be able to survive in the working world now when I graduate from university. Whether that is with the company I am in now or somewhere else.
I still don’t know what I’m doing when I graduate but I think I should keep my options open. I never liked the idea of being trapped doing one thing for the rest of my life so that’s a big deal for me. But we see what happens. Maybe this is the job for me, maybe it’s not. At least I have some time to think about it.
In the meantime, I just have to finish up placement and then try to prepare for my final year of university. This year has barely started and I know it’s going to be a busy one and as always, I will try to keep you posted as the year goes on! And if you don’t want to wait for a blog post to know what’s going on in my life then follow me on Twitter because it’s where I update the most. Although be aware I do tweet a lot…
~ Courtney x

Working Gal – Two Months In

This year, instead of going back to classes and assignments, I am entering the world of work. This is the start of my placement year at university. Which means for the next nine months I am going to be working full-time.

So, to go along with my placement year, I thought I would have a mini blog series kind of thing. Basically, just sharing my thoughts and experiences, maybe even giving advice if I have any. I think it would be fun, and also a great way to keep the blog alive since I haven’t really been blogging lately.
Now where to start?
Well, I’ve decided not to name the place where I work, why? Mainly because I don’t think it matters? I won’t be going into too much detail about actual work anyway, I think I’ll talk more about general things. Because let’s be real, when anyone talks in specific detail about what they do, you’re not really interested unless you also work in that field. At least from my experience, that’s what I know because when I talk about code with my friends they look at me like I’m speaking another language, which I guess I am. But anyway, the point is I am not going to take you through and talk about the things I work on in detail.
I have been working now for almost two months and I would say I am now well adjusted. I know a lot of people say it’s a shock to the system, going from the university lifestyle of sleeping most of the day and going out all night, but for me, I’m really glad to have some more routine in my life. That’s not to say that I don’t struggle to get up in the morning because I do, especially now that it’s colder in the mornings, bed just seems too good. But my fear of sleeping in and being super late stops me from sleeping in too much, so I always make it to work on time.
As for working hours, I work 9-5, Monday to Friday. Which I really enjoy because like I said, there’s routine there and also I get weekends off. My other friends that are on placement have flexible hours where you can work 8-4 or 10-6 if you want to but to me, 8-4 is too early and 10-6 is too late so 9-5 works the best for me.
I should also say that I study Software Engineering at university and so, my placement is technology based. I was super nervous about going into placement because we work on real applications that real people use and I was super worried that I was going to break the programs and people would be angry. But that hasn’t happened (yet) and I’ve been kind of easing into work at a good pace too. So it’s not like they were throwing me in the deep end with a bunch of new things that I didn’t know anything about.
I’m really glad that I have been going at a steady pace of getting work to do because it has allowed me to familiarise myself with the things we use at work and programs and things I have never heard of. It’s a lot different than sitting at uni and writing code that they tell you too. But it’s good, and that feeling when you finally get your code to work is always a favourite of mine. I mean, I remember how excited I got when I could print “Hello World” on my computer screen haha. It also makes you feel like you could actually do this job and it’s not impossible.
Aside from the actual work, there are the people you work with, your team. I am still getting to know mine. When I joined the team I was given a “buddy” who is the person on the team that looks out for me and gives me work. So my buddy is the person I talk to most on the team, and he’s really great. He’s really helpful and easy to talk to, so I didn’t feel like I was bugging him with my 100 questions a day haha. That really helped with settling in, because I usually hate asking questions, especially ones that sound stupid but if I didn’t ask the questions then I probably would still be sitting at my screen feeling useless. As for the other members of my team, I still haven’t talked to them very much. So I still have to get to know them, but I’m sure I will get to know them more over time.
Along with the team, there are also the other placements. I joined with 17 other placements and so I never felt like I was alone in being the newbie. And even though I didn’t know the other 17 placements before coming into work, I am so glad that I met them. Before coming to university, being thrown into a room with people I didn’t know was my worst nightmare because I hated talking to new people. But on the first day of work, I was so glad to have been thrown into a room with these people.
Having other people in the same position as you is good because it means you have people to talk to that are your age and you also have people to sit with at lunch. It also means you get to make new friends and you can kind of compare how your placement is going compared to others. Everyone is on different teams and so you also get to learn what the other teams in the company do from talking to those people. So all in all, everyone at work is really nice, don’t have any complaints.
And then there are extra things I have been involved in. Such as organising lunch for the whole floor. Sounds kind of crazy and I guess it was but also it was fun. Never in your life would you ever wonder how many slices of bread were in a loaf of bread until you have a budget and have to cater for around 80 people. And of course I didn’t do this alone, I did it with some other placements, which made it easier.
Then there are volunteer things, social things and things outside the office which help make work feel a little bit more enjoyable. I think we are actually going on a Segway tour at some point so that should be lots of fun. I’ve never used a Segway so I don’t know if it’ll be good or bad, but I guess we see.
And so yeah, all in all, I would say that the past two months have been pretty good. I don’t really have any complaints. Obviously, at the beginning, things were going kind of slow because of training and just adjusting to a new environment but I feel like this is where I’m meant to be.
I always worried about going into working in software development because I felt like I would not know what to do at all, but now I know I can do it and it’s not that scary. And I’m also really glad I get the experience because as someone who has never had a job before, I was definitely worried about going out and getting a job. Especially one in technology, with no previous experience. So I’m glad that I’ve got this job and as for it being my first ever one? I would say I chose a pretty good one.
I think that’s all I wanted to cover in this first blog post in this mini-series. I feel like this is a good start. I don’t really know what else I will update with or how often I will do one of these but I feel like every few months should be good. Even though I will only be working for a total of 11 months, I know I will get a lot out of it and hopefully a lot to share with you? Who knows, but I’m excited to take you along on the journey. Until next time,
~ Courtney x