I came to De Montfort University after completing an Engineering foundation year elsewhere and finding out that it wasn’t my thing.I chose Computer Science as I’d always enjoyed playing around with computers but had never had any professional training in the area. The switchover happened in the space of an afternoon, and I was immediately struck at how much more helpful and friendly the admissions staff were; a very different experience to that I’d had at the previous university I attended.
The placement year has definitely been the highlight to my time at university. I was keen to avoid a purely computer-based role and decided to go for something else that I was interested in, so that I could broaden my skill set. I decided to indulge an interest I’ve always held, and started to look for car and motorbike companies on the placement centre’s online notice board. I applied to the only job that I wanted and fortunately got it, so I worked for BMW (UK) Ltd in Bracknell for a year as a Technical Support Analyst. Despite what the job title suggests, I dealt with vehicle technical enquiries, homologation issues, supported product engineers as well as software development. The job was varied and challenging, and I wasn’t sat in front of a desk all day.
The placement gave me an excellent opportunity to apply the knowledge gained in my first two years in study to real world problems as well as develop skills that can’t be developed in the lecture theatre, not least how to get on in a business environment. It also provided an opportunity to build up a network of contacts that I’ve maintained since, and which has provided me with opportunities I would have missed out on had I not completed the placement.
Another aspect that I benefitted from greatly was the confidence boost that came from relocation to Surrey, and subsequently Reading for the placement. The only time I’d previously moved away from home had been to university with friends, so the prospect of moving to a new town, in a part of the country I’d never been to before was a little daunting at first. Generally confidence seems to be what most people I know who’ve been on placement cite as a benefit, you can know your subject inside out but if you’ve never applied it in the real world you can’t gauge effectively its practical value and importance.
I’m certain that the placement will stand me in good stead when it comes to applying for graduate jobs in the summer of 2009 and, given the uncertain state of the job market of late, it makes sense to get all of the experience you can. I’m certain that having a shining reference from such a well known company will give me the edge over others that lack such experience.