Initially sceptical about higher education, Ben Boulton joined De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) through Clearing, leading to a job with Jaguar Land Rover before graduating.
The final-year Cyber Security student was originally set to embark on a degree apprenticeship, which fell through when he didn’t get the necessary A-level grades.
“I didn’t want to go to university because I didn’t want to leave home. When I was turned down from my apprenticeship, I didn’t even have a UCAS account,” said the 22-year-old from Leicestershire.
“Knowing I wanted a future in cyber security, I decided to check out DMU because it has a really good reputation in that area and it was local to me.
“Applying to DMU through Clearing was a good decision for me. A student volunteer answered my call and talked me through everything, from registering with UCAS to what I needed to qualify for the course. It was all sorted out for me really fast.”
Two years into his degree, Ben decided to pursue a work placement year with luxury car manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover. Following a rigorous recruitment process, he was placed as a cyber security undergraduate engineer within the global manufacturer’s product engineering team.
Ben made such a good impression that at the end of his placement he was offered a graduate position, which he’ll be starting in September once he graduates from DMU.
He said: “It feels great and I can’t wait to start back. I’ll be on a two-year programme at first, where I’ll get to spend six months in four different teams before deciding what area I want to progress into.
“The main idea behind a placement year is that it’s like a trial so you have a better chance of securing a graduate job. Not everyone is successful, but I’m grateful to be one of the lucky ones.”
Securing his placement in the first place was no mean feat. After submitting his CV with a covering letter, Ben had to complete various online tests and a telephone interview, before being invited to an assessment centre.
At the assessment centre, Ben took part in a number of group activities, completed a written test and was interviewed by a panel of senior staff.
“When I got the call to say I’d been successful I was very excited. I was up against students from some really prestigious universities, but the whole process showed me that it doesn’t automatically mean they’re better. We all have our strengths and weaknesses,” he said.
Thanks to his degree, Ben started his placement with a solid knowledge of corporate IT systems and now he can add securing car systems from hackers to his expertise.
He said: “The biggest learning curve was working towards a new piece of legislation coming in a couple of years. Manufacturers have to prove their cars are cyber secure to earn a certificate, otherwise they’ll be deemed insecure and taken off the market.
“My main task was creating threat analysis and risk assessments on different vehicle systems, like brakes and steering. There are hundreds of systems in a car so I used data visualisation software to chart the overall cyber security status of our vehicles, which the managers were really impressed by.
“Not only did my placement the experience prepare me for the cyber security sector, it also taught me a lot about working culture and dealing with different situations and people.”
Ben praises his faculty placement team – which operates under the university’s careers service, DMU Works – for the support he received. “They’re a really helpful team, answering emails quickly and making sure my CV and cover letter was up to scratch,” he said.
“Even during my placement, they had regular meetings with me to see how I was getting on, and they also helped prepare me for returning to university to finish my final year.”
Posted on Tuesday 15th March 2022