Lessons From My Placement
(Or working 9 till 5, what a way to learn Computing)
By Damian Bemben
I thought for a while as to what sort of things would be useful to the person reading this blog. This blog will apply to those of you who are: looking for your first placement, about to start your first placement, or have begun your first placement.
Firstly, let me describe how I started my placement this year.
I applied to about 10 or so placements this year; one after the other I received the rejection emails, until finally I managed to secure a placement doing web-development for a speech transcription service for the university called WebASR. For the majority of placements, especially with large companies, their applications will look very similar.
1. They begin with an application form, where you put in your personal details (do not fail this part) usually ending with an upload of your resume/cv. (MAKE SURE TO THE CAREER SERVICE AND GET YOUR CV CHECKED! ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE A FIRST YEAR YOU WILL NOT BELIEVE HOW MANY MISTAKES THEY WILL FIND)
2. Then comes a basic personality quiz. These are often more time consuming than difficult. The usual answers for these sorts of quizzes is to imagine you are an efficient team worker, who does not like being late, and is amazing under pressure
3. After this comes the first hard part: if you did the 11+, this is 11++. It’s usually a series of logic questions, like below.
These are usually quite time pressured, and it’s useful to find a few practice ones online before actually attempting them, as although they may be easier, I always find it better to get your mind in the right place before doing them! Make sure to put away your phone and any distractions!
Here are a few example ones to get you started, along with better advice than I can give.
4. After the online quizzes come the interviews (Unfortunately, and especially for computer science, usually these will be more than one, the maximum i’ve heard of is about 5 for places like IBM) There’s not much advice I can give you on these, because there are far better sources than me for interview tips! If you are nervous, or just want advice, book an appointment on career connect.
The Actual Internship
As stated earlier, my actual internship was around 2 months of Web Development for a speech transcription service in the uni. This involved creating a CMS (Content Management System) as well as creating design and quality of life improvement, like table sorting and faster loading times.
This was pretty much independent work, apart from being told what improvements to make by the creators of the actual transcription software.
Because of this, I can tell you quite a bit on what sort of things you need to know, especially about working independently! So here’s the lessons that I learnt (Read; mistakes that i made) about working on a independent project like this.
1. In meetings, whenever a feature is requested, write down everything, no matter how simple it is.
Near the beginning, I had simple features requested, such as a light graphical change, or something as easy as changing a colour. I didn’t bother writing them down, as in my head I just thought “I can just do this straight after the meeting.”
But then other, bigger and more pertinent things begin popping up, and soon you completely forget those little changes.
Make sure you always bring a notebook and a pen to every meeting, and any time someone mentions something that should be done, write it down! Even if it’s not important.
2. Put everything you need to do in a plan!
I’ve found trello to be the most useful (and free) tool for doing this! I’ve played around with other organisation tools (Gantt Charts), and although they’re good for long term planning, when your working in a project where your expected to make rapid changes, trello boards are extremely useful! It stops you from panicking, and lets. I like to have a To Do and Doing, as sometimes you can only make a gradual progress on some feature, and you need to track that you have made actual changes to it.
Testing/Awaiting Confirmation is useful, as sometimes once you complete a feature, you have to test certain actions whether they work or not, and you might not have enough time in the day to complete that.
On Live Server speaks for itself. It’s to track the amount of completed cards.
Blockaded is for anything that’s waiting for someone, e.g, you need to wait for an email/ it’s not possible with the current level of the system.
In terms of actual cards, I have found trello to be extremely useful for detail without being cumbersome and hard to use. For each card, I like to have a checklist of things that tell me the card is completed, as well as different categories that it can be placed in, and a date that it has to be completed by.
The majority of the time you don’t look at the details of it, but I find that it helped to feel like your progressing, and you can actually see and track how far you are in completing something, which helps clear your head during a stressful period.
3. Talk about priorities!
This is the third and arguably most important point that I can make, and one that I learnt the hard way! When creating anything computer science, whether it be a website, game, or application, make sure to find out what the end-users priorities are!
I spent hours working on a new addition to the website, thinking it would be something extremely useful, only to get told in a later meeting that a user of the website would never actually do anything with it!
If you are unsure about what to prioritise on a certain feature/project, make sure to ask! You don’t want to be spending hours on improving GUI when the end-user is completely happy with it!
That’s the best advice that I could give you about applying and working at your first internship!