Daniel Lawrence

Advanced Computer Science MSc

I spent a year working as a Software Engineering intern for Cisco in San Jose, California.

Why did you choose to study at Kent?

I reviewed every Computer Science MSc course offered in the UK and, as I was living in London at the time, Kent provided a more attractive option for a year out of work studying, both from an environmental and financial standpoint.

What made you want to go into this area of study?

I originally graduated in Australia, with degrees in Law and Psychology, and used little from either as I moved to the UK to focus on one of my passions, music: a common factor in all my work was the enjoyment I got from solving problems with technology. I would stretch my job role in any way possible, to give me the opportunity to learn simple scripting, utilities, even Excel macros!

My last job, as a Digital Editor working daily with XML and related technologies, reminded me how much I enjoyed programming in high school, and I decided to ‘do things properly’ and return to study – specifically to focus on learning code for a year and to ‘reset my CV’ with an academic degree, which would steer me in this direction professionally.

How are you enjoying your industrial placement?

I am spending a year working as a Software Engineering intern for Cisco in San Jose, California. I am six months in to the placement. I was told I would be using Python to create backends to communicate with Openstack. However, on my second day a large-scale, intense project fell into the department’s lap and since then I have been focused on using Javascript and Angular to create the front end for it. I had more practical experience in coding in two months of this than in a year of my Master’s degree, so this internship has been important in converting the theoretical computer science background I learnt during the programme into practical, business-ready coding skills.

Interns are working on a variety of projects, from the Internet of Things (designing Bluetooth-based location tools or markers to communicate with friends) to new video compression technology and delivery formats, hardcore queuing theory in computing, network administration and SEO and network administration.

We recently had an intern mid-year showcase, in which groups of interns set up trade show-style booths for the day to demonstrate their projects and value to other staff and managers in the company. Because of the high-value, client-facing nature of our project, it was one of the few booths to be visited by Cisco’s Head of Engineering, who reports directly to John Chambers, the CEO. We had to give a short presentation explaining the project conceptually and technically, and he seemed pleased with our work.

The Bay Area is amazing for the quality of tech talent, startups etc. It really is another world. Getting on to Meetup means you can go to an interesting talk given by a start-up through to eBay, Facebook or Google (owing to our close proximity to their headquarters in Mountain View) every week. So it is a fantastic opportunity to learn more about your subjects of interest from the best in the business… and to network. And there’s always free pizza!

San Francisco is an amazing city, I’d say like London but with sun. Initially, I brought my bicycle ­– I thought I could get around easily, but the sheer size of California meant that I soon wanted to buy a car. I try to get out most weekends and enjoy the incredible nature close to where I live. I’ve just got back from a snow-boarding trip to Lake Tahoe, it’s only 200 miles away. It’s amazing that in a few hours you can go from a hot winter to being able to snowboard.

How did Kent help you with your career plans?

I’m part of the CIIP (Cisco International Internship Program) started by Kent about six years ago, so the University has already been hugely proactive in my future career plans by helping me to get real experience during such an amazing industrial placement.