It’s quite demanding but I’m really happy that I chose it. The great thing about it is that it gives you the opportunity to try out different areas and then decide whether you want to develop expertise in that area. At the beginning, I wanted to do software-related work after graduation, but now I think I want to go into the business side of IT. Having the technical knowledge means I can change my career path at any given point in time. I really do like that.
I think the lecturers are quite friendly. There’s not been a time when I’ve asked for help outside of timetabled hours and they haven’t helped me. Regardless of whether they’re busy or not, they’re happy to just pull out a seat and make sure that you understand the content. They’re really friendly. EDA [School of Engineering & Digital Arts] is a very small school so, because of that, you get all the attention that you need. You don’t have to wait a long time to get responses from people. I think the support in EDA is very, very good.
We’re quite close-knit. Everyone feels quite comfortable asking each other for help and we just bounce off each other because you know some people are good in this and some people are good at that. So we all come together and help each other when we need to. I don’t think this is the kind of degree you can do on your own; we have so many lab sessions, so much project work, that the course forces you to build relationships with people. I feel like the teamwork is what gets you through and that’s really good, because in life you’re never going to have to work by yourself.
I worked as a technical account manager, which involved looking after clients with regard to support, managing their projects and stuff like that. You didn’t necessarily need to have a technical background to do that role, but having a technical background meant I was able to speak to both parties and communicate with both sides. From that, I realised that, actually, much as I love software, I prefer a client-facing role. So now, going forward, I want to go into IT project management and areas like that. I think going on the placement was really helpful because I’ve saved myself all that time in trying to work out what I want to do.
The role was in London and my family home is in Essex, so it was only 20 minutes on the train. But my role did require me to travel to different parts of the country, all over the place really, and I could also work from home so it was quite flexible.
If anything, you’re at an advantage over the permanent staff. Because you’re an intern, they admire the fact that you’re there, that you want to get experience, and they’re a bit more flexible in terms of letting you get involved in other projects. If I’d been interested more in project management, I could get experience there, or if I’d wanted experience in sales I could have spent a week there. They were happy for me to get the most out of the year. Placement students get two visits from the University’s placement team as well, so if you’re having any issues you can talk to them.
I didn’t really get involved in much when I started – I started at 16. Over the course of my time here, I’ve really come out of my shell and I’m trying to be proactive in different ways. I’m a student ambassador for EDA, engaging with visitors at open days and trying to give people a feel for what it’s actually like at Kent. I’m also a placement ambassador. Because I’ve been on placement, I understand how demanding it is, so I’m here to assist with anything people need, whether it be advice, encouragement, opportunities to practise, and so on.
My other role is as a student mentor which, again, is all about providing support and assistance, but in this case providing help with the course for people in the years below me. Maybe someone is not really getting the content or the lecturer’s teaching style isn’t right for them, or they feel like they need more time. Explaining things to other students reinforces the knowledge I already have, and it feels good to be able to help someone in the same way that other people have helped me.
I’ve already secured a graduate role. I’m going to be working on project management within IT for [major supply chain and logistics company] DHL. Although it’s in a different industry, it’s still tech and it will give me a more rounded approach. I started applying for jobs from October because I’d learned from my placement year that applications take up a lot of time. As well as CVs, applications, you have to do a lot of tests. You have to do interviews. You have to do video interviews. You have to do assessment centres. It’s quite a long journey and sometimes you don’t even get the job. I got the first job I applied for but the whole process took three or four months and I knew I wouldn’t have the time later in this final year.
Make sure that this is an environment that you think you could live in for three, four, five years. It’s not just about your studies, it’s also about your mental health and being happy. And don’t be afraid to ask questions, utilise people. We pay money to be here – get your money’s worth.