BEng (Hons) Software Engineering Placement with GE Grid Solutions, Livingston, Scotland (June 2016 – June 2017)
Why did you apply to the University of Bradford? What was your first impression of the university and the city? What did you enjoy most about your time in Bradford?
I have always believed that being part of something special makes you special. I remember looking into universities across the country and I had a fair number of options to consider after being accepted to several others, Bradford not being one of them at the time. However, it was brought to my attention by a friend how well the University of Bradford was doing in the area that I was interested in studying. After looking it up, I instantly fell in love with the way the campus looked and the multicultural background of the city.
I think what I enjoyed the most about Bradford was its diversity and the opportunities provided. I knew prior to my commencing that my performance will be enhanced by the people that I surround myself with, as there is so much to learn from others from different backgrounds and cultures. It allowed me to see what drives other students just like me and this has always inspired me to be my best self.
Why did you choose that particular course? What did you like and enjoy most about the course?
I was lucky enough to discover what I am passionate about from an early age and then I just tried my best to put things into motion. Being able to create things that I envision, even if they started off on a regular display, was what truly made me realise how powerful computing can be and what sorts of things can be achieved if the right ingredients are combined. Computing empowers me to create the things that I envision by applying a set of well defined rules. The things that I have to learn on this course can be tackled in so many different ways and I really enjoy that as I was never good at memorising by heart, but I can express my creativity and work my way around different projects.
What tips would you give to prospective students about the course at the University of Bradford and the university itself?
To stay as busy as they can! There are so many activities to be involved in across the campus. The University is so much more than waiting for the elevator to get you to a lecture just so you sit an exam later on. Don’t get me wrong, that is important, but equally important is to try to become your best self. This might come as a shock but the industry is constantly changing its needs so what matters the most is one’s ability to adapt to those changes by applying the skills that has already been gathered.
What support have you received from Career Development Services / Placement Staff?
To be frank, I got to where I am not just because of the hard work that I invested, but because I made the most out of the services that were available. Initially, it is all about looking good on paper. Then it goes down to answering questions. The Career Development Advisers can teach you how to make yourself look as good as you can to an employer, which is crucial as you will be competing against tens or hundreds of other students who have the same qualifications as you do.
The Placement Staff, back when I was searching for a placement consisted of Roy Christian (from Careers) and Michael Ridley (Placement Tutor). They were both incredibly supportive and I could not have done it without them. At any point when I raised some issues (and there were a few due to the employers; so do not picture the process to always run smoothly) were available to help by offering me their best advice on the matter. I participated in the weekly drop-in sessions which I found particularly useful as I was constantly applying, so every week I had something different to prepare for. They also pushed me when I was inches away from giving up and put me back on the right track. They reminded me that I am not defined but my failures, but by my determination.
What action are you taking to improve your employability whilst at University?
I try to get involved in various schemes so I develop my set of transferable skills. One of them is called PAL (Peer Assisted Learning). It helped me enhance my organisational and planning skills as I delivered fortnightly sessions to facilitate interaction with first year students. It also helped me meet students who share the same interests like I do.
I was also a Student Representative, which allowed me to participate in meetings and voice the opinions of my peers while working as part of a team with the other representatives, to raise issues that students faced and pursue the academic body to resolve them.
I was also offered the role of Student Learning Champion to help users of the library familiarise themselves with the facilities. This improved my communication skills as I was in direct contact with students who were seeking for help and whilst providing it, I was able to improve my technical skills.
What advice would you give to your fellow students about finding placement and work experience opportunities?
To not wait because it saves you time! Let me expand. Just because the deadline is in two days time does not mean that you have to submit it tomorrow! Submit applications as soon as possible because the chances of ending up with an offer are higher. It happened to me that I sent through my application form a few days before the deadline and I progressed all the way to the last stage (including an assessment day which I successfully passed) and then I did not receive an offer as all the roles were already filled in.
Apply constantly! Give up a few hours every week where the only thing you will focus on is completing application forms and other documents that the employer requires, as it is not always just a CV. Do this by yourself but don't hesitate to go and check the work (get feedback) by a Career Development Adviser prior to submitting it, as they might guide you on how to make it better.
Get involved in activities that you consider to be valuable experience, and even if they might not seem to be, make them be! There is always a way. Don't wait for things to come to you, do your best to achieve them as you will develop on your way there.
Tell us about your current placement (include brief responsibilities)
I am currently working as a Software Engineer Intern for GE Energy Connections – Grid Solutions UK. I have been assigned to work on two different projects back-to-back under the supervision of two managers. I am not able to disclose much about the software (confidentiality) as it will run simultaneously with an existing product provided by GE. The first project requires me to develop a tool that facilitates the localisation of the data generated by their product, PowerOn Advantage.
How will the placement year benefit you when you return to study at the University of Bradford?
I can tell by now how different the working environment is compared to university. University is about learning, a job is so much more than that. While a student, you are presented with milestones along the way: timetables, deadlines, exams, things that if you follow will take you where you have to get. In the working environment, you have to be your own wind keeper. You will have deadlines (which at this point in time they are flexible for me) that you have to meet and it is up to you to figure out how you will do so. You cannot fail and re-sit, it's a yes or no!
This experience teaches me how to make the most out of my time, learn how to prioritise and also how to learn new things and apply them on the go. I would say that I am using up to 10% of what I learned in University, the rest has to be filled up according to the business needs. To give you a technical example, you might be proficient in a programming language but the business would prefer you to work in something else at some point in time, just to meet the business needs, and you will have to adhere!
I think that this opportunity will allow me to pass my final year with flying colours due to all the transferable skills that I enhance and all the experience that I gather.