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Mohammad Bilal Khan

BSc (Hons) Computer Science

Placement with HMRC Digital, Shipley (Sept 2018 – Sept 2019)

A profile picture of Mohammad Bilal Khan,  placement student

Why did you apply to the University of Bradford? 

After hearing good feedback from other students and undertaking my own research, it became clear that the University of Bradford has excellent facilities and staff within the Computing Department. I had a great first impression.

With the university holding a high employability rate for computing graduates, I was enticed into applying for an undergraduate position.

Bradford has a very diverse community and I have enjoyed interacting within these different communities during my current time at the university. With so many societies and social events, there is something for everyone to get involved with aside from studies.

Why did you choose that particular course?  What did you like and enjoy most about the course?

My interest in computers began at a young age when I saw my older brother putting together a computer from scratch.  During secondary school, my passion for computers enhanced as I got into gaming, which led me to pursue IT as a GCSE and an A-Level subjects.  I knew that there was a lot more to IT than what I had learnt during secondary school, motivating me to study my passion at a higher level.

Two years on and I have learnt so many new skills; whether that be the concept of Object-Oriented Programming in JAVA, to building a website with HTML and PHP, and to constructing a relational database in SQL. The staff have been very supportive in my development as a student, learning new life changing skills.

What tips would you give to prospective students about the course at the University of Bradford and the university itself?

I would advise students to have a clear vision of what they want from the course. Whether that is to learn programming skills, obtain knowledge of computer architecture and the mathematics behind computing. That way, learning becomes easier as you know what you personally want to achieve!

Get involved in extra-curricular activities. They are a great way to build your CV and make you different from other candidates. What you need to remember is that everybody will have the same degree and/or similar part-time employment as you. What will make you different?  Extra-curricular activities! So many students look past this and that’s why it’s the most effective way to stand out.

Throughout my second year of university, I was a PAL (Peer Assisted Learning) Leader, providing help to first year students who may need some extra support. I was able to include this on my CV and converse with many employers during interviews about PAL, to which they were very impressed.

I advise everybody to do a placement! Statistics also show that students who do a placement perform better in their third year than students who carry on straight from their second year. It’s also an opportunity to earn some good income as a student!

What support have you received from Career and Employability Services and Placement Staff?

At the start of my second year, I knew I needed to have a well written CV/Covering Letter if I was going to apply for a placement.  I would meet the Faculty-specific Placement Advisers from Career and Employability Services on a weekly basis, improving my CV week by week, adding new content and fine-tuning the small details.  By the beginning of November, I had a fully written CV/CL and was ready to apply before most students had even thought about completing these documents.

The Career Consultant linked to my faculty helped me with practice interviews, focusing on answering potential questions in ways (targeting the role each time) that will impress employers.

Overall, the support was tremendous from every angle. Career and Employability Services and Faculty Placement Staff really wish for you to succeed and they provide the necessary help for you to do that.

What action are you taking to improve your employability whilst at University?

As mentioned earlier, I was a PAL Leader during my second year, helping first year students where necessary.  I am currently undertaking a placement with HMRC Digital which will put me ahead of so many students when I leave university.

I advise everybody to do a placement! Statistics also show that students who do a placement perform better in their third year than students who carry on straight from their second year. It’s also an opportunity to earn some good income as a student!

What advice would you give to your fellow students about finding placement and work experience opportunities?

Make sure your CV/CL is attractive. Your CV/CL will reflect your personality and what type of person you are. It’s essentially your first impression to employers!

Provide evidence – too many times I see students writing in their CVs “I am very motivated” or “I have great teamwork skills”. This means nothing to employers if you don’t back it up with reasoning.  A better way to write this would be “I have developed great teamwork skills through working as part of a team of 12 employees to deliver excellent customer service”.

When it comes to the interview, do your research. If you know about the company, employers will be very impressed!  Once again, it’s something that so many students overlook and it’s another thing that will make you different from everyone else. Find out about the company’s ethos, their current projects, and anything else you feel is necessary.

Tell us about your current placement...

My current year-long placement is with HMRC Digital, working as an Assistant Cyber Intelligence Analyst. My role is very diverse and ranges from digital forensics analysis to monitoring the HMRC environment live in real time. HMRC is a large organisation and a great target for cyber criminals. I aid in the safe running environment at HMRC Digital.

How will the placement year benefit you when you return to study at the University of Bradford?

The greatest benefit will be exposure. I will have an entire year’s worth of industrial experience under my belt.  This will teach me new skills which I can then implement in my studies when I return to complete my final year.

As well as my academic studies, I will be ahead of other students when I graduate.  Employers will be more drawn to my application compared to a student with no relevant work experience.  It’s worth taking that year out to get that experience and I recommend this to all students, not just from the computing department!