Zan is a BSc (Hons) Computer and Data Science student who worked as a Trainee DevOps at Blueberry Consultants. His placement combines his interests and hobbies and has brought him one step closer to getting his dream job.
Describe your placement role and what you were doing
During my placement, I worked as a Trainee DevOps (development and operations) at Blueberry Consultants. Development is building an application (or something else) and operations is keeping it alive (looking over the servers). I chose this role due to my mixed interest in technology; development and data are something I am passionate about, while looking over servers is something I would do as a hobby.
My placement provides a mix of both, which is why it is perfect for me! For a Computer and Data science student, DevOps is great mix of experience. I get a taste of problems which appear to clients and see what a stable system looks like. There is a lot of data that flows between systems, therefore efficiency and up-time is the number one priority. As a student at BCU I have gained a lot of knowledge in different fields which has given me an advantage. The biggest one is Python, which I use on daily basis for managing servers. This is a huge bonus for me, because as a data scientist Python is a must-have tool.
Why did you decide to do a placement?
When I graduate from university, I am going to be searching for my dream job and having a placement provides some level of security in landing a job. Most of the jobs I am interested in require at least 1 year of industry experience, so I created a simple plan to get my dream job. Firstly, I got a micro placement between first and second year through BCU’s micro placement scheme, which gives you one month’s experience. I talked with my micro placement employer and I was able to stay for an additional 2 months. Secondly, I got a placement at the end of second year securing 12 months of industry experience. By the end of third year, I’ll have 15 months industry experience.
What are you enjoying most about your placement?
The thing I enjoy the most is learning. I love thinking about what is wrong in the system and discovering new things. While being on a placement, I discovered a few things I might not have learnt in university. In industry a problem is thrown at you and you need to fix it with the resources you have, while in university things are a bit easier and problems are explained to you.
If I would use a cooking analogy, University problems are like ready to cook meals, you just need to add them together while Industry problems are like cooking from the internet, figuring out what you’ve got at home and what you need to buy first before you can do anything at all. Figuring things out is the thing I enjoy the most, searching for a problem and discovering solutions, but this would not be possible without the knowledge I have gained at BCU.
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What was the placement application process like?
I have applied to a lot of companies due to me wanting to secure a placement. Every company has different application processes. You need your CV with all of them, but some require a bit more, such as an exercise beforehand (in maths, computer science and English). Interviews vary too; some require multi-level interviews that can take up to 2 months or more, but all of the interviews are looking to test your knowledge as a student.
Data structures and algorithms is something that was asked in all of the interviews I had, which I was taught in my first year as a computer and data science student. In one interview, I was asked to code on a whiteboard, which was to demonstrate how comfortable you are as a developer and your understanding of a problem. All of my old notes and power points came in handy when I was preparing.
How did the university help you find your placement?
The most useful resource was BCU’s Graduate+ website which listed a lot of placements. There are other websites which provide placements, but this one was my favourite. The Graduate+ team was helpful too and provided a lot of help to perfect my CV. They also did a couple of mock interviews with me. It was great to get some feedback on your interview, let that be face to face or via phone. Once I was accepted to an interview, I kept in touch with the Graduate+ team.
What are your future career plans and how has your placement affected this?
After graduating, I’d like to go onto a master’s course but if I decide to take a break after my third year, I won’t struggle so much with finding a job in my field. By doing a placement, I have got additional experience with CV building and interviews, so it would be much easier and stress free to go and apply for a real job.
What advantages do you hope your placement will give you?
The biggest advantage that I am seeking is industry experience. There are some things that are different in industry in comparison to university. I have already gotten some experiences which I appreciate and know I am going to put to good use in my course. I am also looking to develop team working skills as working with others, is a skill that needs practise, for it to be efficient. I would love to improve my skill in that field, because I am not so confident in it.
What placement advice do you have for future students?
My advice would be just to try it. There is nothing to lose apart from time. With a placement, you can improve yourself. It also gets easier to land a job or even to learn a new skill. If you can find yourself a placement in another city (or even country), you can even experience new cultures. Placements are a great way to ease your brains in terms of theory studying and to connect the dots in the industry.